Stevenage beaten at Torquay United

Boro skipper Mark Roberts sent off in 2-0 defeat

Torquay United 2 Stevenage 0

npower League 2

BORO skipper Mark Roberts saw red as Stevenage were comprehensively beaten by Torquay United this afternoon.

Roberts was sent off for a professional foul on Chris Zebroski after the striker had been gifted the ball by Scott Laird’s howler of a back-pass.

Laird’s ball to goalkeeper Chris Day was far too short, and when Zebroski sneaked in to collect it and rounded Day in the box Roberts slid in to take the player out and earn himself a straight red card, and the Gulls a penalty which Zebroski failed to convert.

By this time Boro were already a goal behind after Danny Stevens’ stunning opener, and as they looked for an equaliser they left too many gaps and the Gulls duly took advantage when Jake Robinson fired home with eight minutes to go.

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Robinson was also the first player on the pitch to try his luck on goal in the opening exchanges, but his long effort, which failed to test Day, set the tone for a tight first half in which most chances at goal came from distance.

Ben May slipped when shooting on 10 minutes and Craig Stanley shot wide moments later, Jon Ashton then went close with a header after Laird hit a long free kick into the Torquay box only to direct the ball just wide of goal.

There was very little space in the final third for either team to work in, with both defences closing strikers down quickly, and May found this to be the case when he took too many touches following a Lawrie Wilson cross from the right only to see his pocket picked as he was turning to shoot at Danny Potter.

Another pocket picked was that of Stevens, on for the injured Billy Kee.

Stevens tried to shepherd a long ball out at his corner flag only for Ronnie Henry to tackle him, drive into the box and see his pass fired over by Wilson who had far more time on his hands than he realised.

Robinson tested Day with another long-range effort but then Boro had their best chance of their game, and it occurred just four yards from goal.

Wilson was the creator, and his pass across goal for David Bridges caught the Torquay back line by surprise but the midfielder could not adjust his body quickly enough to divert the ball home.

If the first half was a tight, even affair, the second half was anything but and Torquay blew their opponents out of the water within just 30 seconds of the restart when Ben Pringle, newly signed on loan from Derby, hit the crossbar and Stevens followed up with a half-volley of great technique.

It was a shock for the visitors who were soon on the back foot again when Stanley fired at goal but Day saved low, keeping his body behind the ball.

Stevenage were struggling to turn possession into chances as they had in the first half, even following the introduction of Byron Harrison and, later, Craig Reid, and a change in formation with Peter Winn joining Harrison up top.

Worse was to come with just over 20 minutes remained when Laird sold his defence short and Roberts brought down Zebroski, resulting in his dismissal.

Boro boss Graham Westley had no qualms afterwards with either the red card or the awarding of the penalty, but Torquay boss Paul Buckle was rightly annoyed with Zebroski who decided to take the penalty himself, against orders, only to fire his effort against the bar.

A man short, Boro moved Michael Bostwick into central defence alongside Jon Ashton but both struggled against a quick, creative attacking Torquay side but there were extenuating circumstances as the Gulls took advantage of the extra space afforded them following Roberts’ dismissal.

Robinson was at times toying with the Boro back line with his balletic movement on the ball, and the striker set up Stevens for another strike at goal on 76 minutes when he back-heeled a one-two straight into the path of his team-mate who shot just wide.

Until his mistake earlier in the game Laird had been in fine form, and he showed his class again later in the half when he denied Robinson at the far post after Zebroski had tried teeing his team-mate up.

Zebroski had got into the box after Boro had failed to clear their lines, and Stevenage were undone again with just five minutes remaining and this time it proved costly.

Nicholson hit a ball over the top for Stevens to pluck out of the air and he breezed past stand-in centre-back Bostwick before squaring for Robinson on the other side of the box.

The No. 9 fired low at Day, who got his body in the way, but the ball bounced loose and Robinson made no mistake the second time around to finish off Boro and secure all three points for the Gulls.

Torquay: Potter, Nicholson, Mansell, Branston, Robertson, Pringle (Oastler, 89), O’Kane (Lathrope, 90+2), Stanley, Zebroski, Kee (Stevens, 27), Robinson. Subs: Bevan, Rowe-Turner, Ellis, Halpin.

Boro: Day, Laird, Henry, Roberts, Ashton, Wilson, Winn, Bridges (Reid, 73), Bostwick, Mousinho (Long, 61), May (Harrison, 61). Subs: Bayes, Foster, Charles, Sinclair.

Referee: Bobby Madley.

Attendance: 2,197 (176 away fans).

* Match reaction to come on Monday.