Wanderers ran out victorious to end an unwanted streak of six league defeats on the spin, thanks to a first half goal from James McShane and cameos from substitutes Jimmy Muitt and Harry Ottaway, who combined in almost identical fashion to give Dorking two second half goals, following Keiron Evans’ dismissal, giving Marc White’s side a vital win.
Tony Craig and George Francomb were awarded home debuts in defence, whilst Ed Harris, Bobby-Joe Taylor, Luke Moore and Ryan Seager all returned to the starting eleven, in what looked like a healthier squad in comparison to recent weeks.
The ramifications of a loss for either side were evident in the opening encounters, both sides pressed high and were committed in their challenges, making it impossible to avoid phrasing it “a real six pointer”. Bobby-Joe, an embodiment of said commitment, was the first to venture forward with any real danger for Wanderers, picking up the ball just inside The Gulls’ half, underlapping Seb Bowerman. After driving into space and beating two defenders to enter the box, Torquay were able to get a foot on the ball to dispossess the full-back.
Dorking’s retention of the ball following the attack however, resulted in their first goal, just seven minutes into the game. Bowerman was able to recycle the ball, working it over to the right-hand side of the pitch, with the help of Josh Taylor, where Matt Briggs picked up the ball just inside the touchline, skipping past two defenders with ease, Briggs was afforded time to look up and spot his skipper, McShane, who found a few yards in the box amongst a disjointed Torquay defence and swept home his seventeenth goal of the season.
Wanderers, sensing an opportunity to kill the game in the early stages, continued to press a seemingly vulnerable Torquay back-line. A successful regain of possession high up the pitch, led to Seager being fouled around 25 yards from goal, Bobby-Joe saw his fine effort rattle off the bar, nearly giving his side a two goal cushion, rewarding a strong opening 15 minutes.
Nearing the half-an-hour mark, Torquay found themselves with a free kick of their own, as Bobby-Joe fouled Brett McGavin, just outside the area. McGavin, after picking the ball up himself, struck a well hit shot through the wall, forcing a good save out of Dan Lincoln, who was only able to parry to Tope Fadahunsi, the striker, seemingly placed well to turn home the rebound, sliced his effort wide.
McShane saw a great opportunity to add to his tally denied by football league veteran, Dean Moxey, with around five minutes left of the half to play. The chance came via the ever-threatening Bowerman down the left-hand side, his cross evaded all heads and landed at Macca’s feet in the six yard box, Moxey, however, was on hand to make a crucial block to keep his side just the one goal down.
Moxey’s block proved critical in the complexion of the game at half-time, as with just a minute of normal time left to play, Torquay found an equaliser. Wanderers failed to deal with a looped clearance up the pitch from Nico Lawrence, as Fadahunsi’s strength up top reduced Craig only to a header to the feet of Aaron Jarvis, Jarvis had time and space to pick his spot with a fantastic effort from outside the area, curling away from Lincoln into the corner.
Wanderers went into half-time rueing missed chances, having been the better side for the majority of the first forty-five.
Perhaps carrying momentum over from the goal just before the break, The Gulls came flying out of the blocks following the interval, scoring within the first minute of the second half, almost directly from Dorking’s kick-off. Briggs’ loose pass into midfield was latched upon by the oncoming Lapslie, who drove at a Wanderers defence who’d just set up to attack from kick-off. After carrying the ball well, the midfielder found Fadahunsi, who held off oncoming challenges, before returning the ball to Lapslie, before he calmly slotted his finish into the corner in front of a jubilant Torquay faithful, leaving Dorking bemused and with an ap-hill task in the second half.
No less than three minutes after the goal, the visitor’s celebrations were cut short when Evans received a second yellow card for a challenge on Francomb, leaving the visitors and travelling fans incensed, and vulnerable.
Torquay manager, Gary Johnson, reacted quickly, bringing on Ben Wyatt for Fadahunsi, to sure up any gaps Evans’ dismissal may have induced. To which, Marc White responded, introducing Ottaway and Muitt for Ed Harris and Briggs.
Three minutes later, Dorking found themselves level, with the fresh legs of Muitt able to find space down the right to deliver a cross to the back-post, finding his substitute compatriot, Ottaway, who towered above Torquay’s Ross Marshall to get his side level with over half an hour left to play.
Dorking, sensing the vulnerability in Torquay’s depleted side, took the game to the visitors, who couldn’t handle Bowerman and Muitt dropping a little deeper to receive the ball, to the drive at the retreating Gulls backline. Four minutes after his first, Ottaway put Dorking in front, again via a Muitt cross which found him at the far post. This time however, Josh Taylor was the one who got to the by-line, before knocking it back to Muitt to cross, Taylor, with some fine footwork, was able to keep the ball in play when it seemed rather unlikely.
Wanderers had their opportunities to add a fourth, as they asserted control as the game wore on, Seager hit an effort straight at Mark Halstead from the edge of the area. Muitt, who was a constant threat, had a couple of opportunities on the break to add to his pair of assists, but was thwarted by Halstead and Torquay’s backline on multiple occasions.
Despite the Dorking faithful getting right behind the team from the first to last whistle, you could feel the tension in the final five, both sets of fans and teams alike knew how big this result was. Wanderers were able to fend off any potential threat in the final encounters, and gain a much needed first win of 2023.
The win moves Wanderers five points clear of Torquay, who sit in 22nd, and keeps them above the relegation zone, with a point separating White’s side and Gateshead. Dorking face a trip to Wrexham on Saturday, hoping to build on a positive midweek performance, and result.