Despite a battling performance in which they dominated large periods of play Gillingham unlucky to suffer their first defeat away from home at a foggy Plainmoor
Following the weekend’s defeat of Burton Albion, Martin Allen promised to utilise his squad depth for the trip to Plainmoor and true to his word the Gills boss made four changes from the eleven that started Saturday's impressive 4-1 triumph.
Callum Davies came into the midfield, protecting the back-four in a defensive role, Bradley Dack replaced the injured Charlie Allen in midfield, while Deon Burton and Robbie Findley were paired in attack.
16 year-old youth team prospect Michael Freiter, a central midfielder who can also operate at centre half, travelled with the team and was given a place on the substitute’s bench.
Gills took the game to their opponents straight from the kick-off, Chris Whelpdale firing wide from distance after just 90 seconds, before skipper Adam Barrett hooked Bradley Dack’s low, curling free-kick from the left just wide of keeper Poke’s far post.
Soon after, Deon Burton drilled a low effort wide of Poke’s right hand upright after intercepting a wayward clearance, meanwhile, unable to retain possession, the home side’s growing frustration was indicated when former Gills forward Rene Howe earned a 15th minute lecture from the referee after a brace of over exuberant challenges on Barrett and Joe Martin.
The Gulls first sight of goal came on 19 minutes, lively left winger Billy Bodin getting past Joe Martin but his low effort to Stuart Nelson’s near post failed to test the Gills custodian. Within moments the visitors could have taken the lead after Dack headed Jack Payne’s throw into the path of Robbie Findley, the US international left Nicholson for dead but Whelpdale could not convert his low centre, firing a rising drive over the crossbar.
On 28 minutes the home side went close again, Danny Stevens breaking to the touchline before pulling back for Lee Mansell to shoot goalwards, fortunately Nelson was on hand to save, the ball ricocheting behind for a corner off team mate Adam Barrett. Nelson was in action again four minutes later, diving to his right to deny Bodin’s shot from the edge of the area.
Aaron Downes was booked on 37 minutes for a foul on Findley as the pacey forward raced onto Payne’s clever through pass. From a series of corners, the visitors were unlucky not to break the deadlock as Dack’s second flag kick was cleared to Jack Payne whose diving header was hooked off the line by Nathan Craig.
Four minutes from the interval Rene Howe spurned a gilt-edged opening, firing straight into the arms of Stuart Nelson when one-on-one with the keeper, before Daniel Leadbitter earned the second booking for the Gulls for a mistimed sliding tackle on Findley. On the stroke of half time Martin Allen was forced to make a change, bringing on Andy Frampton for left back Joe Martin, after the latter was hurt in a challenge with Howe.
Gillingham started the second half with the same energy that they has the first, and could have taken the lead in the opening minute of the half as Deon Burton sent Findley clear of the defence, only for Michael Poke to save his low angled shot across goal to the far corner. Soon after, Referee Malone decided to brandish his card again, Deon Burton going into the book for a foul on Leadbitter.
The Gills finally found the net in the 52nd minute in the simplest of fashions. Tom Flanagan played a deep ball out of defence which the Torquay centre-halves failed to deal with, it fell to the unmarked Deon Burton who beat Poke with a precision finish into the back of the net to record his fifth goal of the campaign.
Just four minutes later the hosts were level in equally direct circumstances. The Gulls were given a free-kick on the right hand touchline and Nathan Craig found the net with a stunning effort that looped over Nelson before dropping inside the far post for 1-1.
The goal stirred the passions of the home support who raised the tempo up a notch, prompting Martin Allen to bring on Myles Weston as a 63rd minute for Findley to help put the home side back under pressure.
However the home side continued to enjoy the better of the openings and were unlucky not to take the lead on 66 minutes as Howe’s shot on the turn, from Stevens through ball, was parried around the post by Nelson at full stretch. From the resulting corner Gulls wasted two more half chances before the visitors were able to clear the danger.
With 20 minutes of the second half remaining Martin Allen made his final change, bringing Ben Strevens on for Jack Payne to add fresh legs in the centre of the pitch. Both sides battled hard to gain an advantage which almost fell Gills way in the 78th minute as Burton and Strevens helped the ball to Chris Whelpdale but the midfielder pulled his finish just wide of the mark from a yard outside the box.
Ten minutes from time Torquay manager Martin Ling made his first change bringing on Thomas Cruise for full back Leadbitter then with just six minutes remaining the home side took the lead with a goal out of nothing. Right-back Kevin Nicholson collected the ball midway inside the Gills half, opted to shoot and saw his deflected effort loop over Stuart Nelson and drop into the net for 2-1.
The visitors refused to surrender the unbeaten away record easily and Michael Poke had to be at his best to deny late efforts from Burton and Bradley Dack as the seconds ticked away. Andy Frampton joined the attack for the final four minutes with Callum Davies reverting to cover the left back role as Gills piled the pressure on their hosts but the equaliser simply would not come.
Attendance: 2,251 (205 Gillingham)
Gillingham:Stuart Nelson, Matt Fish, Tom Flanagan, Adam Barrett, Joe Martin (Andy Frampton 45+3), Callum Davies, Jack Payne (Ben Strevens 70), Chris Whelpdale, Bradley Dack, Deon Burton, Robbie Findley (Myles Weston 63)
Subs not used: Danny Kedwell, Lewis Montrose, Tommy Forecast, Michael Freiter
Torquay United:Michael Poke, Kevin Nicholson, Aaron Downes, Brian Saah, Damon Lathrope, Lee Mansell, Rene Howe, Daniel Leadbitter (Thomas Cruise 80), Billy Bodin, Danny Stevens, Nathan Craig
Subs not used: Ryan Jarvis, Martin Rice, Craig Easton, Ashley Yeoman, Niall Thompson, Kirtys MacKenzie
Fourth Official:Christopher Powell
Assistants: Justin Amey & Adam Matthews