Cheltenham Town: Alarm bells ring out for Robins
THIS match provided the tipping point between a disappointing start to the season for Cheltenham Town and a deeply worrying one.
They have been in the same lowly league position before, far later in the season under Mark Yates, but this is arguably his most testing time as manager because expectations are so much higher than they were three seasons ago.
One win in eight is poor, but 19 goals conceded is perhaps the most alarming statistic.
They have shipped at least three more goals than any other club in League Two and a much-improved performance at home to Oxford United a week earlier was a distant memory as the final whistle blew at Plainmoor.
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Torquay United were not made to work anywhere near hard enough for their four goals, the first of which arrived in the second minute.
A catalogue of misjudgements and mistakes gifted Callum Ball his opener, for what was another head-shaking moment for Cheltenham.
Steve Elliott, Cheltenham's most reliable and consistent outfield player last term, endured an afternoon to forget. He afforded Karl Hawley far too much space to reach a long ball, but even then Matt Richards had a chance to clear his lines.
But he contrived to play a 'through ball' to winger Jordan Chapell who was able to square to Ball and he tapped in the simplest of finishes.
All the training ground talk of cutting out the elementary mistakes had gone out of the window almost immediately.
But Cheltenham did respond well and they were unfortunate not to be ahead, or at least on level terms, at half-time.
Byron Harrison headed them level from Keith Lowe's left-footed cross from the right flank in the 12th minute.
The move stemmed from a quickly-taken free-kick by David Noble after Jermaine McGlashan had been tripped by Lee Mansell.
Torquay's defence stood and watched Harrison nod in his fifth goal of the season, waiting for an offside flag which never came.
Only a fine block from Aaron Downes denied Terry Gornell after Harrison flicked on a long clearance from Scott Brown five minutes later.
Cheltenham looked dangerous going forward and they went desperately close to taking the lead in the 29th minute.
Richards' corner was met by Elliott but Rice reacted well to parry and Lowe's follow-up attempt crashed against the bar.
It was an entertaining spectacle and at the other end Sido Jombati cleared off the line from Hawley and Brown beat away a well-controlled strike from Mansell.
McGlashan reached the byline in the 43rd minute and pulled back to Harrison, but the considerable speed on the ball made it hard for the striker to direct it and it flew inches wide of the far post.
Things looked to be set up nicely for the second half, but Cheltenham conceded another criminal goal two minutes into stoppage time.
Ball turned in a cross from the left via a deflection off Elliott and then Cheltenham fell further behind just three minutes after half-time.
Hawley cut inside Lowe and beat the unsighted Brown with a low shot that rolled almost into the middle of the net with no great power.
It was déjà vu for Cheltenham, but Gornell restored hope with 25 minutes remaining.
He beat Rice after Russ Penn's pass, but the introductions of Jason Taylor, Ashley Vincent and the fit-again Jamie Cureton from the bench failed to provide enough of a spark for a leveller.
Torquay made sure of the points and compounded Cheltenham's misery in the 89th minute when Chapell capped a fine individual display with a well-struck shot that once again exposed defensive frailties.
No amount of talent or quality will count for anything this season unless Yates can find a way to tighten things up at the back quickly.
Torquay United: M Rice; D Tonge, K Pearce, A Downes, T Cruise; J Chapell, B Harding, R Mansell, B Bodin; K Hawley (E Benyon 71), C Ball. Subs not used: K Nicholson, D Lathrope, C Cameron, N Craig, D Sullivan, C Thompson
Cheltenham Town: S Brown; K Lowe, J Wilson, S Elliott, S Jombati; R Penn, D Noble (J Taylor 79), M Richards (A Vincent 60), J McGlashan; T Gornell (J Cureton 79), B Harrison. Subs not used: S Deering, C Roberts, Z Kotwica
Referee: Darren Deadman
Attendance: 2,407 (247 away)
Star Man: Byron Harrison