Clive Hayward – @ByeHorse
Ten favourite Derby Memories
That ploughed field every winter at the Baseball Ground. Robbie Savage getting booked every week as they got relegated by March. Frank Lampard in tears every time they lost. Kevin Hector and Franny Lee. Am I doing this right?
Probably not. This article is actually about memorable Torquay matches against clubs less than 2 hours’ drive from Plainmoor. Let’s be honest, I could easily have done a dozen horrible defeats. This Boxing Day springs to mind. But where would the fun be in that?
No: here are 10 personal highlights where our beloved underdogs have had their day.
In roughly ascending order of “Limbs”…
10. Tiverton (a) 2010
I’m not proud. I have considered Devon Bowl games and pre-season friendlies, and in doing so I recall a glorious evening in mid-Devon during the summer of 2010. Tiverton Town extended us a warm welcome and we got to run the rule over a chubby little lad we’d picked up from Leicester. He went by the name of Billy Kee, and he unlocked the non-leaguers’ defence five times with most if not all of his goals coming before half time. This poor man’s Jamie Vardy turned out to be a cracking signing for us, and he started as he meant to go on in the Ladysmead sunshine.
9. Yeovil (a) 2003
A coach trip to Zummerzet, a lunchtime pint in Ilchester (or maybe Ilminster: who cares?) yielded an opportunity to put Yeovil Town in their place after they had had the effrontery to gain promotion into the Football League. Our first league match at Huish Park (where the pitch is notably flatter than at their more famous old ground) saw Leroy’s Gulls continue a good start to a blissful 2003/04 season. In front of thousands of home fans, from dozens of families, we showed the class that would become synonymous with Graham, Kuffour et al. A comfortable two nil win featured a cheeky back-heeled second from Jo. We haven’t beaten them very often since!
8. Bristol City (a) 1981
This goalless draw won’t have been a match that lived in the memory for most. It was a chilly Friday night: First Round of the FA Cup with a very average Fourth Division Torquay drawn away to a City side plunging down the divisions faster than a Boeing 737 with new software. For me, however, it was a significant and very exciting night: my first away trip. Not a peep was heard from me or my three school mates. Aged 13, we sat quietly on the “hoolie coach” (number 2 of 4 if you’re interested) up to Ashton Gate. We got men behind the ball, Mick Harford missed a sitter for them and we brought the Robins back to Devon for a reply. Which we lost.
7-5. Exeter (a)
It’s always special winning at the smaller St James Park isn’t it? City away is a three-line whip for most of us, and because they have always operated close to our level we have, by the law of averages, got a few results up there. I’ve seen us lose 4-3 twice, and I’ve probably got about 20 games to choose from. I will go with three wins, if it’s all the same to you:
• 1994: “Hark now hear the Torquay sing….” It was a Boxing Day morning (one of many) and this time we managed to send 5000 rugby-curious Grecians home to Cold Turkey with a close range last minute winner from player-manager Don O’Riordan. He was in the right place at the back post to convert a late corner. I loved that away end: you were so close to the players you could easily have got pregnant and the joy when Don scored was unsurpassed. I think it was only the second time I saw us come away with three points. We celebrated in Ide, of all places!
• 2008: Play-off semi-final. We’d have been pleased with the 1-1 result but the City keeper had different ideas. In injury time his attempted clearance thudded into Chris Zebroski’s ripped torso, bounced in to ruin the evening for the Big Bank and sent us off for a post-match piss up in the Black Horse. I won’t mention the second leg.
• 1987: The first time is always special isn’t it? I was about to go off to University and Cyril Knowles’s tough-as-teak battlers were starting a season that would end in our inaugural playoff heartbreak. A packed away end saw Jim McNichol rise like a salmon and thump home another Big Bank heartbreaker. One nil, to the Torquay boys!
4. Bristol Rovers (a)
I like Bristol Rovers. They are a proper, working class club with a bigger fanbase than they probably deserve. Wins against them tend to be hard-fought and Mem-orable (that’s a pun on the name of their ground). We also, of course, have Clarke Osborne in common and there’s a reason why Rovers had to move into a rugby ground after an even more dispiriting spell in Bath due to their unlovely but local ground at Eastville being turned into a shopping complex.
I could have gone for our 2-0 win at Twerton Park in 1990 (Tynan & Saunders doing the business before they stopped having tea parties).
I will never forget Sako’s determined run and world class strike in the last minute to burgle three points in 2006(?). That was a real “get out of your seat & run down the front” goal.
But Dom wanted me to write about 2011, and why not? It was August. We were thoroughly fed up with Paul Buckle, who had deserted us in the wake of our Old Trafford Stevenage debacle, pinched a couple of players and turned up at his first home match with Mark Clemmit and his TV crew. It had demoralising defeat written all over it.
Instead, Martin Ling’s new team caught Rovers cold with two early goals and we never looked like giving up the advantage. In Rene Howe and, er, Taiwo Atieno we had a couple of very useful strikers and more play-off heartbreak the following May was never in doubt! But never mind how the season ended. It was a glorious, “have some of that”, stunning start, made all the more enjoyable by being able to watch Buckle’s bemusement on the telly when we got home.
3. Argyle (h) November 2011
Euuuuuunan! For a short time, Plymouth’s financial problems saw them in real danger of dropping out of the league and on a couple of quite memorable occasions in 2011/12 we were able to put them to the sword. We were- pinch yourself- hot favourites to win at home against them in the first game. Somehow it remained goalless at half time, but three high quality goals in front of a packed Family Stand sent Plainmoor delirious.
Eunan opened the scoring with a high quality volley but then took the roof off with an instinctive turn and shot from fully 35 yards to put us two up and into dream land. Danny Stevens slotted a third before Plymouth inexplicably managed a consolation goal from what must have been their only attack. Heady days.
2. Argyle (a), January 2012
Wins at Home Park just don’t come around very often. I may never see another. I shall never forget this one. With a proper, 2000-plus away support we went to Plymouth with genuine belief we could do the double. The lads didn’t, for once, let us down on our big day out. We took our chances, shutting up the resurgent Pilgrims with two second half goals in quick succession (Bodin, Mansell) and were great value for our win, again slightly spoilt by a late green comeback. Two-one flattered them, delighted us and we offered Saul Halpin a lift home when we came across him at a nearby garage. He politely declined. He was on his way to Cornwall!
1. Bristol City (a) 1987
Another FA Cup clash. I interrupted my “studies” and got on the National Express for a trip home. We could and did beat anybody that season. Bolton? Cardiff? Tottenham? You bet. Bristol had stabilised though, and with a recent promotion behind them they were tough opponents away from home in the Second Round.
We gave a really good account of ourselves and we were gearing up for a very winnable reply when Mark Loram and Dave Caldwell created one of those moments I will still be boring my son with decades from now if I’m lucky enough to get that far.
In the last minute the Brixham Maradona waltzed past his full back and crossed for the Coatbridge Pele to score with a diving header that Shearer, Les Ferdinand or Ronaldo would have cherished. It was right in front of us 1500 or so success-starved travelling fans and it was the wildest celebration since VE Day. The very definition of limbs!