The Ed looks back at the TUFC clean sheet kings of 2010
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
It’s time to tug on the nostalgic heart strings once more as I head back in time to another Gulls season, and this week it’s two seasons as the clean sheet kings of 2010 are under the TT microscope. Who needs to stick to one season anyway! Back in the spring of 2010 there was political upheaval with the lead-up to the upcoming May General Election featuring heavily and prime minister Gordon Brown under-fire after describing a Rochdale pensioner as bigoted. He wouldn’t last much longer at No.10. Meanwhile ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland dominated the most-read list in April, as all flights in and out of the UK were suspended for several days. Only several you say!
In the world of Torquay United Paul Buckle’s newly promoted Gulls team had struggled towards the foot of League 2 for much of the season, but had started to find higher gears as the end of the season approached. The acquisition of centre back Guy Branston on loan appeared to be inspired and with a new resilience intact United were well-placed to finish 2009-10 on a high. With all the pieces coming together, United’s determined defensive rearguard set sail on an unbelievable run that would take them close to 1000 minutes without conceding a goal. Quite a remarkable achievement I’d say. Let’s take a gander at the games and players who made that possible ten years ago – with the help of a few friends…
3rd April 2010 – Plainmoor
Shrewsbury Town (H) 2-1 – TU – Ellis 47, Rendell 61 – ST – Bevan (og) 29
XI – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson, Ellis, Branston, Wroe, Mansell, Carayol (Stevens 86), Zebroski, Benyon (Charnock 90+3), Rendell
Torquay moved 9 points clear of the relegation zone with a comeback victory at Plainmoor against Shrewsbury. A Dean Holden shot deflected off the unlucky Scott Bevan to give the away side a first half lead. However, United responded brilliantly after half time with two corners from Kevin Nicholson converted by Ellis and Rendell to make it 2-1. Despite chances for both sides the Gulls held on for victory.
Paul Buckle – “That’s the style I want us to play in, as I don’t care where we are in the league, we have no fear and we go to win every game”
5th April 2010 – Sixfields Stadium
Northampton Town (A) 0-0
XI – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson, Ellis, Branston, Wroe, Mansell, Carayol, Zebroski, Benyon, Rendell
A big crowd of 5,515 saw their play-off contending home team frustrated by a determined Gulls XI at the Sixfields Stadium. The Gulls best chance fell to Scott Rendell and his header flew just wide of the target. Meanwhile for the Cobblers, it was Liam Davis (yes that’s our Liam Davis) who came closest with a couple of threatening efforts. However, in the end neither team could break the deadlock.
Paul Buckle – “We’re very pleased with a point in the end, although I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t take all three”
“My main memories of it were quite personal as I had been frozen out of the team and squad by Bucks for the best part of 3 months leading into it.
Everyone from Adam Smith to Mo Kamara had been brought in to replace me but it hadn’t worked out and when I came back in I’d already been told I wasn’t getting a contract, so it felt like l was able to play with a freedom I hadn’t had at the start of that season.
Bucks was right to drop me in retrospect and inadvertently made me a much better player, as when I came back in I’d got a massive determination to show him he was wrong (I was fuming at the time and didn’t realise how right he was until way after the event) and also the freedom meant I was getting tighter to the quicker players, which meant they couldn’t get going and so my lack of pace wasn’t a big problem as I met them early.
Took me until 29 to figure that out but you got away with a lot more in the Conference!! We won my 1st game back v Shrewsbury, I think, 2-1 and I set up 2 from corners and then the run began”.
10th April 2010 – Plainmoor
Rochdale (H) 5-0 – Rendell 29, Benyon 31,35, Wroe 62 (pen), Carayol 77
XI – Bevan (Poke 62), Robertson, Nicholson, Ellis, Branston, Wroe, Mansell, Carayol (Stevens 83), Zebroski, Benyon (O’Kane 85), Rendell
League leaders Rochdale arrived at Plainmoor looking to clinch promotion, but were sent packing by a tremendous performance from the Gulls. Scott Rendell started the scoring with a close range effort, and then two headers from Benyon made it 3-0 before the break. United weren’t done and Nicky Wroe converted from the spot, whilst Mustapha Carayol capped an electrifying display by curling home the fifth. One of United’s finest wins under Paul Buckle and a team definitely on the up.
Paul Buckle – “We’ve played a good side today, the players have performed brilliantly, and we thoroughly deserved our win”
13th April 2010 – Recreation Ground
Aldershot (A) 0-2 – Benyon 17, Rendell 36
XI – Poke, Robertson, Nicholson, Ellis, Branston, Wroe, Mansell, Carayol (O’Kane 90+5), Zebroski, Benyon (Thompson 90+1), Rendell
Another promotion contender was beaten by the Gulls, as their excellent form continued at the Recreation Ground. Michael Poke (who was brought into the team for the injured Scott Bevan) made a good stop to keep us level and then a typically waspish Benyon fired in to give United the lead. Kevin Nicholson hit the woodwork as Torquay seized control of the game and later in the 1st half Scott Rendell bundled home a second after good work from Chris Zebroski. The defence stayed firm in the 2nd half to take all 3 points back to Devon.
Paul Buckle – “We’re turning those nearly’s into wins now which is fantastic – and at just the right time“
17th April 2010 – Blundell Park
Grimsby Town (A) 0-3 – Wroe (pen) 54, Benyon 62, Carayol 71 – Branston Red Card 65
XI – Poke, Robertson, Nicholson, Ellis, Branston, Wroe, Mansell, Carayol (O’Kane 79), Zebroski, Benyon (Charnock 71), Rendell (Thompson 79)
After a non-descript 1st half the Gulls fired three goals for no reply after the break, despite Guy Branston receiving his marching orders. Nicky Wroe opened the scoring from the penalty spot after a foul on Elliot Benyon, and it was Benyon who doubled the advantage after some nice play from Carayol. Branston was given a red soon after that for a foul on Akpro, but Carayol popped up to seal the 3 points by slotting home another and send the travelling Yellow Army home very happy.
Paul Buckle – “It takes some doing to stay in this league. We’ve done some great things at Torquay over three seasons, but I think this surpasses it”
24th April 2010 – Plainmoor
Macclesfield Town 1-0 (H) – Wroe 86
XI – Poke, Robertson, Nicholson, Ellis, Charnock, Wroe, Mansell, Carayol (O’Kane 77), Zebroski, Benyon, Rendell
Torquay kept their excellent form going with a hard-earned win at Plainmoor. Nicky Wroe was the match-winner late on, trading passes with Zebs and banging a shot home from 20 yards. Before that, goalkeeper Jon Brain had kept Silkmen in it with a number of super saves, but eventually the Gulls earned another 3 points and the defence stretched their clean sheet minutes to over 500.
Paul Buckle – “It would have been very easy to have come off the gas today now we’re safe, but credit to the players there was no chance of that”
1st May 2010 – Gigg Lane
Bury (A) 0-3 – Carayol 37, Stevens 87, Rendell 90
XI – Poke, Robertson, Nicholson, Ellis, Charnock, Wroe, Mansell, Carayol (O’Kane 72), Zebroski, Benyon (Stevens 80), Rendell
Another 3 points and another promotion challenger despatched comfortably by the Gulls! United took a deserved lead into half time, as Carayol scored from a Chris Robertson cross. Alan Knill’s team tried to prise open United’s tight defence after half time, but there was no way through (with Charnock deputising admirably for Guy Branston) and with the counter attack available, the Gulls scored two late goals through sub Danny Stevens and Scott Rendell.
Paul Buckle – “Five wins on the bounce and 10 hours now without conceding a goal is an incredible achievement”
“We were very relaxed during the run. Bucks had mentioned it and he was more excited about it than us. We as a unit seemed to be really calm. The lads that played seemed to be just focused and enjoying the attention that it was bringing. Myself and Nicho were just taking it in our stride and understood that football can bite you on the arse at any point lol”.
8th May 2010 – Plainmoor
Notts County (H) 0-0
XI – Collis, Robertson, Nicholson, Ellis, Charnock, Wroe, Mansell, Stevens (O’Kane 71), Zebroski, Benyon, Rendell
League Two champions Notts County arrived at Plainmoor in celebratory mood, but could not find a way past United’s defence in front of a bumper 5,124 crowd. Emergency loan keeper Steve Collis performed well in his only game for Torquay, whilst Kasper Schmeichel illustrated his promise at the other end, with smart stops from Benyon and Nicholson. It was another strong 90 minutes from a Torquay United team who had long cast aside relegation concerns and finished 17th with 57 points.
Paul Buckle – “The players take all the plaudits, I’m delighted for them and we really have gone out on a high this season”
7th August 2010 – Plainmoor
Northampton Town (H) 3-0 – Nicholson 44, Zebroski 47, Benyon 50
XI – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson, Branston, Ellis, Mansell, Wroe, Stevens, Zebroski, Benyon (Macklin 83), Gritton (Kee 63)
The momentum from May continued for the Gulls into August, as United blitzed Northampton with 3 goals in 6 minutes before half-time. It was Nicho who started the scoring with a sweet left foot drive, then Zebs poached a second and Elliot Benyon grabbed a third after a delicious United move. Torquay almost scored a fourth in the second half with Nicho hitting the bar, but no matter, United had started the season with a bang.
14th August 2010 – Sincil Bank
Lincoln City (A) 0-2 – Benyon 26, 71
XI – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson, Branston (Charnock 83), Ellis, Mansell, Wroe, Stevens (Carlisle 77), Zebroski, Benyon, Kee (O’Kane 63)
The razor sharp Elliot Benyon scored a brace to make it six points out of six for the confident Gulls. Elliot’s first was a header from a Nicholson free kick and in the second half he finished from a Zebroski cross to make the points safe. Lincoln had their moments, with a goal from McCallum disallowed and Facey denied late on by Scott Bevan, but overall it was another deserved 3 points for United. Meanwhile it was 9 clean sheets in a row for the defence as the run continued.
Paul Buckle – “It was a huge effort by both the players and supporters in going and getting three points at Lincoln, and the reaction was just what we required”
“Morale was pretty low prior to that run. We’d suffered a few bad results. We needed that to boost confidence. We stripped it back to basics in training and it worked”.
21st August 2010 – Plainmoor
Bradford City (H) 2-0 – Stevens 2, Zebroski 66
XI – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson, Branston, Ellis, Mansell, Wroe, Stevens (O’Kane 90+2), Zebroski, Benyon (Gritton 90), Kee (Carlisle 55)
United made it 3 wins out of 3 and held onto their top of the table place at Plainmoor with a confident display against Bradford City. Danny Stevens found space early on and scored from 20 yards to put the Gulls in the driving seat. Then shortly after Threlfall was adjudged to have handled on the goal-line and received his marching orders. Unfortunately Nicky Wroe could not convert the penalty with Jon McLaughlin saving well. However in the second half Chris Zebroski grabbed a fortunate second, a clearance ricocheting off him into the net. Scott Bevan made an excellent save late on to keep City out and make it 10 clean sheets in a row.
28th August 2010 – Vale Park
Port Vale (A) 1-2 – TU – Wroe 5 (pen), Zebroski 28, PV – Griffith 37
XI – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson, Branston, Ellis, Mansell, Wroe, Stevens (O’Kane 59), Carlisle, Zebroski (Kee 90+4), Benyon (Gritton 84)
Torquay’s clean sheet run came to an end at Port Vale, but there was still 3 points in the bag for the Gulls. Zebroski was fouled in the area and Nicky Wroe converted the kick to put United 1-0 up, then Chris scored from close range to double the lead. Then a long range shot from Griffith found it’s way past Scott Bevan to make it 1-2. In the second half Vale knocked on the door for an equaliser but United’s resilience stood firm, and with Scott Bevan saving well from Richards it was another win for the Gulls. The clean sheet run had reached a somewhat agonising 998 minutes!
“I never once thought of the run in terms of minutes and even when you asked this question I wasn’t aware it was 998.
I always thought about it as half by half and game by game but as the run went on the determination to keep it going became tangible and every tackle, header, save and clearance became a source of major pride for us as a defensive unit but, more importantly the team as a whole.
We were gutted when the shot went in from distance away at Port Vale and Bevs should have saved it, but it was always going to happen at some point and we went on to have an excellent season”.
“To last that long was amazing and a couple of minutes didn’t really matter. Plus it showed how good we were as a unit and how good our defenders form was – and the lads who came in also kept themselves ready to do their part, showing a great squad mentality”.
“998 still wasn’t bad was it?”.
THE YELLOW WALL by Nicho (KN), Branston (GB) and Ellis (ME)
Scott Bevan (520 minutes)
KN – “Scott Bevan was an absolute man mountain, had an incredible presence in goal, you always fancied him to save a penalty and took a lot of pressure off the team with his ability to take crosses. He also had the dirtiest, nastiest jock strap that he wore for every game and was madly in love with his own physique!! Top top guy and a gentle giant off the pitch”.
ME – “Gentle giant! We all felt confident knowing he was the last line of defence. When he shouted, We moved!
GB – “Man mountain. A huge guy with a soft personality. Really enjoyed his company around the club. A very good keeper and should have played higher. Belief was his problem and he should have met me earlier”.
Michael Poke (388 minutes)
KN – “Another thoroughly decent guy who had higher level ability and it was crazy that we had 2 keepers of that quality in the same squad. His shot stopping was unreal and he made important saves in the semi-final at Histon along with an early save in the play-off final, when my man cut inside of me. Probably goes under-rated due to a guy with long hair banging one in the top corner on his weak foot and a drama queen in a mask scoring a header he couldn’t really miss!!!!
ME – “Probably one of the best when it came to communicating and organising”.
GB – “Agility and ability on show but his body was struggling at the time and it was hard for him to keep in the side. Top keeper and great lad”.
Kevin Nicholson (998 minutes)
ME – “His experience was really valuable to me in my early career. Consistent!
GB – “One of the best stay home left backs I played with. Very good left foot and clever brain. Very good in the dressing room”.
Chris Robertson (998 minutes)
KN – “Robbo was playing out as a full back, which wasn’t his favoured position but you didn’t get many 6’3 mobile full backs who could tackle, head it and play too. Didn’t try to do too much attacking but that freed me up a little which I enjoyed and he just quietly did his job each week with minimal drama. Went on to play higher and deservedly so as he had a bit of everything to his game. Really good all around player”.
ME – “Mr Reliable!”
GB – “Had the lot! In my opinion. Aggressive , calm on the ball and loads about his versatility that helped his team mates when needed. Threat in both boxes. A quiet type in the dressing room but when he spoke you could see he had a very good brain on and off the pitch. Tried to sign him for clubs I’ve worked with”.
Mark Ellis – (998 minutes)
KN – “Mark was still the youngster and learning his trade but he complimented Branno with his pace and energy and was the kind of guy who would tackle a moving car for the good of the team. Big, strong, determined and Branno’s favourite guy to wind up which could have, and nearly did, break a lesser man. Another who has gone on to bigger and better things and someone who you would always want in your team as he will do what all good centre halves, and particularly lower league centre halves have to do and that is defend, put your body on the line and keep it simple. Great to see he has recovered from a bad knee injury recently”.
GB – “Was the oldest young lad I ever worked with. A talented defender who understood what it took to be a defender first. His overall game was good with technical ability on show when defending calmly. Really quiet in the dressing room but focussed on trying to get to the top”.
Guy Branston – (696 minutes)
KN – “Branno was a beast. Great guy to play alongside as a full back because with him in the box and Bevs in goal you knew it’d have to be a hell of a cross and header for those guys not to clear it up. Never before and never after have I seen a player powerfully head the ball off the pitch and turn to the fans screaming “that’s what he does!!!” to receive huge applause – but he knew what he was good at and played to those strengths. Only once did he try to be something he wasn’t when he wore a pair of Nike Vapours for a while (a wingers boot!) but they were as wide as they were long by the time he had finished with them and he got in the PFA team of the year so fair play to the big man. He once spent 20 minutes chasing Elliot Benyon around the training pitch trying to knock him out after a late challenge while the rest of us watched and laughed. I’d never seen Benyon move like he did on that morning!!!
ME – “Big presence! You could tell strikers were nervous when up against him. They knew it would be a tough afternoon!
Kieran Charnock (297 minutes)
KN – “Kieran was an under-rated player for TUFC. He was solid, strong and economic with the ball but a few injuries and the larger than life Branno in the team at the same time meant he probably won’t be remembered as fondly as he could’ve been”.
ME – “All round nice guy. I was lucky to play alongside several players who were great on the communication side of things! Kieron was one of them!
GB – “Top centre half and great to have next to you on and off the pitch. He was very good in the air for his size and a leader of men”.
DR – “Torquay’s best teams have always been built on solid foundations and this one was no different. I think this record is one that wasn’t fully appreciated at the time and it’s been a joy looking back over the games and the tremendous characters who were involved. Guy Branston often owned the headlines, not surprising considering what a personality he was on arrival! His swagger and belief made others believe and he had huge presence – well worth the wait in the end. Otherwise someone like Chris Robertson got on about his business quietly and efficiently, an under-rated defender who put in a shift at right back and came up smelling of roses. Add to that the experienced and highly motivated Nicho, and the youthful enthusiasm of Mark Ellis, and you had a winner. Meanwhile Bevan and Poke gave us plenty of quality between the sticks. Great lads and terrific record-breaking Plainmoor times”.
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