Steve Harris looks back on a memorable win for the Gulls from 2002
Steve Harris – @Steveharris84
Torquay United 4 AFC Bournemouth 0, Tuesday October 29th 2002 – Division Three
The appointment of Leroy Rosenior as Torquay United manager in the summer of 2002 marked the beginning of an exciting period of attacking football at Plainmoor.
After inheriting a squad that included the likes of David Graham, Alex Russell and Jason Fowler – names that are still revered by the Plainmoor faithful to this day – Rosenior opted for a ‘nip and tuck’ job instead of ‘major surgery’ on succeeding Roy McFarland.
Centre forward Martin Gritton, goalkeeper Jamie Attwell and left winger Neil Prince were the only arrivals in the close season, as United got the 2002-03 campaign off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over Bristol Rovers. Indeed, debutants Prince and Gritton combined to score the Gulls’ opening goal against the Pirates – the former’s cross was headed home by the latter.
Two away defeats to Rushden & Diamonds and York City then followed before United embarked on a nine-match unbeaten league run. This fine sequence was followed by a run of defeats against Boston United (1-2), Hull City (1-4), Second Division Wycombe Wanderers in the LDV Vans Trophy (0-4) and Scunthorpe United (1-5) before AFC Bournemouth came to Plainmoor on a Tuesday in late October 2002.
The Cherries were a team that United have had plenty of history with. A number of high profile departures from Plainmoor to Dean Court in the early 1970s, which saw a number of Torquay favourites – including Mickey Cave, Tony Scott, Tommy Mitchinson, John Benson and Bill Kitchener – reunited with their former United teammate John Bond, who had been installed as Bournemouth manager following his retirement from playing. The series of moves would later be referred to as the ‘Bond Burglary’.
In more recent times, the Gulls had eliminated the Cherries from the previous year’s Worthington Cup. Goals from David Graham and Chris Brandon had secured United a 2-0 win over Bournemouth at Dorchester Town’s Avenue Stadium (Dean Court was undergoing redevelopment work at the time), which set up a trip to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham Hotspur in the next round.
United’s previous four results prompted Rosenior into reshuffling his defence. Matt Hockley came in at right back, Lee Canoville partnered Reuben Hazell at centre back and David Woozley moved to left back.
The Gulls made a flying start as Graham was ruled out for offside in the opening minute. United were also forced into making an early change in goal as Jamie Attwell replaced an injured Kevin Dearden in the 23rd minute.
On the half hour mark the Gulls were rewarded for their attacking endeavours, when a mistake from Bournemouth defender Karl Broadhurst on the edge of the penalty box was pounced upon by Gritton, who struck with his third goal of the campaign.
Four minutes later, United doubled their lead following an incisive breakaway following a Bournemouth free-kick, which saw Gritton made a lung busting run from inside his own half, before releasing Graham who found the back of net with a firm strike from ten yards.
In the second half, the Gulls continued where they made left off in the opening 45 minutes. Two minutes after the restart, Kevin Hill chased down a back pass, which led to Carl Fletcher – the future Plymouth Argyle manager – giving away the ball under pressure from Gritton. Gritton then teed up Alex Russell for a strike from 18-yards that extended United’s lead to three.
United made it four with 13 minutes to go when Gritton flicked a free-kick from deep from Reuben Hazell towards Graham, who then bamboozled the Bournemouth defence with his skill and trickery before rifling home his 11th goal in 12 matches.
As well as ending a run of four straight defeats in all competitions for United, it also brought the Cherries eight-match unbeaten run to a halt.
However, it was Bournemouth who would win promotion via the play-offs at the end of the season, after beating Lincoln City 5-2 in the final at the Millennium Stadium, while the Gulls missed out with a ninth placed finish.
Nevertheless, United would eventually join the Cherries in the newly rebranded League One for the 2004-05 season, following the dramatic scenes at Southend on the final day of the 2003-04 campaign that saw the Gulls pip Huddersfield Town to automatic promotion from Division Three.
Torquay (4-4-2): Kevin Dearden (Jamie Attwell 23): Matt Hockley, Reuben Hazell, Lee Canoville, David Woozley; Tony Bedeau (Troy Douglin 78), Jason Fowler, Alex Russell, Kevin Hill; David Graham, Martin Gritton
Subs not used: Jo Kuffour, Paul Holmes, Neil Prince