Steve Harris – @steveharris84
After Sinclair Armstrong’s excellent first appearance, Steve looks at other Gulls goal-scoring debutants…
David Byng v Walsall (A) August 14th 1993 – W 2-1
When he was handed his debut as a 16-year old on the opening day of the 1993-94 season away to Walsall by Don O’Riordan, Coventry-born David Byng became the Gulls’ youngest ever player. He also found the back of the net twice as United defeated the Saddlers 2-1, as the Gulls put the disappointment of the 1992-93 season behind them to go on an eight-match unbeaten at the start of their 1993-94 league campaign.
Eifion Williams v Hartlepool United (H) 27th March 1999 – W 3-0
It is often said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and this proved to be true for Eifion Williams when he netted a hat-trick on his Torquay United debut against Hartlepool United on March 27th, 1999.
A Wales B international, Williams had arrived at Plainmoor for a club record fee of £70,000 from League of Wales side Barry Town and came with Champions League pedigree, having netted for the South Wales club against a Dynamo Kiev side featuring Andrei Shevchenko and Sergei Rebrov.
Williams was one of four debutants who appeared for the Gulls that afternoon, one of the others was Frenchman Jean Pierre Simb, who became the first of a number of French players to join the Gulls and would prove to be something of a cult hero. The other two were experienced centre back Lee Russell who arrived at Plainmoor from Portsmouth and Gary Neil, a Scottish defender signed from Leicester City.
While Williams featured from the start, Simb entered the fray as a first half substitute for O’Neill Donaldson and had a hand in creating the first goal, as his cross was flicked on by Brian McGorry and Williams was on hand to open the scoring for the Gulls.
In the second half, Williams grabbed his second of the afternoon when he nodded home a deep left wing cross from Robbie Herrera and later completed his hat trick by latching onto a precision pass from Simb to coolly slot home and mark his Football League debut with a treble.
It was real Roy of the Rovers stuff!
Martin Gritton v Bristol Rovers (H) 10th August 2002 – W 2-1
As one of Leroy Rosenior’s first signings as Torquay United manager, Martin Gritton initially joined Torquay United on loan before the Gulls’ opening fixture of the 2002-03 season against Bristol Rovers.
A crowd of 4,937 poured into Plainmoor to witness Rosenior’s first game in charge, after he replaced Roy McFarland in the summer of 2002, and they could have been forgiven for thinking it was a case of ‘here we go again’ when Guiliano Grazioli gave the Pirates the lead in the fifth minute.
However, going behind helped to galvanise the Gulls and their persistence paid off when Gritton headed home a cross from fellow debutant Neil Prince to score the Gulls’ equaliser on the stroke of half-time. United eventually won 2-1 – with Alex Russell adding the Gulls’ second from the penalty spot in the second half.
Rene Howe v Burton Albion (H) 6th August 2011 – D 2-2
Rene Howe was instrumental in securing a point for the Gulls against ten-man Burton Albion in Martin Ling’s first game as manager on the opening day of the 2011-12 season with a goal on his debut.
A brace from Justin Richards put the Brewers two goals ahead before Howe reduced the Gulls’ arrears in the 59th minute, following good work from Lee Mansell. With nine minutes to go, Mansell went from provider to scorer when Eunan O’Kane picked him out with a threaded pass – which secured a point against a Burton side reduced to ten men a minute later, when Tom Parkes received a second yellow card.
Kieffer Moore v Wrexham (H) 19th November 2016 – D 1-1
Kieffer Moore proved to be the hero on his debut for hometown club – after joining on loan from Forest Green Rovers – as he scored a dramatic late equaliser to secure a point for the Gulls against Wrexham.
After trailing to a 11th minute strike from the Dragons’ Gerry McDonagh, Moore looked to have found an equaliser for United on 35 minutes, but it was disallowed for a foul on Wrexham keeper Mark Coddington. However, with two minutes to go, Moore found the back of the net to secure a point for Torquay – as he got the final touch on a Luke Young corner.
In his post-match interview, Nicholson paid tribute to Moore saying: “He held the ball up well, he’s got a touch for a big guy and he’s had a great impact. The only thing that he probably hasn’t got is the chemistry and understanding with the other lads”.
If his debut turned out to be the stuff dreams were made of – then his second appearance for the Gulls resembled something right out of a comic strip; he scored the maiden hat-trick of career in a 3-0 win against Solihull Moors on the following Tuesday.