Manager Chris Hargreaves apologised to Josh Wakefield, his recent loan signing from AFC Bournemouth, but said that his decision to withdraw the young midfielder had helped Torquay United to clinch their first away win of the season, 3-1 at Lincoln City.
Wakefield had played in a central attacking role in the first half at Sincil Bank, but was replaced at the interval by winger Jordan Chapell as the Gulls tried to exploit the early sending off of Lincoln defender Nat Brown.
“I felt sorry for Josh. It was purely tactical, and it was harsh on him because he was doing a good job,” Hargreaves said. “We had a good game-plan but, once they went down to ten men, there was no real need for it. We needed to get as much width as possible.
“I thought that Chappy gave us a bit of spark – he’s still a bit rusty after not playing as much as he’d like – but having two wingers out there definitely helped us.
“I worked with Josh at Bournemouth. I know him and he knows me. I did it for the club and the team, and they are more important than any individual.”
Brown was dismissed for deliberate handball after only eight minutes, but the Imps then took the lead through a Ben Tomlinson penalty, conceded by a push from Aaron Downes, six minutes later.
Although Torquay striker Duane Ofori-Acheampong scored the first of his two goals to equalise in the 33rd minute, United took a while to make their extra man count.
Like Ofori-Acheampong, midfielder Courtney Richards scored his first senior goal – a searing 25 yarder – and the centre-forward clinched the victory in the 72nd minute.
“I wanted more goals, and we could have scored more, but maybe I’m greedy,” Hargreaves added. “It turned into a keep-ball session at the end, but we were happy that the job had been done.
“But I’ve just told the players: ‘There’s more out there for you – more goals and more performances like that.’ I think we’ve made a real statement, and this was a real bonus for us after a tough couple of weeks.”
Hargreaves hailed “a magnificent display” by two-goal Ofori-Acheampong, who has deputised for the suspended Ryan Bowman for the last three games – two draws and a win. “Duane has been struggling with a bit of injury, but he’s fought on, and he’s proved his worth,” the manager said.
“He hasn’t had much luck in front of goal – he could have scored half-a-dozen so far – but that changed. It was also a fantastic strike by Courtney for his first goal – and I thought he was excellent all round.”
With Bowman back for this Saturday’s home game against Nuneaton Town, Hargreaves has plenty of options up front, even after the departure of the experienced marksman Karl Hawley.
It has been confirmed that the former Carlisle United, Preston North End, Notts County and Scunthorpe United striker’s contract, which had the rest of this season to run, has been terminated by mutual consent.
Hawley was one of several players on the transfer list at Plainmoor. He had returned to training after recovering from a broken arm, but was clearly not in Hargreaves’ selection plans. Several of Torquay’s Conference Premier rivals have shown an interest in him, including Alfreton Town and Nuneaton Town.
As a free agent, Hawley is available for transfer even after the August window shuts tonight. Hargreaves also has to make a decision on left-back Tom Cruise’s future before that deadline. Cruise’s current one-month deal is up.
The former Arsenal and Carlisle player was recalled at Lincoln after 17-year-old Levi Ives, who made his senior debut against Aldershot last week, went home to Ulster to prepare for a Northern Ireland Under-19 international against Iceland this Wednesday.
Lincoln manager Gary Simpson was not happy with the decision to send off his veteran defender, Brown, who handled Ofori-Acheampong’s attempted flick over his head. But Hargreaves said: “By the letter of the law, it’s a sending off. The law is there for that last-man situation, and he had to go.
“It was disappointing to concede straight away, and it could have turned into a difficult afternoon.
“What you’ve got to do is make the most of them being down to ten men, and we did.”
Although Nuneaton are next up at Plainmoor in the Conference next weekend, United are also sending a development squad side to Home Park tomorrow (1pm) to take on Plymouth Argyle.