In-form striker Rene Howe believes that Torquay United’s stirring fightback against Aldershot Town can inspire the Gulls to a third promotion push in successive seasons.
Howe’s seventh goal of the campaign, a thunderclap shot from 20 yards in the 89th minute, beat the Shots 4-3 and completed an historic recovery from 3-0 down in the 47th minute at Plainmoor.
United have been steady but unspectacular in mid-table so far this season, held back by a succession of draws, but Tuesday’s splendid victory saw them move up to ninth place, only two points off the npower League Two play-offs zone.
The Gulls have contested the play-offs in each of the past two seasons. “That could be the game that changes things for us,” said Howe. “Football is like that – one game and one result can make a huge difference, and hopefully we can push on now.”
Armed with a new contract, United boss Martin Ling admitted that he had never experienced such a comeback in his 12-year managerial career. “We didn’t really perform in the first 45 minutes, but we did pull out all the stops in the second half,” said Ling, who recently agreed an improved one-year rolling deal along with assistant Shaun Taylor.
“The players were asked a lot of questions, but they came up with so many answers.
“What we have got to take from that match is the character in Torquay’s dressing-room. At half-time we were 17th or 18th in the league, and at the final whistle we were ninth. That’s some comeback.”
Aldershot striker Craig Reid is bound to pop up in future sports quizzes after he scored a hat-trick at Plainmoor – and still finished on the losing side.
It was goals by Billy Bodin, his second of the season, and by substitutes Ryan Jarvis and Ashley Yeoman, their firsts, that drew United level before Howe’s late winner.
It was former trainee striker Yeoman’s first League goal. United skipper Lee Mansell said: “It was a fantastic turnaround.
“The wind was very strong, and the conditions were difficult, especially when it was against us in the first half.
“But once we got one goal back, I thought ‘This isn’t over’. Rene scored a great goal to win it, and Billy came up with an important one to get us back into it, but I’m really pleased for Ryan and Ashley.
“Ryan has been working hard in training and did really well when he came on, and Ash has waited so long for his chance.”
Kingsbridge-born Yeoman, 20, who scored with a flick-header, said: “Billy’s goal was so important – if the game had gone on for another ten minutes at 3-0, it might have been all over. When Billy got one back, we were definitely going to throw the kitchen sink at them, and I thought I might get on.
“I wasn’t really nervous, more relieved really. The gaffer told me to just get out there and try and grab us a goal. I always try and get in front of defenders, and it worked.”
The last time that United came from 3-0 down to win was nearly 42 years ago, when they beat Lincoln City 4-3 in an FA Cup-tie at Plainmoor in January 1971. But they had hauled the score back to 3-2 by half-time that day.
While some managers might have pulled on their “Mr Angry” faces and snapped at even the mildest questions, Aldershot boss Dean Holdsworth remained commendably polite and open after a match which must have tested his cool to the limit.
“We have come away from home and scored three goals and given an excellent first-half display,” he said.
“But we have been punished by a decent side. We got punished for switching off.
“Torquay had to work for three of their goals, but we switched off for one of them.”
United’s squad – an illness to winger Lloyd Macklin saw him join four other casualties – reassembles today to start the build-up to Saturday’s trip to Wycombe Wanderers.