GARY Hird’s first-half brace set in motion a remarkable win for Torpoint Athletic as they cruised to a 4-2 win over Buckland Athletic on Bank Holiday Monday.
Hird’s goals came either side of a strike from Ryan Richards, leaving the hosting Cornishmen three to the good at the break. Ryan Bush reduced the arrears soon after half-time but the three-goal cushion was restored four minutes later by Callum Thompson. Sammy Stayt rounded off the scoring with a stoppage-time consolation.
Buckland were unbeaten in eight coming into the game, but a sluggish start to the match suggested that they would have to buck up their ideas if they were to protect their streak.
Bucks goalkeeper Andy Collings was not afforded much time to settle into his surroundings as he was called into action multiple times in the opening 15 minutes. First, a shot was rifled on goal and saved well.
But then the gloves-man survived something of a scare as Richards fired a blistering effort towards the roof of the net. The effort stung the palms of Collings and he was forced to parry upwards, with the ball landing on top of the crossbar and bouncing to safety.
The breakthrough finally came on the half-hour mark. Thompson sent a cross into the middle, where Hird had wriggled free of his man with a crafty turn. Given the freedom of Mill Lane, the striker smashed a spellbinding half-volley home with aplomb.
Buckland came agonisingly close to an instantaneous response as sprightly Scott Crocker, who had been finding joy on the right wing, pulled a dangerous ball across the box for the fast-arriving Josh Webber. Webber was mere centimetres from turning home with his outstretched leg.
Torpoint’s advantage was doubled two minutes later. Hird drove well into the box and had the beating of Jordan McCarthy. The Bucks defenceman clumsily brought Hird down and was cautioned for his troubles. Richards stepped up to the spot-kick and confidently stroked the effort straight down the middle.
There was still time for the hosts to add a third before the break, and they did so on 41 minutes. Right-back Paul Heveran drove to the byline and pulled it back for Thompson, who scuffed his shot. But, in a half where everything was going right for Torpoint, the shot landed at the feet of Hird at the back post, who made no mistake with the simple task of tapping in from close-range.
As damning an indictment of their first 45 as any, Buckland boss Dan Hart set about his side’s recovery efforts with a triple substitution to begin the second half. Frazer Clark, Finn Roberts and Frank Lovett made their way onto the pitch and quickly things began to brighten.
The visitors pulled a goal back through the reliable source of striker Bush. Substitute Lovett played a cross-field ball for Webber, who ran to the byline before lifting a deft ball in for Bush to head home his 12th goal of the season via the underside of the bar.
But Buckland’s liveliness was short-lived, as Torpoint dealt the critical blow four minutes later. Richards timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap and crossed low for Thompson at the far post, who rolled a calm finish into the net to restore the three-goal advantage.
Suddenly, the sting was taken out of the game and it made for laborious viewing as Torpoint retreated into deeper positions, sensing the game was done, and Buckland struggled to make things click.
A consolation came from substitute Stayt deep into stoppage time. Bush tried his luck with a speculative effort from miles out, just to see it thunder back off the woodwork. But with back-pedalling goalkeeper Tyler Coombes tangled in his netting, Stayt was afforded an open goal to tap into.
Upon full-time, Buckland manager Hart said: ‘It was hugely frustrating. I think that what we have done today, after a run of really good results and a good win on Boxing Day when we were up against it, is we’ve managed to get all but our full squad to Torpoint and where we’ve fallen short is we’ve been taught a lesson in intensity and in heart.
‘I don’t think that’s something our players lack at all – and we’ve shown that many times this season – but today, they just had they bit extra. In particular, having someone like Ryan Richards, who is a former teammate of mine – the heart and desire he shows out on the football pitch for long spells set him apart from anybody else on the pitch today.
‘It’s a tough pill to swallow,’ Hart continued, ‘but it’s one we can move on from pretty swiftly. There is a lot to reflect on but also a lot to be positive about after the run we’ve put together.
‘Our group have a fantastic attitude and a fantastic togetherness, and that won’t change and that certainly won’t be questioned when we get beaten. We’ve just been beaten by the better side on the day at a tough place to go and a growing club. We have to take that on the chin and move on.
‘If we are going to get to the place that we know we can as a club, we need players that are mentally strong enough to bounce back from defeat and take every positive and physical benefits of the game onto the next one. That’s how winning teams are created – by just resetting and building momentum again.’