Torquay United 1 (Chapell 70) Oxford United 3 (Smalley 48, Constable 61, Hall 78) (From Herald Series)
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Torquay United 1 (Chapell 70) Oxford United 3 (Smalley 48, Constable 61, Hall 78)
OXFORD United maintained their 100 per cent start to the season with victory in a helter-skelter game at Torquay United.
The Gulls, with the wind in their favour, pinned the visitors back in the first half without making a breakthrough against a determined defence, led by Jake Wright.
Deane Smalley opened the scoring early in the second half and James Constable added a second with a terrific strike.
Jordan Chapell pulled a goal back for Torquay to briefly worry the league leaders, who wrapped up the win via Asa Hall.
It was a hard-earned win, but the U's did lose Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter to injuries.
Dave Kitson was unable to shrug off a shoulder injury and missed out, so Scott Davies came in for the only change.
He slotted in on the right of a four-man midfield, with Potter switching into a role just behind Smalley.
The visitors almost made a flying start, as a ball forward from Tom Newey found Davies in the box after just 15 seconds.
He turned down a shooting chance and instead tried to find Potter, but scuffed the pass and Torquay cleared.
It was part of a frantic opening few minutes, with a wet, skiddy pitch and stiff wind combining to cause problems for both defences.
United were playing into the breeze and found it difficult to clear their lines, inviting Torquay forward.
When they were able to string some passes together, the visitors were a threat on the break against a back four which kept a high line.
It almost cost Torquay on 21 minutes, when Davies threaded a cute ball into Smalley, who rounded Martin Rice and scored.
The assistant quickly raised his flag, but it looked a very tight decision.
Oxford's progress was halted when they were forced into a change midway through the half.
Rigg pulled up clutching a hamstring as he chased a through ball and was immediately replaced by Asa Hall.
The loss appeared to affect the U's, who spent most of the next 20 minutes with their backs to the wall.
Torquay swarmed forward and the visitors worked very hard just to stay in the game, but did a good job to limit the chances.
They finished the half strongly and only a header off the line by a superbly positioned Jake Wright denied a goal for Billy Bodin after Ryan Clarke badly misjudged a cross in the wind.
The U's goalkeeper made amends in stoppage time when he got down brilliantly to keep out a low drive from Courtney Cameron.
Wright was in the right place again to head away from danger as the U's breathed a sigh of relief at the half-time whistle.
Having survived a tough first half, United went ahead less than three minutes after the restart.
Potter forced a corner, from which David Hunt's delivery found Smalley, who steered in from close range for his third goal of the season.
Torquay's response was almost immediate. Within a minute Ball dazzled two defenders by teeing himself up for a thunderous volley which beat Clarke and hit the crossbar.
Clarke turned a Ben Harding shot round the post and Ball had a free-kick ruled out for encroachment as the hosts built up a head of steam.
But again United, having soaked up a spell of pressure, responded with a counter-punch.
Clarke's wind-assisted clearance found Constable, on as a substitute after Potter was forced off with a facial injury.
The striker was isolated on the right channel, so took on a shot from the corner of the area, sending a wonderful volley over Rice and into the net.
Torquay kept going, though, and some quick thinking got them back in the game 20 minutes from time.
A throw caught United cold and allowed Hawley to race forward and cross for Chapell to tap in from close range.
Torquay's optimism lasted just eight minutes, when the two-goal cushion was restored.
Constable slipped in Hall, whose first shot was saved but the midfielder lashed in the rebound to the delight of the away fans.
It finally killed off Torquay's spirit and the final exchanges were negotiated without too much difficulty.
Oxford Utd: Clarke, Hunt, Mullins, Wright, Newey, Davies (Ruffels 88), Whing, Rose, Rigg (Hall 24), Potter (Constable 57), Smalley.
Unused subs: Crocombe, Raynes, Williams, Marsh.
Torquay Utd: Rice, Cruise, Pearce, Downes, Nicholson, Mansell, Harding (Lathrope 66), Cameron (Chapell 66), Bodin (Benyon 79), Ball, Hawley.
Unused subs: C Thompson, MacKenzie, Sullivan, N Thompson.
Referee: Graham Salisbury.
Attendance: 3,126 (701 visitors).
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