Martin Ling happy that Rene Howe stayed out of trouble
Torquay United's leading scorer Rene Howe cheered manager Martin Ling on two counts in Tuesday's 1-1 Devon derby draw with Exeter City.
Centre-forward Howe scored his 12th goal of the season, with a first-half penalty, and he avoided a tenth booking of the campaign.
"I was definitely relieved that Rene wasn't booked," said Ling, "because it's easy to do in a derby game. I was holding my breath a bit in the second half, I admit."
Howe will automatically miss two matches after his tenth yellow card, and Ling's search for a striker will certainly pick up pace when that happens.
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Ling added: "Rene went through a barren spell of not scoring, but he's got two in the last three games now.
"He's up to 12, and he put the penalty away well. He does take a good penalty. Let's hope he can push on with more goals. Long may it continue."
Home fans were disappointed, audibly, that United appeared to fade as an attacking force in the second half on Tuesday.
They fell away from a brighter first-half display and City, lifted by the half-time introduction of Alan Gow, took over. But Ling insisted that tactics had not come into the change in fortunes.
"My instructions at half-time were to go out and get the second goal," he added. "The crowd are just as frustrated as I am, but the instruction is certainly not to defend what we've got.
"I've never been a defensively-minded coach in my life. But what tends to happen, when you're not winning games, is that the natural reaction is to defend when you're in front."
Ling praised the displays of central defenders Brian Saah and Aaron Downes against the Grecians.
"The two centre-halves were very good, and they are decent players, both strong and resolute. But going the other way left a bit to be desired, especially in the second half."
As for skipper Lee Mansell, Ling added: "Lee covered every blade of grass and tried to affect the game."
It was United's third derby draw of the npower League Two season, after 0-0 and 1-1 results against Plymouth Argyle.
The Grecians and the Gulls meet again at St James' Park on Monday, January 28, but United will have a chance to arrest a run of six games without a win this Saturday, when they will be at home to Chesterfield.
Torquay reached the semi-finals of the Devon FA St Luke's Challenge Cup, and avenged defeats by holders Buckland Athletic in the last two seasons, with last night's 3-1 win at Homers Heath.
Buckland made the most of an impressive start when Simon Revell fired home from ten yards, after a touch by Gavin Hammon, in the 11th minute. But United, with scholar Jack May a lively presence in midfield, gradually took control and equalised through May in the 24th minute.
May shot home after Danny Sullivan stepped over Ashley Yeoman's low cross.
A raking through ball by captain Tom Cruise beat Buckland's offside trap and sent Saul Halpin through to make it 2-1 in the 56th minute.
Eight minutes later, Halpin converted a penalty after Luke Horrocks brought down Yeoman. United goalkeeper Martin Rice produced smart saves to deny Hammon, Jamie Mudge and Horrocks in the closing stages as Buckland battled back in vain.
Torquay have moved to sign up 17-year-old apprentice Jake Hutchings to a professional contract – partly to stop any big club from snapping him up on the cheap.
The Gulls have offered 'fast track' senior contracts to Londoner Hutchings, a centre-half, and promising Plymouth-born forward Danny Sullivan.
Sullivan would have completed his two-year scholarship at Plainmoor in May, but Hutchings has only been with United since last summer.
"You've got to protect your assets, and having a boy under a senior contract gives you more bargaining power," said United's head of youth, Geoff Harrop. "No one at Torquay is going to stop a lad from going to a big club, and we'll support them in any way we can, but they're not going to get them for nothing."