COLCHESTER UNITED last night moved out of the bottom division for the first time in 22 years, a penalty by David Gregory condemning Torquay to another season in the Third Division.
This play-off fixture last season had produced a record crowd of 46,804, but this year's attendance was just 19,486 - the lowest ever - due in part to it being brought forward to accommodate England's game against Saudi Arabia today.
Colchester made a furious start although Matt Gregg, a 19-year-old starting his first game since 31 January, was not tested.
But Torquay soon rallied, a sublime dance down the right from Rodney Jack, their outstanding St Vincent international, richoceting out for the first in a series of corners that Torquay were unable to make the most of.
Colchester soon realised the threat of the pace of Jack allied to Andy McFarlane's height, and after 19 minutes that combination had the ball in the net, only for McFarlane to be ruled offside.
But after 22 minutes, Colchester won a penalty following a handball by Jon Gittens. David Gregory stepped up to put Colchester ahead from the spot, the ball cannoning in off Gregg's right-hand post.
Just after the half-hour, Neil Gregory - making history along with David as the first pair of brothers in a play-off final - was handed an open invitation by the Torquay defence to double the score. Unmarked in the penalty area, he skewed his shot just wide.
With half-time beckoning, the Gulls defence - all in the Colchester penalty area - had a chance to make amends. Alex Watson's shot rebounded off Jamie Robinson and Gittens, stationed on the far post, could only scoop the ball over the bar.
Colchester started the second half the brighter, and Gregg's inexperience soon showed when he inexplicably failed to gather a tame shot from Simon Betts, which slipped under his body and just wide of the post.
On the hour, Paul Gibbs brought down David Gregory in the area, but referee Mick Fletcher waved away a strong claim for a penalty.
Torquay refused to buckle, Gibbs' 30-yard drive was just turned over by Carl Emberson, who then did well five minutes later to keep out Andy Gurney's low shot. With 12 minutes left Mark Sale might have put the game beyond Torquay, but headed straight at the keeper.
Colchester United (4-3-3): Emberson; Dunne, Greene, Wilkins, Betts; Skelton (Duguid, 83), Buckle, D Gregory (Lock, 70); Forbes, N Gregory, Sale. Substitute not used: Abrahams.
Torquay United (3-5-2): Gregg; Gittens, Watson, Robinson; Gurney, McCall (Bedeau, 72), Clayton, Leadbitter, Gibbs; Jack, McFarlane (Thomas, 84). Substitute not used: Hill.
Referee: M Fletcher (Warley).Reuse content