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Stunning scenes as goalkeeper scores in National League playoff final thriller

There were stunning scenes at Ashton Gate as a goalkeeper scores in what played out to be a National League playoff final thriller.

Torquay United, who finished second in league, beat Notts County in semi-finals last weekend whilst Hartlepool United, who finished fourth, got wins against Bromley and Stockport in quarter-finals and semi-finals over last two weekends.

The Gulls have been out of the EFL for seven seasons, while the Pools are hoping to end a four-year absence. So who came out on top?

With Wembley being used for Euro 2020, this year’s National League promotion final was moved, though more controversially it was the location of Bristol City’s Ashton Gate that didn’t go down well with fans, more notably those of sides in the north.

Torquay fans – who often travel hundreds of miles for an away game – have had a relatively quick-ish 90-minute drive here, while Hartlepool fans will have taken about five hours.

Hartlepool had the ball in the back of the net just six minutes in, but referee Simon Mather blew his whistle a long time ago.

A rare break up field results in a corner for the Pools. It was whipped in and caught by keeper Lucas Covolan who was pushed into his own net – inadvertently – by Gary Liddle. A free-kick was given.

Another controversial moment just two minutes later. Armani Little whipped in a brilliant ball from the free-kick which was headed into the net by Kyle Cameron with Hartlepool’s defence all over the place.

Torquay players ran off to celebrate with fans celebrating, and even the goal music is played. However referee Simon Mather harshly ruled the goal out.

Eddie Kyle (Ex-Hartlepool assistant manager on BBC Radio Tees): “A real let-off for Pools that. Fortunately, the linesman’s flag went up very late while the Torquay players were celebrating.”

Brent Pilnick (BBC Sport at Ashton Gate): “Torquay fans are livid after that goal was disallowed. Looking at the replay it’s hard to see why. But the Gulls have had the best of the opening period so far.”

On the 17th minute, a brilliant bit of play from Hartlepool as Gavan Holohan took the ball on the turn and played in Luke Armstrong.

The forward looked certain to score but Torquay’s Joe Lewis got back to stick out a toe and deflect the ball over.

Shortly after that, Nicky Featherstone put in a brilliant cross and Luke Armstrong’s diving header was only just palmed away by Torquay keeper Lucas Covolan.

Martin Gritton (Ex-Torquay striker on BBC Radio Devon): “Both sides are going toe to toe and throwing everything at each other.”

Brent Pilnick (BBC Sport at Ashton Gate): “That early disallowed goal has really given Hartlepool the impetus. They’ve been the better side for the past 15 minutes or so having been able to get hold to the ball better.”

On the 27th minute, Torquay went forward again and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans had the ball in behind. He sold two defenders, cut back onto his right, though his shot was comfortable for Brad James.

Torquay’s Adam Randell had a pop from range which is just tipped over from Hartlepool keeper Brad James. Nothing came of the corner.

Any sign of a goal? You bet. On the 35th minute, there were scenes down by the corner flag when Hartlepool went 1-0 up. Great build-up play from Rhys Oates whose shot was blocked by a wall of defenders.

The ball rollled to Luke Armstrong who held off his marker and blasted the ball in off the bar from close range.

The fans in the Hartlepool end were bouncing hard with some trying to get as close as they possibly could to the players celebrating.

Whilst some stewards did their best to prevent anyone from encroaching onto the field, there was a handful who jumped the barrier before hugging the players and then fan back inside the stands to prevent getting caught. Others were whisked away by security.

On the verge of half time, Rhys Oates rose highest and his thumping header was somehow tipped over by Lucas Covolan. Somehow the Torquay stopper had kept his side in this game.

Eddie Kyle (Ex-Hartlepool assistant manager on BBC Radio Tees): “In the last five minutes it could have been game over. There were two good chances for Rhys Oates and he will be disappointed.

“But Torquay early on had a couple of chances, so they were in it. But Hartlepool could have killed it off on the half-time whistle.”

Martin Gritton (Ex-Torquay striker on BBC Radio Devon): “That save from Lucas could be a turning point for the second half. Hartlepool could have been going in 2-0 up.

“Torquay’s game plan isn’t working. They’re trying to put the press on but they’re getting picked off and passed around and they’re looking a little bit ragged.”

The second half started, and there was a significant tactical change by Torquay.

Their big striker Danny Wright switched to playing as the furthest man up front with Conor Lemonheigh-Evans in behind.

They had been the other way around in the first 45 minutes.

Dean Moxey sent in another cross which Hartlepool defender Timi Odusina almost turned into his own net. Another cracking start to the game, chaos and could have led to an equaliser.

There was a much better bit of play from Hartlepool as Mark Shelton nearly played in Luke Armstrong but his cross is just intercepted. Torquay needed to hold firm.

On the 58th minute, Torquay United had the ball in the back of the net again, and for the third time in this game (second for the Gulls), it was disallowed.

Kyle Cameron was climbing over keeper Bradley James, but as the BT Sport commentators said, how can you jump to try and win the ball, hardly committing a foul, and hand a free kick to the opposition?

Eddie Kyle (Ex-Hartlepool assistant manager on BBC Radio Tees): I think Hartlepool have got out of jail there. I don’t think Brad James was strong enough. That’s harsh on Torquay.

Brent Pilnick (BBC Sport at Ashton Gate): “That looked another soft decision – it seemed Cameron had just held his ground as he jumped.

“The Torquay fans behind me have gone very quiet now.”

Asa Hall then curled one just over the bar from range, looking so close to making it 1-1, would have been a stunner if that hit the back of the net.

Connor Lemonheigh-Evans went down in the area looking for a Torquay penalty. Referee Simon Mather was immediately surrounded by a wall of yellow players. And after some initially thought he pointed to the spot, a no Torquay penalty was the decision. Replays showed a dive with the player walking away with a smirk.

At one point during the second half, Torquay were awarded a free-kick, that led to ironic cheers from the Gulls supporters inside Ashton Gate.

With 15 minutes remaining, Torquay were getting closer. Armani Little had a go from range which was easily gathered by Brad James. Chances between the two sides were dying out however.

Torquay needed a moment of quality in what was a frantic ending. Someone needed to step up and take responsibility on the pitch.

And just two minutes of second half injury time remaining, Torquay keeper Lucas Covolan, who has previously played for Whitehawk, had fans in tears, coming up for a corner, and after it was cleared, then following a throw in he remained up field, went into the box and struck home.

Stunning scenes and what a thriller it turned out to be as the goalkeeper scores surely for the first time within normal time in a National League playoff final.

Brent Pilnick (BBC Sport at Ashton Gate): “Lucas Covolan played against Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker when they were youngsters in Brazil.

“He’s just gone and done what the Reds keeper did at West Brom last month and scored a crucial late goal.

“Would you believe it!”

Eddie Kyle (Ex-Hartlepool assistant manager on BBC Radio Tees): “It was last-chance saloon. Credit to the big goalkeeper, he was determined to get in front of Hartlepool defenders.

“Torquay have been famous this season for scoring late goals and they have done it again in the last game of the season.”

Extra time played out, the atmosphere for electric, albeit Hartlepool fans did go quiet.

Hearts were in mouths when the ball went centimeters of crossing the line with again the last kick of the game. Pools thought there was a last gasp winner but the referee waved away and the final whistle blew.


Hartlepool (Featherstone) – SAVED
Torquay (Waters) – MISSED
Hartlepool (Armstrong) – SAVED
Torquay (Wright) – CROSSBAR
Hartlepool (Shelton) – GOAL 1-0
Torquay (Hall) – GOAL 1-1
Hartlepool (Sterry) – GOAL 2-1
Torquay (Lewis) – GOAL 2-2
Hartlepool (Molyneux) – GOAL 3-2
Torquay (Little) – GOAL 3-3
Hartlepool (Elliott) – GOAL 4-3
Torquay (Evans) – GOAL 4-4
Hartlepool (Donaldson) – GOAL 5-4
Torquay (Buse) – CROSSBAR 5-4

Matt Buse’s penalty is tipped on to the bar by Bradley James, Hartlepool fans invade the pitch in their hundreds to celebrate with the players. What a game, easily one of the most extraordinary for the 2020/21 season.


@94georgef: The seagull flying past as they score is a thing of coincidental beauty 😍🙌🏻

@sbatey78: Amazing that a seagull flies across the screen as they celebrate!! Well choreographed @tufc1899

@GarrMunro: Zander, Alisson and now this. Who knew goalkeepers make such good strikers. Now if the roles were reversed…..

@nt03s: I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again

@AnthonyGarnett7: YOU LOVE TO SEE IT!!!

@HayesTheAmaze: No words… absolute scenes

@tjbrown___: What the fuck is the pools keeper doing

@dangerousimatt: Amazing end. Not a Torquay supporter lcfc fan, but the ref has been terrible for you guys. Deserve to win this!

@SouthernRi0t: OH MY GOD

@JoeQuigleyCoach: Absolute scenes. “Football, bloody hell”

Stunning scenes as the goalkeeper scores in the National League playoff final thriller…

@Aquiesce27: The magic of football

@JN19WBA: Imagine conceding to a GK could never be my team

@Samcottam2: Better than alisson’s goal

@NonLeagueNews: It’s extra-time in the National League play-off final after a scarcely believable finish. Luke Armstrong’s first-half goal for Hartlepool cancelled out deep into stoppage time by Torquay keeper Lucas Covolan. The year of the Brazilian goalscoring goalkeeper…

@roweypw: Surprised the referee didn’t find a reason to disallow that one as well.

@vivcurtis: What a cracking game

@j3cK_b: That seagull flying past as it flys in is a thing of beauty. Thought it was a screen graphic first time round

@kierankeyse: this absolutely SHITS all over Allison’s goal

@DanAuton2590: Justice for the goal Torquay had disallowed for literally no reason in the first half.

@trevordowers99: Tbf as a neutral that Torquay disallowed goal should have stood

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