STOKE Gabriel & Torbay Police fell behind twice in their pre-season friendly against Liverton United before eventually running out 4-2 winners.

A second half resurgence from the newly-merged side proved to be too much for Livvy in Saturday’s clash at a very hot Speedwell Kia Stadium.

The visitors also had to play the best part of an hour with central defender Josh Causey in goal after keeper Nial Herbert was forced off with apparent heart palpitations.

It was Stoke who had the first real chance of the game when Joe Aldons sent a strike just over the bar.

But good work from Sam Hebbes down the left hand side saw him set up James Thomas, who completed the simplest of tasks to put John Fleet’s men one up with 27 minutes played.

The hosts were back on level terms in emphatic fashion just six minutes later when Zach Norton rifled the ball in via the underside of the crossbar.

Four minutes later and the travelling side were back in front – centre-backs Lee Fenner and Simon Laughton combining for the latter to guide the ball into an empty net.

Sam Pritchard forced Herbert into a good save with his feet soon after, which would prove to be the Liverton stopper’s final contribution.

Causey donned the gloves and it wasn’t long before he was picking the ball out of his net, with Norton’s second of the game restoring parity once more.

The home side could well have completed the turnaround before the interval after Laughton’s misplaced pass found Norton, who could only shoot straight at Causey.

Liverton struck the woodwork early in the second half but found themselves more and more pressured as Stoke grew into the game.

Fifteen minutes from time they hit the front for the first time when the ball was squared to Kingsley Burrows who tapped in.

Burrows would hook another effort over the bar before Kizzi Buran made the game safe in injury time when he capitalised on a missed challenge by Laughton.

After the game, Stoke manager Dennis Perry praised his side for sticking to the plan in the blistering conditions.

‘Considering the heat the lads stuck to the tempo and the tactics – keeping the ball, passing it quickly, simple little one-two football,’ Perry said.

‘You’ve just got to play to the conditions at the end of the day. You can’t keep pinging the ball and expecting players to run after it. It’s just not going to happen.

‘We changed our shape today to 3-5-2 – usually we play a 4-4-1-1. I just thought tactically I’d see how we look in that formation and it worked really well for us. Moving forward I’m going to try to use it again in another friendly.

’There are loads of positives and lots of players stepped up today. We’re missing four at the moment because of Covid so it was a good workout.’

Perry added that he isn’t too worried about the current Covid situation at the club, having built his side to tackle exactly that issue.

He explained: ‘It doesn’t worry me because that’s the reason we’ve gone out and built a big squad – so that I have options then to bring players in who can do the job.

‘We did have one key player missing today, but you wouldn’t have noticed it, which is very pleasing for myself.’

As the new-look team continues preparations for the upcoming season, Perry remains happy with how the rebuilding process is taking shape.

‘It’s been very positive, which is pleasing,’ he said. ‘The lads are taking in what is expected of them and how I want them to play, so there are no negatives. It’s all going in the right direction.

‘We could possibly do with one or two players maybe coming in, but other than that I’m really happy with what I’ve got.’

Perry’s opposite number Fleet said he was pleased by what he saw despite the eventual defeat to higher league opposition.

‘We ran out of steam a little bit at the end and I think they [Stoke] have had quite a few friendlies,’ Fleet said.

‘We’ve probably got six or seven missing, and for these first few friendlies it’s very much a mix of firsts and reserves for us. To have that and still come away with a half decent result – I’m happy.’

Those absentees, as with many clubs across the area, have been Covid related – although Fleet isn’t too worried.

He explained: ‘We haven’t had a case where everyone has been mixing. Luckily the guys who’ve got it or have to isolate are ones who haven’t been at training.

‘It’s not great for them and they can’t come but it’s not like they’ve caused a problem to the rest of the squad.’

This Saturday Liverton are due to entertain Paignton Saints, with Fleet hoping that a few more of his first-teamers will be available for selection.

‘I’d like to get a few more of the lads involved so that we can almost get a full strength team out,’ he said.

‘At the moment we’ve added James Thomas and a couple of other lads, so I’d like to get them involved with more of the guys who were here last year.

‘It seems to be the same every pre-season – if we can get one or two games like that then it’s all the better.

‘Paignton Saints are a decent team and it would be nice to put out a strong team against them.’

This Saturday, Stoke Gabriel & Torbay Police are due to entertain Feniton.

IN Saturday’s early kick-off at the Speedwell Kia Stadium, Stoke Gabriel & Torbay Police Reserves played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Ivybridge Town Reserves.

The visitors took an early lead through Harry Hardy before Callum Whiteoak poked home an equaliser three minutes later to restore parity.

Joe Truelove put the Ivies back ahead and insured they went in 2-1 up at half-time.

But Oakley Hunt’s second half brace looked to have earned the hosts a victory – before Ryan Macca’s strike in the final 10 minutes ensured it would be honours even come the end.

Stoke Reserves’ manager Micky Marshall said after the game: ‘It was good for the lads to get a match under their belts.

‘We probably started with the wrong shape, but after the changes we made at half-time I thought we battered them in the second half.

‘We were probably unlucky not to get the win, but in pre-season it’s more about getting minutes in legs than the result.’