FOR 75 MINUTES yesterday Forest Green Rovers clung on to their dream of victory in this second-round FA Cup tie. Although they were never in control of a keenly contested match, the Nationwide Conference side had an equal share of the goalscoring chances.
Then Torquay United, riding high in the Third Division, suddenly stepped up a gear and rattled in three goals without reply in the last quarter of an hour. It was a harsh outcome for the little club from the Gloucestershire village of Nailsworth. The scoreline looks like this was a thrashing, but it was never that.
"I thought we bossed it and there was only going to be one winner for 75 minutes," Frank Gregan, Forest Green's manager, said. Avoiding relegation will now be his aim, for his side are bottom of the Conference.
His Torquay counterpart, Wes Saunders, took a different view of the tie. "3-0 flattered us, but we deserved to win," he said. His team should have taken a fourth-minute lead, but Tony Bedeau hesitated over a close-range chance and the ball was scrambled away. "A goal then would have made it a very different game," Saunders said. As it was, Forest Green piled on the pressure with Tony Daley, the former Aston Villa and England winger, particularly lively.
Daley - "the best player on the pitch", according to Gregan - could not find a way past Neville Southall, however. Torquay's 41-year-old former Wales goalkeeper was at his unruffled best, and he reserved his finest save for the 38th minute when he tipped over a volley by Marc McGregor, Rovers' promising 21-year-old forward.
Six minutes after the interval McGregor beat Southall to Daley's cross, but Alex Watson hooked the ball off the line. That was the closest Rovers came. In the 76th minute the Torquay midfielder Chris Brandon, who was always busy and creative, raced forward and hit a low shot into the corner from 25 yards. Four minutes later Torquay were two up when Bedeau's cross was met by a Kevin Hill volley. Then, four minutes from time, Hill's shot was parried by the home goalkeeper, Steve Perrin, and O'Neill Donaldson tapped in the rebound.
Unless they find their way into the third-round draw as the "lucky loser", Forest Green must look to the FA Trophy, in which they reached Wembley last season, for cup success. They are away to Cirencester in the second round on Saturday, while Torquay's prize for yesterday's victory is a trip to Queen's Park Rangers.
Goals: Brandon (76) 0-1; Bedeau (80) 0-2; Donaldson (86) 0-3.
Forest Green Rovers (3-4-3): Perrin; Hedges, Kilgour, Hatswell; Cook (Bailey, 81), Clark, Burns, Sykes; Mehew (Hunt, 62), McGregor, Daley. Substitutes not used: Shuttlewood (gk), Randall, Forbes.
Torquay United (3-5-2): Southall; Thomas, Watson, Russell; Holmes, Brandon, O'Brien (Aggrey, 90), Hill, Herrera; Bedeau (Simb, 90), Williams (Donaldson, 67). Substitutes not used: Northmore (gk), Tully.
Referee: P Joslin (Nottinghamshire).
Bookings: Forest Green Rovers: Burns, McGregor, Hatswell.
Man of the match: Brandon.
Attendance: 2,962.Reuse content