Crawley Town have been labelled the Manchester City of non-League football, and after this victory they may be rubbing shoulders with Premier League opposition in the next round of the FA Cup.
Even without the surprise result the game would not have been incident-free. There were two red cards and two penalties saved, with Matt Tubbs's strike ensuring his side become only the sixth non-League team since the war to reach the fifth round. "It feels fantastic," Crawley's manager, Steve Evans, said. "But we'll be practising penalties. You say they didn't turn up but give us credit for that; I don't think Derby or Swindon turned up either."
Given that they had Richard Brodie, a striker bought for more than £200,000 from York City, on the bench, the £90,000 prize money was hardly a factor for the lowest-ranked team in the competition. What mattered was a place in the last 16 and the chance of a Premier League heavyweight in the next round.
Crawley edged ahead with six minutes left in the first half when Torquay failed to deal with a simple long ball, leading to Tubbs racing through and clipping his finish over Scott Bevan for his 25th goal of the season. With the possibility of an upset, tensions spilled over in the technical area, with the Gulls' assistant manager, Shaun North, pushing his Crawley counterpart, Paul Raynor.
The next flashpoint came when Chris Zebroski was dismissed for receiving two bookings within a minute – the first for a foul and the second for handling inside the penalty area. Tubbs took the spot-kick but placed it too close to Bevan, who palmed the effort away and out of danger. He then saved again, from Craig McAllister, after Jamie Cook was tripped in the area.
There was still time for the visitors'Dean Howell to receive a red card, and for Kevin Nicholson to hit the bar for the hosts. But Crawley hung on for their victory on the English Riviera, much to the upset, one supposes, of Kazuaki Kanda, a student who had travelled from Japan and claims to be the only Torquay fan in his home country – the list is not expected to grow much after this.
"There's Sir Alex, Mr Wenger and Mr Mancini in the next round," Evans said. "We're just proud to be there, and we'll try to win whoever we play. It's reward for players who work six or seven days a week. But our aim this season is promotion."
Since the war no non-League club has got beyond the fifth round of the FA Cup. The six clubs who have managed to reach that round are Colchester United (1948), Yeovil Town (1949), Blyth Spartans (1978), Telford United (1985), Kidderminster Harriers (1994) and Crawley Town (2011).
Referee: Darren Deadman
Man of the match: TubbsReuse content