Ward's Sky Blue thinking condemns plucky Gulls

Torquay United 0 Coventry City 1
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The Independent Football

Coventry's manager Chris Coleman was under no illusions as to how close his team came to blowing this fourth-round tie at Torquay. A winning goal three minutes from time totally against the run of play was enough to win the match but the Sky Blues manager was full of praise for the Blue Square Premier side.

"We were outplayed, outfought in many departments and Torquay deserved a lot more than what they got out of the game," he said. "We knew it would be hard and I raise my hat to Paul Buckle and his team because they were fantastic today. With 20 minutes to go I would have taken a replay, it was all Torquay. I have played here as a player and this is never an easy place to come."

The dominance of the home side was not evident in the opening 20 minutes in which Coventry started far better than their hosts. Freddie Eastwood and Clinton Morrison both had sights at goal but the Torquay defence was up to the challenge and stood firm. A booking for Aron Gunnarsson after a series of fouls on the impressive Matt Green was a sign that all was not totally well for the visitors and the City defender hobbled off minutes later to be replaced by Elliot Ward. It was a substitution that would reap its reward much later in the proceedings.

By half-time the match had become an even contest but Coleman could not have contemplated the onslaught his team faced after the break. Aflurry of quality chances fell to Torquay, including a decent penalty shout when Leon McKenzie looked to have clipped United winger Roscoe Dsane's heels inside the box, and the capacity crowd of over 6,000 must still be shaking their heads in disbelief that they did not witness a proper cup shock.

Torquay manager Buckle was understandably disappointed: "My players are very down in the changing room, the performance levels were there and to be fair they have been all season. We have had a fantastic run and everyone who has turned up today can see why. We are a good side and more importantly we are a good club.

"This is a completely different club from the one that fell out of the League and this is still a proud day for Torquay."

The Gulls have never reached the last 16 of the FA Cup but during the second half they had a firm grip on the match as they out played their Cup-winning visitors and thoughts of a financial windfall in the next round must have been floating around the Plainmoor directors' box as Coventry visibly wilted under the pressure.

But fate had other plans for these two teams and with less than 10 minutes left for play, what became Torquay's last chance passed by when Nicky Wroe had a clear sight of goal from 20 yards but he hit his shot high and wide.

Within three minutes Coventry had secured their place in the fifth round with their only effort on target during the second half. A fortunately won corner was curled in toward goal by Daniel Fox and substitute Ward, who was unmarked, headed home from five yards. It was cruel on Torquay and totally undeserved by Coventry and Coleman summed up his thoughts very succinctly. "There were a lot of travelling Coventry supporters here today and they will not have been happy with the way we performed but that was down to Torquay whodidn't let us play," he said. "We got a victory in the hardest possible way but we are through."

Attendance: 6,018

Referee: Kevin Friend

Man of the match: Nicholson

Match rating: 8/10