Tottenham won the Worthington Cup two years ago and, even though it is still early stages on the road to the final in Cardiff, this competition still represents arguably their best chance of playing in Europe next season.
But this ultimately comfortable victory for Glenn Hoddle's side came at some cost as they lost the versatile Gary Doherty with suspected ankle ligament damage after only 12 minutes. The consolation came with second-half strikes from Ledley King and Les Ferdinand – after Tottenham had suffered in the first half – to put them into the third-round hat with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
With this game being televised, Torquay were clearly determined not to let their 15 minutes of fame pass them by, and they set about unsettling Tottenham immediately.
However, the Devonians' high-tempo approach put paid to Doherty's presence in this Worthington Cup second-round tie when Eifion Williams clattered into the Irishman, forcing the defender off on a stretcher to be replaced by Goran Bunjevcevic, a player who in Glenn Hoddle's words was only "70 per-cent fit". The Yugoslav was one of four first-team regulars rested from the start, with Sunday's London derby against Chelsea in mind, while Gustavo Poyet missed out through suspension.
But Torquay, managed by Roy McFarlane, made a more positive impact against the 1999 winners of this much-maligned competition just seconds later. As the home defence reorganised, David Graham chased a ball to the edge of the box which Chris Perry hit off his leg, and both were helpless as the ball looped over Kasey Keller and bounced agonisingly across goal.
With that, the visitors increased in confidence and on the half-hour mark David Woozley went even closer, as he hit Keller's crossbar from 18 yards. Moments earlier Les Ferdinand had forced Tottenham's best chance, shooting low and hard from 20 yards and the former England international then went close from eight yards out, scooping the ball over the crossbar.
As if being goalless against a Third Division side was not concerning enough, the news got even worse for Tottenham at half-time as Doherty was driven off to hospital. Hoddle was recently thwarted in his attempt to buy Dean Richards from Southampton, but, if Doherty's plight is confirmed, he may have to renew his chase for the Saints' powerful centre-half.
Torquay started the second half exactly as they had the first, although they had to contend with the threat of Hoddle's half-time substitution, Teddy Sheringham, as Sergei Rebrov tucked back into midfield.
However, as the home side upped the pressure, it was a foul on the German midfielder Steffen Freund that led to Tottenham's opening strike. When his compatriot Christian Ziege directed his free-kick deep into Torquay's area after an hour, Ledley King was there to sidefoot a half-volley past the former Tottenham goalkeeper Kevin Dearden from six yards out.
Ferdinand effectively ended Torquay's brave resistance after 69 minutes, when Rebrov found Mauricio Taricco and the wing-back sent over an excellent cross for Ferdinand, who was only three yards out, to do the rest.
Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2): Keller; Perry, Doherty (Bunjevcevic, 13), King; Taricco, Ziege, Leonhardsen (Sheringham, h-t), Freund, Davies; Ferdinand (Etherington, 74), Rebrov. Substitutes not used: Sullivan (gk), Thelwell.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Dearden; Tully, Woozley, Douglin, Rees; McNeil; A Russell, Brandon (Nicholls, 86), Hill; Graham (Benefield, 77), Williams (Roach, 74). Substitutes not used: Northmore (gk), L Russell.
Referee: M Warren (Walsall).Reuse content