As we approach Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Maidstone, Steve Harris looks back at notable TUFC 1st Round games from years gone by:
Steve Harris – @steveharris84
Bognor Regis 0 Torquay United 3, 14th November 1987
“Bugger Bognor” is a famous quote which it is believed was uttered by George V about the Sussex seaside resort. However, the late Cyril Knowles, an FA Cup winner as a player with Tottenham Hotspur in 1967, never had any such thoughts regarding the town’s football club after the Gulls met them in the first round of the FA Cup in the 1987-88 season.
During the dark days of the mid-1980s in addition to their league struggles, which forced them to twice apply for re-election at the end of the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons respectively, United hadn’t enjoyed a significant FA Cup run since reaching the fourth round in the 1982-83 campaign.
The hosts were competing in their fourth successive FA Cup first round, but it wasn’t to be followed by a second round tie as the Gulls ran out 3-0 winners, with goals from Paul Dobson, Allan Pearce and Mark Gardiner.
Next up for United was an away tie to Bristol City, which they won 2-0 to set up a third round clash with then holders Coventry City at Highfield Road – where they went down bravely 2-0.
Torquay United 3 Birmingham City 0, 16th November 1991
After a poor start to life in the ‘old’ Division Three in the 1991-92 season, following their play-off final triumph against Blackpool in May 1991, the then United chairman Mike Bateson decided to sack manager John Impey and placed senior pros Wes Saunders and John Uzzell in temporary charge of the team.
In the first round of the FA Cup United were drawn at home to Birmingham City – then second in Division Three – in what was the first FA Cup clash between the two sides since the 1956-57 season, when the Blues triumphed 7-1.
United then went onto enjoy a strong relationship with the Blues in the 1960s as players such as Robin Stubbs, Geoff Cox and Colin Bettany found their way to Plainmoor – partly due to the connections United Chairman Arthur Milner – who was an exiled midlander.
The Gulls, who were fifth from bottom in the league at the time, defied the league positions of the two sides as they came out on top 3-0 with a brace from Paul Hall and a further effort from Mark Loram. In the next round United drew GM Vauxhall Conference side Farnborough Town and after drawing 1-1 at Plainmoor, they were beaten 4-3 in the replay.
United would meet the Blues again in the FA Cup in the third round in the 2005-06 season, where they drew 0-0 at Plainmoor before losing the replay at St Andrews 2-0.
Torquay United 4 Yeovil Town 1, 11th November 2007
The 2007-08 campaign proved to be a season of great change for the Gulls, as it was the first under the new ownership of a consortium made up of locally based fans who bought out Mike Bateson – ending his 17-year tenure as owner.
One of their first acts was to appoint former player and manager Colin Lee as Chief Executive, whilst another ex-player Paul Buckle became manager. This proved to be the start of a period where United enjoyed many successful FA Cup runs and after beating Bath City in the fourth qualifying round, United were paired with Yeovil Town in the first round in Buckle’s maiden campaign in charge.
United had faced the Glovers three times before in the competition, in the 1984-85, 1988-89 & 1992-93 campaigns respectively. In the former two meetings, the Gulls had emerged victorious, whilst in the latter encounter in the 1992-93 season Yeovil had won 5-2. On each of those occasions, the Gulls had been a league outfit whereas the Glovers had been a non-league outfit. Now – following Torquay’s relegation and Yeovil’s long awaited promotion to the league in 2003, and subsequently promotion to League One – the boot was firmly on the other foot.
With the locality of the tie, and the possibility of an upset, the match was televised live on BBC1. It was the first time that a match involving the Gulls had been televised live nationally on terrestrial TV.
In the first half, Torquay piled a huge amount of pressure on their League One opponents – winning five corners in the opening ten minutes.
However, it was Yeovil who took the lead against the run of play after 20 minutes when veteran striker Marcus Stewart slotted home, after Gulls’ keeper Martin Rice had parried a header from Scott Guyett into his path. It was 35-year old Stewart’s 239th career goal.
However, the Gulls were able to turn the tide – thanks to a double strike late in the second half.
On 43 minutes, Chris Todd headed home a Kevin Nicholson corner and two minutes later, Danny Stevens poked home after Chris Zebroski had a shot blocked by Glovers’ skipper Terry Skiverton. This gave United a crucial advantage going into the half-time break.
In the second half, the Gulls doubled their advantage as the Yeovil defence failed to clear a free kick from Nicholson. Tim Sills then challenged for the ball at the far post before it fell invitingly to Lee Mansell, who unleashed an 18-yard shot that was turned in by Todd, who completed his brace on 64 minutes.
With one minute of normal time remaining, the game was finally ended as a contest when substitute Kevin Hill – within one minute of replacing Elliot Benyon – flicked the ball into the path of Stevens, who raced clear and slotted the bar around Mildenhall to score a double of his own.
United’s reward for knocking out the Glovers was £16,000 worth of prize money and a home tie with another League One outfit in the form of Brighton and Hove Albion. However, on this occasion, there was to be no upset as the Seagulls won 2-0.
Chesterfield 1 Torquay United 3, 12th November 2011
Paul Buckle’s four year reign as Torquay United manager saw the Gulls enjoy many fine runs in the FA Cup, as they got as far as the 2nd round in every season and on two occasions – 2008-09 and 2010-11 – they reached the 4th round stage to equal the club’s greatest ever run in the competition.
When Martin Ling was appointed as Buckle’s successor, it was hoped that United could continue to replicate their fine cup form However, they were handed a particular tricky first round tie in Ling’s first season in charge as they were drawn away to Chesterfield.
The Gulls had never won away against the Spireites before, at either their old Saltergate ground or the Proact Stadium, so it looked as though their fine runs in the competition could be about to come to an end.
However, United made a fine start as Danny Stevens bundled in Eunan O’Kane’s cross to put the Gulls ahead in the 20th minute, but the hosts levelled on 59 minutes when Jordan Bowery headed in Craig Westcarr’s cross.
Torquay regained the lead when Rene Howe rounded Spireites keeper Ole Soderberg in the 72nd minute, and then sealed victory late on with two minutes to go when Kevin Nicholson curled a 25-yard free kick over the wall and into the net.
In the next round, United were to play Sheffield United away and despite a brave display, they ended up going down 3-2 to the Blades. It would also prove to be several years before United tasted victory in the competition again. Not until their second qualifying round win in the 2018-19 when they brushed Lymington FC aside – winning 7-0 – in a game that was streamed on the BBC’s Red Button service.