Thomas Kelly – @Tommyktufc
Thomas Kelly looks back over our most recent TUFC play-off experiences as we build up to the 12th June
2008-2009 (Blue Square Premier)
Teams – Cambridge United, Histon, Torquay United, Stevenage Borough
Winners: Torquay United (4th)
Let’s start with a play-off win shall we?! Our most recent non league play-off adventure was in 2009. Torquay had managed to secure a play-off spot on the last day, beating the eventual champions Burton Albion in front of 4,500 fans 2-1. Despite falling a goal behind, Chris Hargreaves & Elliot Benyon scored goals which ensured the Gulls would be in the play-off promotion mix.
After the previous seasons….let’s say disappointment, Torquay were looking to right the wrongs of twelve months ago and write a new chapter into the history of Torquay United.
Histon (remember them!), had enjoyed a truly remarkable season, surprising many finishing 3rd on merit and with a daunting home record of just two home defeats all season, it was imperative for Torquay to take a lead going into the 2nd leg.
Torquay asserted their authority from the off. Sturrock & Sills with decent opportunities early on. Histon’s game plan was clear, try and catch us cold on the counter attack and keep it tight at the back. It worked until the 36th minute when Nicky Wroe found himself with the ball in the box and his deflected effort hit the top right hand corner of the net. The breakthrough!
Danny Stevens should have made it 2-0, leaving the Histon defence for dust but agonisingly his effort went wide of the target. Histon had their moments, their best coming from a corner that Michael Poke struggled to punch away from the six yard box and Chris Todd had to clear with an overhead clearance.
Torquay upped the pressure in the second half, Chris Robertson crashing his header onto the crossbar from close range & Blair Sturrocks cross almost looping over the Histon keeper. Thankfully it was the mighty Tim ‘Zorro’ Sills who doubled the Gulls advantage with his first goal in nine games, heading in a delightful cross.
Histon almost found a way back in late on but Torquay held on and deservedly took a two goal lead to Cambridgeshire.
The second leg was going to be a nervy affair. Having watched Cambridge turn around a two goal deficit just a few hours prior and in very wet conditions, Paul Buckle knew that Histon would throw everything at his side from the off. Keeping it tight at the back was going to be so important. It took 16 minutes for the hosts to strike. Torquay failed to clear the ball from a long throw and Neil Andrew’s powerful strike beat Michael Poke in goal and Torquay found themselves in a game.
The Gulls goal led a charmed life at times, but with some dogged defending and super stops by Michael Poke, United were heading to Wembley.
What more is there to say about 17th May 2009? A fantastic performance from Paul Buckle’s men, two superb goals from Chris Hargreaves and of course Tim Sills, jubilation all round as United celebrated a return to the Football League.
A perfect day to be a Gulls supporter. We can only hope there are similar scenes and heroics come the 20th June at Ashton Gate.
01/05/09 – Histon (H) 2-0 W – Poke, Mansell, Todd, Nicholson, Robertson, Carlisle, Wroe, Hargreaves, Stevens, Sills, Sturrock (Christie)
04/05/09 – Histon (A) 1-0 L – Poke, Mansell, Todd, Nicholson, Robertson, Carlisle, Wroe, Hargreaves, Stevens (Hodges), Sills, Sturrock (Benyon)
17/05/09 – Cambridge (Wembley) 2-0 W – Poke, Mansell, Todd, Nicholson, Robertson, Carlisle (Carayol), Wroe, Hargreaves, Stevens (Hodges), Sills, Benyon (Thompson)
2010-2011 (League Two)
Teams – Shrewsbury, Accrington Stanley, Stevenage, Torquay United
Winners – Stevenage (6th)
Despite a one point deduction due to the club missing the deadline for registering Jake Robinson’s paperwork prior to a League game with Hereford United, Torquay United managed to hold on to 7th place on the final day, despite a 3-1 defeat at Rotherham United at the soulless Don Valley Stadium, the Gills failed to capitalise against the champions Chesterfield, also losing 3-1 away.
Ironically, Hereford also played an unregistered player in the same game, beat us 3-1 at Plainmoor and then had three points deducted.
Playing at Plainmoor for the first leg, Torquay would face 4th placed Shrewsbury, celebrating their 125th anniversary at the time. They were also looking to avenge a 5-0 drubbing that Paul Buckle’s side put on them just a few months prior to the play-off game. Optimism was high. We had one hell of a squad too. Tomlin, Robinson, Mansell, Nicho, Kee, Branston, Eunan; just to name a few, all playing that evening.
Dagenham loanee Galvin Tomlin was a danger from the off. His trickery with the ball terrorised the Shrews defence all game. Torquay were in control for the early stages, forcing the visitors into long range efforts. Despite going five games without conceding, the Shrews couldn’t handle the forward pairing of Tomlin & Zebroski and it was that combination who opened the scoring. Tomlin brilliantly winning the ball on the right side of the penalty area and finding Zebroski who despite almost slipping, slotted the ball past Ben Smith.
Torquay kept up the pressure but almost gifted the visitors a route back into the game, Scott Bevan slicing a pass back straight to the Shrews, but thankfully for the Yellows the following effort went just wide. Shrewsbury were made to pay soon after, Eunan O’Kane with a lovely low shot getting the better of Smith.
The second half started just as the first half with the Gulls on top. Efforts from Kee, Nicholson & Tomlin all coming close. Tomlin also saw an effort cleared off the line. Despite late pressure, Torquay would not be breached and deservedly took a two goal lead to the New Meadow, frustrated slightly that the advantage wasn’t greater. It was also the last game played in front of the old Grandstand.
In front of a sell out crowd and celebrating their 125th anniversary, the onus was on the hosts to start well. Torquay nullified the Shrews brilliantly. Despite early pressure, Torquay grew into the game and were able to see the it out with minimal stress. Paul Buckle’s men had done it, it wasn’t to be a trip to Wembley but a trip to Old Trafford that awaited against Stevenage who beat Accrington over two legs.
The final…..well…. this is where the article starts to get difficult.
A road traffic accident on the M6 forced a lot of fans from both sides to miss the delayed kick off (and in some cases the game), Darren Deadman was refereeing and rumours of Paul Buckle’s possible departure to Bristol Rovers was lingering over the Yellow Army well before kick off.
It wasn’t a classic performance from either side but Stevenage definitely looked the more likely as the half progressed and just a few minutes before half time, John Mousinho struck with a great strike past Bevan.
The second half saw Torquay apply the majority of the pressure but failing to really test keeper Chris Day with any venom. There were chances but Torquay lacked the spark from their previous games with Shrewsbury and ultimately in a game watched by 11,484 in a 75,000 seater stadium, Torquay fell at the last hurdle and missed out on a return to League One for the first time since 2004.
The next day Buckle left for Bristol Rovers and Torquay were on the hunt for a new manager. Martin Ling came in and one season later, Torquay would be back in the promotion hunt, which leads me nicely to….
14/05/11 – Shrewsbury (H) 2-0 W – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson, Branston, Mansell, O’Kane, Lathrope, Robinson, Tomlin (Stevens), Kee (Oastler), Zebroski
20/05/11 – Shrewsbury (A) 0-0 D – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson, Branston, Mansell, O’Kane, Lathrope, Robinson (Rowe-Turner), Tomlin (Macklin), Kee (Oastler), Zebroski
28/05/11 – Stevenage (Old Trafford) 0-1 L – Bevan, Robertson, Nicholson (Rowe-Turner), Branston, Mansell, O’Kane, Lathrope (Oastler), Robinson (Stevens), Tomlin, Kee, Zebroski
2011-2012 (League Two)
Teams – Southend United, Torquay United, Cheltenham Town, Crewe Alexandra
Winners – Crewe Alexandra (7th)
A season which had so much promise ended in disappointment for the Gulls, who despite at one point finding themselves in 2nd spot, dropped form at just the wrong time and needing to win against relegation threatened Hereford United on the last day to stand a chance of automatic promotion, slumped to a 3-2 defeat that saw the Gulls finish 5th, missing out by three points to Crawley Town who claimed the last automatic promotion spot.
Torquay’s record that season against Cheltenham was pretty good, taking four points from six during the league campaign. Could Martin Ling get his squad over the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion?
The signs were encouraging early on in the 1st leg with Rene Howe forcing a good chance just over the bar but sadly for the Yellow Army, keeper Scott Brown was to be in excellent form that day. It got worse when Rene Howe, the top scorer that season and ever reliable from the penalty spot hobbled off injured midway in the first half. Cheltenham took immediate advantage and the lead soon after and doubled their advantage not long into the second half. Both sides hit the woodwork and despite late pressure from the Yellows it was Cheltenham who had a strong advantage going to Plainmoor.
Torquay needed to exert as much pressure on the Robins as they could to try and turn the game around in their favour and for 60 minutes they did just that, but once again Scott Brown in goal was not to be denied.
With Rene Howe out with a hamstring injury (insert sigh here), Torquay couldn’t find their way back until it was too late. Winger McGlashan killed our play-off dreams with a goal fifteen minutes from time to increase their advantage to three goals. Taiwo Atieno’s late goal meant nothing as Cheltenham sealed their Wembley trip with a beautiful free kick from Marlon Pack in the dying embers.
It was to be disappointment again for Torquay United and prior to our upcoming National League Play-Off Semi-Final, our last experience in the lottery of the play-offs. Will the different format play into our hands this season and see the club return to the EFL? Only time will tell.