The romance of the FA Cup was felt on the English Riviera yesterday when Crawley Town travelled to Torquay and became the sixth non-league club since the Second World War to reach the last 16 of the competition.
Their victory at Plainmoor included two red cards, two penalty saves and an ugly touchline confrontation. Ultimately it was decided by Matthew Tubbs's first-half goal for the visitors.
After claiming his third league scalp this season, the Crawley manager Steve Evans said: "You may say Torquay didn't turn up but you have to give us credit for that, I don't think Derby turned up or Swindon turned up either.
"Torquay are a decent side but if you ask their manager which starting XI he'd rather have then he'd probably say ours. These players now have the opportunity to play on a wonderful stage in the next round." At stake for them, aside from £90,000 in prize money for getting to the fifth round, was the chance of landing one of the Premier League's heavyweights when the draw is made today.
Money is hardly a problem for them. Crawley are known as the Manchester City of non-league football after spending heavily, backed by a consortium of local businessmen and investors from Hong Kong. They had Richard Brodie, a striker that cost more than £200,000 from York City, on the bench, so victory against League Two opposition was not the biggest shock. They are hoping that will come later in the competition.
When play started, the Blue Square Premier League side looked comfortable against the hosts, applying early pressure on Scott Bevan's goal before establishing a lead six minutes before the interval.
Torquay's central defenders failed to deal with a hopeful punt upfield, and the striker Tubbs clipped his finish over Bevan as the goalkeeper rushed out to score his 25th goal of the campaign.
The hosts had not troubled Michel Kuipers apart from Danny Stevens's drive that had the Crawley goalkeeper scrambling across his goal. Their predicament led to an angry exchange in the technical area when the Crawley assistant Paul Raynor appeared to be pushed by the Torquay coach Shaun North.
Another flashpoint arrived just after the hour mark when Chris Zebroski received a yellow card for a foul, then another seconds later when he handled Ben Smith's free-kick in the penalty area. Tubbs took the penalty but it was saved by Bevan, who had to face another spot-kick in the 67th minute when Lee Mansell tripped Jamie Cook. Bevan dived the right way again, this time denying Craig McAllister and keeping alive Torquay's hopes of at least forcing a replay. "We're practising penalties tomorrow," said Evans after the match.
There was still time for the Crawley left-back Dean Howell to get sent off for a second booking, and for Kevin Nicholson to hit the crossbar in the final moments for Torquay.
Sunday Indo Sport