Tuffley Rovers 4

United’s Under-18 side bowed out of the FA Youth Cup on Monday evening, as Tuffley Rovers came out on top in their 3rd round qualifying clash.

An early Tuffley goal set the tone for a difficult evening for United’s youngsters, with two more goals prior to the interval leaving The Gulls with the proverbial mountain to climb. Theo Cadby’s response gave Torquay some renewed hope after the break, however a fourth Rovers goal soon after left the hosts with just a little too much to do. Scott Piper did pull another goal back in what was an exciting second half, however time was not in his side’s favour, with the visiting side doing enough in the remaining stages to seal a trip to Cheltenham Town in Round 1.

Following their League Cup win at New College Swindon at the weekend, Chris Todd’s side were boosted by the return of Cadby in attack, with the striker taking his place back in the Torquay frontline following suspension. Young professional Owen Price took the captain’s armband once again, with Harry Bamforth, Jack Windsor and Piper the other players recalled to the side, at the expense of Callum Black, Tom Burt, Alex Cherry, Joseph Edmonds and Nathaniel Hawkins.

The game was only eight minutes old when the visitors broke the deadlock, and that lead was doubled eleven minutes later following some hesitant defending in the United backline.

Still reeling from that double setback, a debatable free-kick just four minutes later left the side with a huge task, with only a quarter of the match played.

Charlie Holbrook, whose stunning free-kick had dragged his side level in the previous round, nearly repeated the feat ten minutes before the interval, however with no inroads made into the deficit at the change of ends, there remained plenty of work to do in the second period.

That work appeared to have started just six minutes after the restart, after a swift break down the right saw the ball cut back to Cadby, who rifled a low drive into the net from eight yards to throw his side a lifeline.

For the next ten minutes, Torquay’s youngsters looked to be taking charge of proceedings for the first time, before a mistake in The Gulls’ rearguard effectively put paid to hopes of a fightback.

Goalkeeper Rhys Williams initially appeared to do just enough to clear his lines outside of his penalty area following a threatening Tuffley break, however a loose ball back in his direction was expertly capitalised on by the Rovers No.9, with his wind-assisted chip from distance beating the retreating Williams back to his goal.

With the odds now clearly stacked against them, Todd’s side had little option but to gamble, and from another raid down the right-hand side, Piper latched on to an inviting through-ball to slot home past the advancing ‘keeper and make it 2-4 in the 71st minute.

Tuffley were always eager to exploit United’s commitment to attack, and it certainly made for an intriguing finale, with Torquay forced to clear off their own goalline moments before having a goal disallowed at the other end.

United’s FA Youth Cup adventure may have fallen just short of the proper stages of the competition for this season, however for this exciting group of youngsters, there promises to be plenty more positive days to come.

United: Rhys Williams (GK), Harvey Taylor, Owen Price (c), Harry Bamforth, Luis Edmondson, Ollie Hardiman, Sam Stayt, Jack Windsor, Theo Cadby, Charlie Holbrook, Scott Piper. SUBS:  Joseph Edmonds, Alfie Collings, Tom Burt, Callum Black, James Rowe, Nathaniel Hawkins, Jim Weeks.