Crawley assistant boss Lee Bradbury hailed the “beauty of the FA Cup” as his side edged an amazing 11-goal thriller at Torquay to avoid another FA Cup first-round upset.
Tom Nichols scored a hat-trick after Gary Johnson’s National League team led 2-0 in the first half and 5-3 in extra-time – but bowed out 6-5 to their Sky Bet League Two opponents at Plainmoor.
Bradbury told his club’s official website: “That’s the beauty of the FA Cup when you look at it – that wouldn’t happen in a league game, for some reason.
“It was a bad start to the game for us. We found ourselves 2-0 down and chasing the game. I’ve got to say, they’re a good side Torquay – they look a league side already.”
First-half goals from Aaron Nemane and Ben Whitfield had the hosts in control, before Crawley lost goalkeeper Tom McGill to a serious injury in the second half.
Nichols started the comeback from the penalty spot before Max Watters equalised in the 14th minute of the injury time related to McGill’s departure.
Josh Umerah then fired Torquay back in front but there was still time for Jordan Tunnicliffe to equalise and force extra time.
Gulls captain Asa Hall looked to have finally settled the tie with two penalties in the space of five minutes, only for Nichols to drag them back on level terms before then sending Ashley Nadesan clear to grab the winner with penalties looming.
Bradbury added: “Our lads were absolutely dead on their feet at the end, they gave absolutely everything today for the shirt.
“We thought we were dead and buried. We were 2-0 down and goals go in and we get back and equalise in the last second to take it into extra-time.
“Then we’re 2-0 down again, we came back again and we kept believing – which is important.
“I think that will do the lads the world of good for their confidence. If we go one-nil, two-nil down in games, we know we can come back.
“We changed shape about three or four times in the game to try and get the opposition on the back foot.
“It was a great game overall….great for the neutral. I don’t know, for me and (Crawley boss John Yems) Yemsy and their coaching staff, it was a hard one.
“Thankfully we came out on the right side of it.”
Torquay boss Johnson admitted his side were hugely disappointed to have lost an “unbelievable” match but said they cannot let it distract them from their league campaign.
The Gulls are five points cleat at the top of the National League after winning six of their opening seven games.
Johnson said on his club’s website: “It was unbelievable.
“I suppose credit to both teams, to create a game like that, but if you’re on the losing end of that, letting in six goals, albeit in extra-time as well, then of course you’re disappointed as the losing manager.
“You’ve got to be careful, because at 2-0 up at half-time, it looked like the boys felt – I don’t think it was in their heads – but it looked like they thought they’d won the game.
“We’re all disappointed, but straightaway I said we mustn’t let it break our season up.”
He added; “You’ve got to be able to sustain that level of performance at the next level.
“On occasions we did because at one point we were 5-3 up, and then when teams get the ball in your box, go long, and get a bit of a good mentality, suddenly they think they’re back in it. We’ve got to be strong, and we weren’t.”
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