‘We’ve got a hell of a chance’ – Hawks skipper Oastler aiming to add former club Torquay to his recent list of FA Cup scalps

Joe Oastler is hoping to add former club Torquay to his recent list of FA Cup scalps after Hawks’ ‘best 45 minutes of the season’ set up an FA Cup replay.

By Simon Carter
Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 10:49 am
Joe Oastler in action for Hawks on his FA Cup return to Plainmoor. Picture: Martyn White
Joe Oastler in action for Hawks on his FA Cup return to Plainmoor. Picture: Martyn White

The captain will lead his side out at Westleigh Park tomorrow knowing victory over the higher tier Gulls will give Hawks a trip to former Premier League club Charlton Athletic in the first round proper.

A stunning injury-time leveller from James Roberts gave the National League South side a dramatic 2-2 draw on the English Riviera. But there was no luck involved - Hawks thoroughly deserved their draw after a superb second half showing.

‘It was a tough game, we rode our luck a bit in the first half,’ said Oastler of the weekend draw at Plainmoor.

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Joe Oastler and Alex Wall in action at Plainmoor. Picture: Martyn White

‘They had a lot of possession but it wasn’t as if they were having shot after shot after shot. We didn’t really get going, but they didn’t open us up for all their possession.

‘We stayed strong, we defended well, we didn’t concede, and I thought we dominated the second half really.

‘So, mixed emotions at the end. I was a little bit disappointed we didn’t win - the two goals we conceded were sloppy - but if you don’t win make sure you don’t lose and to score late on was a special moment. Those moments don’t come around every week so you have to enjoy them.

‘We know inside our four walls that if we play our game then man for man we’re a match for any team in our league, and the league above - we’ve got players who have played at that level and in the Football League. And in the second half we definitely did get it right. We had five or six clear cut chances.

Joe Oastler and Billy Clifford have words with referee Dale Wootton at Plainmoor. Picture: Martyn White.

‘Our ball players started getting on the ball a bit more, the likes of Billy Clifford, and the front two (Tommy Wright and James Roberts) - at times we were unplayable.

‘As I say, we rode our luck a bit in the first half but you’re not going to have it all your own way for the whole 90 minutes in any game of football.

‘It was probably the best 45 minutes we’ve played all season and if we can do that for 60/70/80 minutes on Wednesday we’ve got a hell of a chance.

‘It’s a great draw but we can’t think about Charlton yet. We’ve got a game on Wednesday and we’ll give it a good go. It’ll be a great sure, I’m sure of that.’

Oastler is no stranger to the magic of the FA Cup. Indeed, he is bidding for his fourth higher division scalp in the last five seasons.

In 2017/18 Matt Paterson - now at Gosport - struck the only goal as Oxford City won 1-0 at two tiers higher Colchester United. They only lost to a last minute goal at another League 2 outfit, Notts County, in the second round.

The following term Oastler was part of the Oxford side that led two tiers higher Tranmere 3-2 until the hosts scored a last minute leveller at Prenton Park. Rovers won the replay 2-0.

Last season Oastler helped Oxford City win 3-2 at one tier higher Weymouth before shocking three divisions higher Northampton Town 2-1 - current Hawks colleague James Roberts among the scorers.

Further back, in 2010/11, Oastler was part of the Torquay side that beat higher division pair Walsall and Carlisle on their way to the fourth round.

The Gulls twice reached the League 2 play-offs during Oastler’s time at Plainmoor, and he was happy to see some familiar faces last weekend - including his former playing colleague Aaron Downes, now Torquay’s No 2 to Gary Johnson.

‘I had some good times there,’ Oastler recalled. ‘But I will be pleased if we can knock them out on Wednesday!’

Hawks will need to make at least one change for the replay - Charlie Searle coming in for Ross Worner after replacing the goalkeeper during the first half at Plainmoor.

‘It’s a massive loss,’ said Oastler. ‘For me, he’s the best keeper in the league and probably the one above, but these things happen and you have to deal with it. Charlie did really well (at Torquay) and he’s more than capable.’

It will be Searle’s second appearance at Westleigh Park in a cup tie this season - the first was a far lower profile occasion, against Winchester City in a 6-0 Hampshire Senior Cup success in front of a crowd of under 150.

Hawks, meanwhile, could well attract their highest crowd since March 2019 as they bid to make Torquay their sixth higher division FA Cup scalp (and their first since Histon 11 years ago).

Secretary Trevor Brock said he had received numerous calls and messages about the tie, and is hoping a large amount of Pompey fans can add their vocal support to what will be a great occasion if the hosts can spring a shock.

Torquay could well be backed by a fairly large support - they took 260 to Boreham Wood for a midweek game recently and 333 to Bromley on a Saturday even though the game was being shown live on BT Sport.

The last time there was a crowd over 2,000 at Westleigh Park was when Hawks’ National League game with Leyton Orient in March 2019 was watched by 2,058 - the visitors bringing good numbers en route to winning the title.

Hawks had previously attracted crowds of 2,382 (v Preston North End, 2014) and 1,631 (v Brentford, 2008) in home FA Cup first round ties, but both those games were shown live on TV.