Torquay manager Paul Buckle has revealed how a photo of Old Trafford sparked extra motivation within his players to reach the npower League Two play-off final and make amends for missing out on a trip to the famous stadium in the FA Cup.
The Gulls will meet Stevenage on May 28 having triumphed 2-0 over Shrewsbury in their semi-final, with the Devon outfit preserving their lead from Plainmoor in a goalless second leg. Torquay exited the FA Cup courtesy of a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to non-league Crawley, who duly drew a plumb fifth-round tie away to the Barclays Premier League champions.
And speaking after guiding his side there in the League Two showpiece, Buckle admitted: "People say we missed out on Old Trafford in the FA Cup but I honestly believed we would get there. The Monday after that fourth-round disappointment in the FA Cup, we showed them a picture of Old Trafford and said there's another route there."
Torquay, who finished the regular season in sixth, are now 90 minutes away from promotion to the third tier in only their second season back in the Football League, registering what would be an impressive turnaround since being relegated from League One in 2005.
First leg goals from Chris Zebroski and Eunan O'Kane proved the difference as Shrewsbury simply failed to do enough on home soil to threaten the aggregate scoreline.
"I thought we were outstanding," Buckle said of his side's second leg display. "We deserved to go through. We're very proud of what we've achieved so far but we want the ultimate which is promotion.
"Stevenage are our old foes from the Conference days and now in the League. They'll be desperate to get into League One, as we will be, and it will be a nervous occasion but it's one we're relishing because you could see here what a good footballing side we are."
For Shrewsbury, who struggled to create a single real opportunity of note, it proved a disappointing end to a promising campaign. Having narrowly missed out on automatic promotion by a single point, Shrews are left to reflect on a third failed play-off campaign in five seasons and a 14-year absence from the third tier of English football.
Manager Graham Turner said: "We've not been good enough to break them down - but the tie wasn't lost here, it was lost down at their place. Coming here on a two-goal lead they handled it very well, they defended well and caused us one or two problems.
"We, on the other hand, never looked convincing on the ball. We never looked as though we were going to create too much and we never tested their goalkeeper. In that respect it's a very disappointing performance and a disappointing night.