IF playing at Wembley is every schoolboy's dream then missing out on that opportunity twice in the space of ten months must be every Blue Square Premier footballer's worst nightmare.

That was the painful reality for York City players, however, as they woke up yesterday morning.

Instead of pinching themselves, they were kicking themselves having lost their two-legged FA Trophy semi final to Torquay 2-1 on aggregate - the same narrow margin they were defeated by Morecambe in the Conference play-offs last season.

As at Christie Park last May, carelessly-conceded goals in an otherwise even away leg ultimately cost the KitKat Crescent outfit dear - in fact a possible £400,000 according to club secretary Nick Bassett.

The appointment of Football League referee Steve Bratt for Saturday's return leg did not help the Minstermen's cause either.

Bratt's erratic display, along with similarly inept contributions from his assistants, saw a first-half Onome Sodje effort wrongly disallowed for offside and Mark Robinson and Martyn Woolford both have strong shouts for penalties ignored as City looked to add to Chris Todd's 64th-minute own goal.

The woeful Walsall official also warned Torquay 'keeper Martin Rice for time-wasting early in the game, but then failed to reprimand him further for continued delaying tactics.

At other times, he gave decisions without even seeing the incidents, having turned his back on the action. After failing to brandish one yellow card in the first 74 minutes despite once summoning visiting midfielder Chris Hargreaves with an unnecessary six blasts on his whistle, Bratt went on to book six players and, in his excitement, cautioned Torquay's Steve Adams instead of Lee Mansell in a case of mistaken identity.

Earlier, with 90 minutes to overturn their 2-0 deficit, City resisted the temptation to throw caution to the wind prematurely and risk seeing the tie put beyond their reach before the interval. Chances at both ends were, therefore, few and far between.

Craig Farrell headed wide from a Nicky Wroe free-kick on 11 minutes and Sodje had the ball in the net only for the effort to be ruled out by an errant offside flag.

At the other end, Kevin Nicholson and Lee Phillips shots only required routine stops from Tom Evans but, seven minutes into the second half, City skipper Manny Panther squandered a better chance when he miskicked his shot and then fell over after being picked out in the penalty box by Wroe.

Moments later, City boss Colin Walker decided the time was right for his side to pose a greater attacking threat and replaced Panther with Richard Brodie.

The home side switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Woolford and Wroe, who had not looked at his best operating wide in the absence of Sam Duncum, called in from the flanks.

Within seven minutes of Brodie's arrival, Farrell and Sodje, who had been struggling to forge an understanding up front, combined to create City's goal.

Farrell accepted a pass from Robinson and then threaded the ball through to Sodje, whose run behind the Gulls defence took him clear on goal.

His low shot was parried by Rice, but rebounded back into the net off an unfortunate Todd.

The noise levels of a supportive City crowd immediately rose by several decibels and, shortly afterwards, Brodie tested Rice at his near post with an angled drive.

Ben Purkiss' cross was then headed into the path of Wroe by Brodie, but Rice smothered the midfielder's close-range effort and, at the other end Nicholson's spectacular 35-yard free-kick was clawed away from his top left-hand corner by Evans.

The first of City's penalty claims came on 78 minutes when Brodie fed an overlapping Purkiss and his cross just eluded Farrell but fell at the feet of Robinson, who appeared to be tugged off balance as his shot was blocked.

As ever with weak officials, honesty is not always the best policy in such situations and had Robinson gone down he would have probably earned his side a penalty.

Five minutes later, Woolford appeared to have his leg swiped away by Danny Stevens as he attempted to shoot 15 yards from goal but, once more, Bratt was unmoved.

As City committed men forward with teenager Adam Boyes and centre-back David McGurk now helping form a four-man attack, the excellent Danny Parslow had to execute a heroic last-ditch tackle to deny Phillips.

Stoppage time then saw Rice scramble back to pounce on the ball and prevent Todd's misplaced header leading to a second own goal for the nervous centre-back.

But Torquay clung on and City's valiant players sunk to their knees when the blundering Bratt blew his overworked whistle for the final time.

MATCH facts

York City 1 (Todd og 64) Torquay United 0


10 - Faultless; 9 - Outstanding; 8 - Excellent; 7 - Good; 6 - Average; 5 - Below par; 4 - Poor; 3 - Dud; 2 - Hopeless; 1 - RetireTom Evans 8Ben Purkiss 8David McGurk 7Danny Parslow 8Mark Robinson 7Nicky Wroe 6Manny Panther 6Stuart Elliott 6Martyn Woolford 8Onome Sodje 6Craig Farrell 6

Richard Brodie (for Panther, 57) 7 Adam Boyes (for Farrell, 84) Unused: Josh Mimms, Darren Craddock, Darren Kelly.

City's star man: Parslow - combative from the start and battled until the final whistle.

Torquay: Martin Rice, Lee Mansell, Chris Robertson, Chris Todd, Kevin Nicholson, Danny Stevens, Chris Hargreaves, Steve Adams, Chris Zebroski, Tim Sills (Rosco Dsane, 80), Lee Phillips (Kaid Mohamed, 88). Subs not used: Matt Hockley, Mark Ellis, Mikkel Andersen.

Yellow cards: McGurk 74, Todd 75, Elliott 78, Adams 82, Brodie 87, Mohamed 90.

Referee: Steve Bratt (Walsall).
Rating: gave the kind of performance that left most observers wondering whether there was a typographical error in his surname.

Shot of the match: Nicholson's 35-yard free-kick that required a fine save from Evans.

Mistake of the match: Any number made by referee Bratt but booking the wrong player was probably the biggest.

City player watch: Striker Onome Sodje

Goal attempts on target: 2Goal attempts off target: 0Blocked goal attempts: 0Passes to own player: 9Passes to opposition: 2Crosses to own player: 0Crosses to opposition: 2Pass success rate: 69.2 per centDribbles ball retained: 1Dribbles ball lost: 4Dribble success rate: 20 per centHeaders: 5 Tackles: 1Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 0Free-kicks won: 1Free-kicks conceded: 2Offsides: 3Bookings: 0

Final summary: Onome Sodje struggled to find his touch for long periods of the game but his shot led to City's only goal. He would have also got on the scoresheet himself but for a poor decision and, for that reason, his offside tally is unreliable. The number of passes he made shows he was not heavily involved in the game though and, despite his pace, he only dribbled past an opposition player once in five attempts.