LIKE rainy weekends in Torquay, square pegs and round holes are normally best avoided in football.

But, with a wet English Rivieira as his backdrop, York City boss Colin Walker chose to rip up the coaching manual of classic clichés and was almost rewarded with an unlikely victory at the Plainmoor play-off qualifiers.

Walker fielded six players out of position at the Minstermen's FA Trophy conquerors in a flexible 4-5-1 formation, which also saw teenager Andy McWilliams flit in between performing full-back and wing-back duties.

Centre-half Danny Parslow and right-back Darren Craddock, meanwhile, swapped roles, while defenders Jimmy Beadle and Ben Purkiss worked in tandem as midfield anchormen.

Simon Rusk - a central midfielder by trade - operated on the right flank while left-winger Martyn Woolford played in a roaming, attacking role, offering support to lone striker Leo Fortune-West with Richard Brodie and Onome Sodje dropping to the bench.

The starting line-up was the most surprising of Walker's five-month tenure but its relative success highlighted the value of tactical variation as well as the City manager's willingness to learn lessons.

Even though Torquay's top-five spot had already been secured and the result of Saturday's game will mean little in terms of City's standing when the season draws to a close next weekend, Walker was determined to avenge his side's 2-0 defeat on their last visit to Devon six weeks ago.

That result ultimately cost the Minstermen a day out at Wembley when the Trophy semi-final, first-leg deficit proved too great to overturn at KitKat Crescent.

But, by flooding the midfield in this latest meeting, Torquay playmaker Chris Hargreaves - an important string-puller in the Trophy ties - was rendered virtually redundant.

As a consequence, the supply to flying wingers Roscoe Dsane and Chris Zebroski was stemmed which, in turn, starved 36-goal strike partners Tim Sills and Lee Phillips of any meaningful service.

Keeping the Gulls off the scoresheet was always going to be the toughest task with City managing just one shut-out in 12 previous away league matches under Walker and that at struggling Stafford.

But the Minstermen became only the third Blue Square Premier team to keep a clean sheet at Plainmoor this season, emulating opening day visitors Grays and this month's shock 1-0 winners Farsley.

Just one shot on target - a tame Rusk effort - meant the Minstermen could not, however, convert a hard-earned point into three.

The second part of Walker's masterplan hinged on Fortune-West being able to hold the ball up long enough for energetic supporting midfielders Woolford and Manny Panther to join in on the counter.

That ploy worked to an extent in the first half but proved flawed after the break when Fortune-West spent long periods in his own half defending set-pieces and Woolford grew increasingly isolated further up the pitch.

But Torquay still failed to break down City's resistance, suggesting welcome progress is also being made in dealing with dead-ball deliveries.

During a game of few chances, Phillips side-footed the first wide from 20 yards after just three minutes.

For City, Fortune-West failed to make contact with a Parslow cross on 26 minutes and also headed over the bar from a Woolford corner while, in between, Phillips' intended cross bounced back into play off the woodwork.

An untracked run by Beadle then saw him send a dipping 20-yard volley over Simon Rayner's bar following Rusk's throw-in.

Shortly afterwards, Rusk cut in from the right but could only force a routine save from Rayner.

It was Beadle, though, who missed the best chance of the afternoon.

The 19-year-old utility man ghosted into the six-yard box to meet Rusk's hanging cross but, despite being unmarked, sent a downward header inches wide of Rayner's left-hand upright.

After the break, the game deteriorated into a scruffier affair with City failing to trouble Rayner's goal once and Torquay restricted to just three efforts.

Phillips volleyed wide and also missed the target with his head from a cross by Kevin Nicholson, who sliced an ambitious 35-yard effort over on 63 minutes, which proved the game's final noteworthy moment.

Match facts:

York City: Tom Evans 7, Danny Parslow 8, David McGurk 8, Darren Craddock 8, Andy McWilliams 7, Simon Rusk 7, Jimmy Beadle 7, Ben Purkiss 7, Manny Panther 7, Martyn Woolford 7, Leo Fortune-West 7.

Substitutions: Onome Sodje (for Woolford 67, 7) Richard Brodie (for Fortune-West 84) Mark Robinson (for McWilliams 86)

Subs not used: Mimms, Lloyd.

Key: 10 - Faultless; 9 - Outstanding; 8 - Excellent; 7 - Good; 6 - Average; 5 - Below par; 4 - Poor; 3 - Dud; 2 - Hopeless; 1 - Retire

City's star man: McGurk - marshalled the City defence to keep a potent Torquay strikeforce at bay.

Torquay: Simon Rayner, Lee Mansell, Chris Robertson, Chris Todd, Kevin Nicholson, Roscoe Dsane, Matt Hockley, Chris Hargreaves, Chris Zebroski, Tim Sills (Jody Banim, 79), Lee Phillips.

Subs not used: Elliot Benyon, Kevin Hill, Martin Rice, Mark Ellis.

Yellow cards: Beadle 38, Craddock 61.

Shots on target: Torquay 3, York 1

Shots off target: Torquay 4, York 2

Corners: Torquay 10, York 4

Fouls conceded: Torquay 7, York 9

Offsides: Torquay 0, York 3

Referee: Steve Creighton (Reading).

Rating: got the odd corner award wrong but little else.

Attendance: 2,165.

Chance of the match: Beadle's 43rd-minute header was the only clear-cut opportunity of the game.

Pass of the match: Any of the perceptive passes Purkiss made to the left and right flanks.

Player watch: Andy McWilliams

Goal attempts on target: 0

Goal attempts off target: 0

Blocked goal attempts: 0

Passes to own player: 16

Passes to opposition: 8

Crosses to own player: 0

Crosses to opposition: 2

Pass success rate: 57.1 per cent

Dribbles ball retained: 1

Dribbles ball lost: 1

Dribble success rate: 50 per cent

Headers: 3

Tackles: 7

Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 3

Free-kicks won: 0

Free-kicks conceded: 0

Offsides: 1

Bookings: 0

Final summary: The 18-year-old left-back's impressive transition from youth-team to first-team continued with another solid display.

With City looking for a disciplined defensive display, McWilliams was reserved in his runs down the flank but the fact that he was given offside on one occasion illustrates his willingness to get forward.

Also strong in the tackle, winning seven and a tally of just three clearances, blocks and interceptions highlights his preference for playing out from the back.