Boxing Day showdown at Plainmoor

Torbay Weekly

If Boxing Day 2021 is anything like as eventful as 12 months ago, fans at Plainmoor today (3pm) can ready themselves for another season-changing afternoon, as Torquay United go head-to-head with Westcountry rivals Yeovil Town.

Last year, with a Covid lockdown briefly lifted for restricted crowds, the Gulls stretched their lead at the top of the National League with a 6-1 rout of the Glovers. All the talk was of a second title in three years under manager Gary Johnson.

But that day also cost United the considerable figures of Danny Wright and Armani Little, sparking a spate of injuries which derailed the promotion push for a couple of months.

They eventually recovered to finish second, of course, but who knows what might have happened if their squad had remained as fit as, say, champions Sutton United?

Yeovil, not enjoying the best of seasons at the time, did win the New Year's return at Huish Park 2-1, after Torquay took the lead through Aaron Nemane. But things are different now.

Covid may still be hanging over us, without a lockdown so far, but Darren Sarll's Glovers are ninth in the table, on an eleven-match unbeaten run (W9 D2) and still going strong in the FA Cup and Trophy.

Johnson's Gulls are 16th and, although they cheered themselves up with back-to-back 2-1 wins over Weymouth and Stockport County recently, they showed their inconsistency with that 2-1 Trophy defeat at Tonbridge Angels last weekend.

Although Yeovil have a young side by their usual standards, they play a no-nonsense brand of football and Sunday is likely to be a derby where substance will count for more than style.

Town may well beware Wright from last year and, especially in the likely heavy conditions, it will be no surprise if Johnson starts with the experience of him and Dan Holman up front.

Attacking midfielder Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, the subject of almost inevitable pre-January transfer speculation, missed the Tonbridge defeat with a knock, but United are hopeful that he will be fit, along with nearly everyone else.

Town's leading scorer and former Plainmoor loanee Joe Quigley has been out for more than a month with a knee injury, but ex-Solihull, Blackpool and Wrexham striker Adi Yussuf has stepped up to the plate of late.

So has young Watford loanee Sonny Blu Lo-Everton, and Sarll has also borrowed 20-year-old left-back or left midfielder Jaheim Headley from Huddersfield.

However, if it's 'men' who often decide matches like this, Yeovil will definitely look to their talismanic defender Luke Wilkinson, 31, and possibly 33-year-old striker Reuben Reid.

Reid, who played for United on loan back in 2007 and several times against them to good effect since, is just back from injury.  It will be no surprise if he features at some point on Sunday…

No tickets will be available on the day.