Fully fit Gulls travel to Altrincham

Torbay Weekly

Torquay United manager Gary Johnson will have the unaccustomed 'luxury' of leaving several senior players out of his squad altogether before the Gulls meet Altrincham at Moss Lane on Saturday (3pm).

A virtually all-fit roster has emerged from a game-less fortnight, since the 2-2 draw with Dagenham & Redbridge at Plainmoor on January 8, and Johnson says: "With a clean bill of health hopefully, some people might lose out because of that."

There has also been speculation linking United, who 'borrowed' striker Sinclar Armstrong from Queen's Park Rangers recently, with another loan move for the Hoops' 21-year-old Liverpool-born midfielder Stephen Duke-McKenna.

Duke-McKenna, a Guyana international, was with Everton's Academy and also had a spell with Bolton Wanderers before joining QPR, where he's already made four senior appearances.

The next two matches - Solihull Moors come to Plainmoor on Tuesday night - will tell whether the break has really helped the Gulls, but they have certainly worked hard enough to raise hopes that they can extend a run of 13 points from the last 18.

There's another 'blank' weekend coming up next Saturday (Jan 29), which ups the 'ante' for the Altrincham and Solihull games, for United cannot afford any inconsistency now if they are to answer Johnson's call for them to be this season's 'gatecrashers' to the National League Play-Offs.

There are reasons to be hopeful.

Torquay have Tom Lapslie, Armani Little, Chiori Johnson and Joe Felix back from assorted injury and Covid-isolation issues.

New loan signing Stephen Wearne, who made a promising debut against Dagenham, has had a chance to achieve National League, instead of Sunderland Under-23, fitness.

And, also important, the increasingly solid centre-back pairing of Joe Lewis and Dean Moxey are both free of imminent suspension worries.

A surprise 3-1 win at Plainmoor on the first day of the season kicked off a bright start for Altrincham - not the first time they have been fast out of the traps.

But a run of only one win in the last 17 games now sees them five points behind the Gulls, and they are also one of the few sides which have played more games (24) than Torquay.

It hasn't helped manager Phil Parkinson that he has been without two of his most talented players, Connor Kirby since September and winger Matty Kosylo for the last few weeks.

But in Ryan Colclough and Josh Hancock, Alty still have a couple of potential match-winning forwards.

The referee is David Richardson (West Riding).