No more changing times for Torquay United

Torbay Weekly

It’s not quite a case of trains, planes and automobiles, but Torquay United have changed nearly everywhere else on their travels this season, so the Gulls are relieved that they now face three successive home games as the National League promotion race approaches its climax.

The sequence starts against Notts County at Plainmoor on Saturday (3pm) and continues with the visits of Aldershot Town and Eastleigh next week.

With Notts also in Play-Off contention, this weekend's game would normally have pulled in a bumper gate with an atmosphere to match, which is an ongoing frustration in itself.

United manager Gary Johnson says: "The advantage of being at home is not as big as if you had crowds, and I think that's shown in results this season.

"But at least these three games take away the travelling for a little while, and it stops us having to go into some of the places we've had to use because of the (Covid) 'protocols'.

"We've changed in little wooden huts, classrooms, bars and a tent.

"We've been coping with it well, because our away form is as good anyone."

After United's latest wins at second-placed Sutton (1-0) and Woking (2-0) on Tuesday night, only two points cover the top-three (Hartlepool 67, Sutton 66, Torquay 66).

Pools, who have played three games more than Sutton and two more than Torquay, don't see action again until they meet Chesterfield at home next Saturday.

Sutton travel to Eastleigh this weekend and then entertain Barnet on Tuesday evening.

United were the free-scoring entertainers of the division in the first half of the season, but their timely return to form - seven wins in eight - has been based on not conceding goals.

They've let in only two in more than 12 hours, with the young centre-back pairing of Sam Sherring, 20, and Joe Lewis, 21, playing with a discipline and maturity beyond their years.

It may be a game too soon for any of United's injured players to return, but one or two are close, including Sunderland loanee Benji Kimpioka.

Johnson stresses: "A lot of the points we've gained have been without all those injured players, so credit to the squad."

But he warned: "Notts may have had some disappointing results of late, but you underestimate them at your peril.

"They are still desperate to get out of this division, and definitely to get in the Play-Offs.

"They are a wounded but strong animal, and we have to be aware of that."

Notts have worries about regular goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (groin), so new manager Ian Burchnall has just signed 36-year-old Luke Steele (Barnsley, Bristol City, Nottingham Forest) as cover.

Their attack includes 12-goal leading scorer Kyle Wotton and Mansfield loanee Jimmy Knowles, who has hit six in ten starts.

They also hope to have veteran midfielder Michael Doyle and full-back Richard Brindley back after injury.

County have won only two of their last eight matches, including a shock FA Trophy Semi-Final defeat at home to Hornchurch.

The replacement of Neal Ardley with Burchnall has not had the desired effect so far, but they urgently need to turn things around, which makes them all the more dangerous...

Elsewhere, Stockport (4th) travel to Boreham Wood (11th), FC Halifax (5th) are home to Bromley (9th) and Wrexham (6th) entertain Chesterfield (7th).