Torquay United manager Gary Johnson - Credit: MI News & Sport / Alamy Stock Photo

PREVIEW: Torquay United vs Oldham Athletic

Dave Thomas

It may feel almost like business as usual for Oldham Athletic when they step out at Plainmoor on Saturday (3pm) for their first-ever game in the National League.

The gate and the atmosphere may actually smack of better days in the EFL. But the Latics are about to find out what relegation to this level really means.

Torquay United, one of several clubs whose desperation to get out of this division remains undiminished by years of frustration, will be hell-bent on making the welcome as unpleasant as possible.

And then, of course, there'll be trips to Boreham Wood, Eastleigh, Wealdstone and Maidenhead where the penny will really drop.

Buoyed by their recent takeover, and helped a little by their one-year 'parachute' payment of £250,000, Oldham probably know that they must bounce back fast and hard, or risk becoming another Wrexham.

After 14 years this year's hot favourites are still throwing millions at trying to secure one of those two precious but wretchedly inadequate promotion places.

Gary Johnson's Gulls and John Sheridan's Latics both have optimistic new looks to them, and it may be a few weeks before we know exactly where either of them are in the early-season pecking-order.

If Johnson, still United's biggest asset and as driven as ever, wants anything right know, it's a decent start.

Four points from the first six games last season left them with too much to do, and they can't afford that sort of stumble again.

But that was then, this is now and the rebuilding job from last season has lifted fans who were understandably worried a couple of months ago.

United's former manager Paul Buckle used to say: "This is a fight division, and you have to fight your way out of it."

We all know what he meant, although he even he had to add the extra quality of Nicky Wroe and Wayne Carlisle to Hargreaves, Mansell, Sills, Todd & Co before they were able to do the job 13 years ago.

Sheridan, who lists Plymouth Argyle among his many coaching posts, has gone for veteran Chris Porter from Crewe to do the centre-forward job which Tim Sills did back in 2009 and Danny Wright has done for the last two seasons.

Aaron Jarvis, one of 12 new senior signings here, is Johnson's replacement for Wright, and how well the former Luton and Scunthorpe targetman does that job may be pivotal.

But if he's put together a squad which shouldn't fail for physique, Johnson has also sprinkled some potential 'star dust', and Brett McGavin, Dylan Crowe, Kieron Evans and one or two more now have the chance to realise some true potential.

And let's not forget either that United still have one of the canniest and polished defenders in the division in Dean Moxey.

Saturday's referee is Lee Collins from Surrey. And yes Oldham, it will be loud…

Sport