Big Cup night for the Gulls
- Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK
It's been back to the all-weather for Torquay United as they prepare for Wednesday night's FA Cup replay against Havant & Waterlooville in Hampshire.
The Hawks' Westleigh Park pitch is one of the 3G artificial surfaces which are becoming increasingly common in lower division football, so Gulls manager Gary Johnson has based his build-up at South Devon College, wind and rain included, at the 4G centre there, rather than at their Seale Hayne complex.
Havant came from behind twice at Plainmoor last Saturday (2-2), their second equaliser in the fourth and final minute of stoppage-time. But few, including Johnson, doubted that they deserved another crack at this Fourth Qualifying Round tie.
The Hawks may be from the National League South, but they are almost as professional as United, often training three times a week and Paul Doswell's squad is packed with ex-EFL and National League players.
Some, like Jamie Collins and former Plainmoor duo Joe Oastler and Scott Rendell, may be in the autumn of their careers, but they showed at Plainmoor that they can still rise to a big occasion, and the chance to have a tilt at Charlton Athletic away (Nov 6) in Round One, to say nothing of £22,000 in prize money, is sure to inspire them again.
More than £9,000 this time around would help to pay a bill or two.
Nobody was more impressive than former Oxford United forward Jamie Roberts, who scored a brilliant late leveller, and the Gulls will have to contain him better if they are to win.
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It was when Torquay upped the tempo, in passing and running, that they stretched Havant at the weekend, but they could not sustain those spells for long enough to kill the tie.
The goalscoring return of midfielder Jake Andrews was a bonus, and so was another lively display off the bench by striker Klaidi Lolos, so Johnson has the option of promoting one or both of those players.
New loan signings Harry Perritt and Sinclair Armstrong are not available - Accrington Stanley and Queen's Park Rangers don't want them cup-tied - but Asa Hall and Alex Addai, sidelined on Saturday, and Tom Lapslie, who had to be replaced at half-time, might be close enough for fitness tests.