Gulls v Wrexham Preview

Aaron Nemane battles for the ball with Kane Smith of Boreham Wood during the match between Torquay U

Aaron Nemane battles for the ball with Kane Smith of Boreham Wood during the match between Torquay United and Boreham Wood at Plainmoor on Saturday. Photo: Dave Crawford/PPAUK - Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK

Fans return for a massive game in the National League

There was never any doubt that Torquay United would sell out the 1,250 tickets which they were allowed by Torbay Council’s Safety Advisory Group against old rivals Wrexham tomorrow (3pm), and we can only wonder how many fans Gary Johnson’s National League leaders would have pulled in under healthier circumstances.

If all goes to SAG’s satisfaction this weekend, the anti-Covid capacity will be nudged up to 1,500 against Maidenhead United on Tuesday night and then 1,728 for the visit of Dagenham & Redbridge on December 15.

Both in and out of the EFL, United and Wrexham have had some great battles over the years, and their arrival also brings former Gulls Player Of The Year Luke Young back to Plainmoor.

In recent memory few players have commanded as much respect and affection as Young built up over four years here (2014-2018), and United will need to keep him quiet if they are going to win.

They could hardly be in better form – only two points dropped in their last eight league games, and Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Wealdstone set a new club record of six successive away victories in all competitions.

Their pursuers have done well to stay in touch, but a two-point lead is actually worth three because of a superior goal-difference.

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It’s also worth remembering that six of United’s ten league games so far have been away from home.

Persistent injuries have tested the depth of United’s squad, but their fitness and determination has helped to clinch some hard-fought results, none more so than at Wealdstone when recent signing Billy Waters rose off the bench to score his first two goals for the club.

Whether that will be enough to earn a first start for Waters is another matter, and Johnson has kept that and other options close to his chest.

Fitness checks for groin-strain victims Dean Moxey and Gary Warren will also influence selection in defence.

“We are very excited to have at least some of our fans back, “says Johnson.

“It’s only early, but we have got ourselves into a really strong position. Now we’ve got to fight like hell to stay there, because everyone will want to knock us off our perch.

“We’ve got a confident squad at the moment, and we need to get as near to our best game as much and as often as possible, and hope that’s enough in most games.

“I know Wrexham lost to Altrincham in the week, but they are a difficult side to beat – I’ve watched the film of that game, and they should have had at least a couple of goals. “

Whether or not they were inspired by their new owners, Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, Wrexham enjoyed a recent run of three wins and two draws.

It included a 4-0 defeat of second-placed Sutton.

But just when they looked odds-on to cement a place in the Play-Offs, they stuttered this midweek at home to part-timers Altrincham (0-1), who leapfrogged over the Red Dragons into fourth place.

It was just the latest in a series of surprise results through the division this season.

Manager Dean Keates has tried to address the area which has held the club back in recent years – scoring goals – with the signing of several new forwards, including ex-Solihull and Blackpool striker Adi Yussuf and Kwame Thomas from Burton Albion.

Even without talismanic centre-back Sean Pearson, injured, Wrexham remain solid in defence, and the key man in midfield remains that man Young, whose energy, passing and eye for a shot are just as sharp as they were at Plainmoor.

Other key games include Bromley (3rd) v Stockport (13th), Eastleigh (5th) v Maidenhead (9th), Notts County (6th) v Woking (7th) and Sutton (2nd) v Solihull Moors (11th).