Midfield decisions for Torquay United

Asa Hall beats Matt Rhead of Boreham Wood to the header during the match between Torquay United and

Asa Hall beats Matt Rhead of Boreham Wood to the header during the match between Torquay United and Boreham Wood at Plainmoor on Saturday, November 14. Photo: Dave Crawford/PPAUK - Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK

A fitness test for captain Asa Hall will guide Torquay United manager Gary Johnson’s selection in midfield before the Gulls put their National League leadership on the line against promotion rivals Notts County at Meadow Lane on Saturday (3pm).  

Hall, who scored his seventh goal of the season in the 4-0 midweek FA Trophy win at Boreham Wood, came off near the end with a recurringly ‘tight’ calf muscle.  

United do have an equally important match coming up at home to third-placed Sutton United on Tuesday night and that might well come into Johnson’s thinking.  

He does, of course, have several options in that department – fit-again Armani Little, new Hull City loan signing Max Sheaf and Jake Andrews among them.  

“Everyone wants to play, and I’ve got to disappoint some,” said Johnson. “I keep telling all the lads ‘Keep Positive’. The last thing I’ll do is play someone for the sake of it.  

“The message is always: don’t feel sorry for yourself, because no one else does.”  

This feels like a significant spell for United and their current eight-point lead, and Johnson commented: “All games are important, but these games are the beginning of your six-pointers, even at this stage of the season.  

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“If we can put a bit more distance between us and the others, even though it’s still early, that’s what makes these next two games rather important.  

“Notts are a top team, there’s no doubt about that, with a lot of experience, and they’ve added to their squad.  

“But, after a break of more than two weeks, I was so pleased that our lads had the ability, mentally and physically, to come through a tough first half on Tuesday night and then play as well as they did in the second half.  

“We need that again, and more, on Saturday.”  

As well as Sheaf, loan striker Rob Street from Crystal Palace is hoping to make his own debut, while Truro City goalkeeper James Hamon will be on the bench having signed as a short-term replacement for Lucas Covolan, who will be out for 3-4 weeks with an ankle injury.  

County have always been in Play-Off contention, but they have yet to mount a serious title challenge – home defeats to the likes of Maidenhead and Boreham Wood, as well as Hartlepool, haven’t helped.  

Notts lost their leading scorer Kristian Dennis to St Mirren last summer, although Kyle Wootton remains a forceful forward at this level.  

There are few more talented wingers in the division than Enzio Boldewijn, and manager Neal Ardley has also added strikers Inih Effiong from Stevenage and Jimmy Knowles from nearby Mansfield recently.