On-loan duo signal Johnson’s ever-growing confidence in Gulls squad

Olaf Koszela on the break during the pre season friendly between Torquay United and Chippenham Town

Olaf Koszela on the break during the pre season friendly between Torquay United and Chippenham Town at Plainmoor. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK - Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

The decision to allow young pros Olaf Koszela and Louie Slough out on loan this week was the broadest hint that Torquay United manager Gary Johnson feels confident enough in an ever-growing squad of fit players ahead of today’s FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie against Sholing in Southampton.

While Koszela and Slough will turn out for Dorchester Town against Salisbury, Johnson is poised to welcome back a couple more of his previously injured players, including possibly midfielder Armani Little.

Dorchester operate at a division above Southern League South Division One outfit Sholing, and it would be no surprise if Johnson adopts a similar policy to previous seasons and ‘rotates’ his squad in Hampshire.

He certainly did the same thing when United disposed of a series of lower division opponents - Lymington Town, Brightlingsea Regent, Winchester City - in the Cup in 2018, although he stresses: “We won’t underestimate them.

“It’s not just a case of us turning up. We will have to produce a decent game to progress.”

Johnson describes Little as ‘very, very close’ to a return after a long recovery from hamstring surgery, although he has had no real match practice.

But also in the mix could be summer signings Josh Umerah, Andrew Nelson and/or Fraser Kerr after injuries of their own.

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There must also be a good chance that goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald will be given the call, after five league games with Lucas Covolan between the posts, as well as centre-back Gary Warren after a couple of reassuring substitute appearances.

Sholing have already won four ties to get this far under long-serving manager Dave Diaper, their last two victims being Saltash Town and Walton Casuals.

Their most recent victory was a midweek junior cup win (1-0) over Lymington, whom United just happened to beat 7-0 in this competition in Johnson’s second match in charge two years ago.