Patience pays off as striker Benji makes debut for Gulls

Benji Kimpioka of Torquay United and Elliot Johnson of Dagenham & Redbridge competes for possession

Benji Kimpioka of Torquay United and Elliot Johnson of Dagenham and Redbridge competes for possession during the match on Saturday. - Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK

Torquay United's signing of Sunderland striker Benji Mbunga-Kimpioka is the reward for three months of patience while the Swedish under-21 international recovered from injury and Gulls manager Gary Johnson persuaded his son Lee to let him come to Plainmoor on loan.

The strapping Kimpioka could not save United from a 1-0 defeat during a half-hour debut off the bench at Dagenham and Redbridge last weekend but he showed glimpses of why he is highly rated at the Stadium Of Light.

United resume their pursuit of National League promotion in tomorrow's Good Friday 3pm home game against Woking. 

Torquay, who took several Bristol City players on loan when Lee Johnson was manager at Ashton Gate, started trailing Kimpioka as soon as Lee was appointed manager of the Black Cats on December 5.

"You wouldn't normally look at Sunderland's squad with them being so far away, but we had a good look at their squad when Lee went there. Benji had had an operation and he was injured at the time," said Johnson Sr.

"I'd watched all their under-23 games and Benji stuck out in those matches, but we had to wait a while for him to get fit and then another few weeks while he got back to playing 90 minutes again.

"It was then a question of waiting until Lee felt Benji was ready, and Sunderland had enough strikers so they could let him out."

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Kimpioka, who has scored three goals in 14 first-team appearances and four in six under-23 games this season, was on the bench for Sunderland's recent EFL Trophy Final win over Tranmere Rovers (1-0) at Wembley.

He played last midweek, took a Covid-19 test, watched several United videos on the train from Wearside to South Devon and only linked up with the Gulls as they set off for Essex on Friday.

"He's a good lad," said Johnson.  "He's quick, and he's already showed us that he's got no little skill."

Kimpioka has signed to the end of the season, although there is a recall clause if Sunderland need to take him back after 28 days.

Meanwhile, centre-forward Danny Wright marked his first game since hamstring surgery three months ago with a goal in a 'reserve' friendly against Exeter City which also featured the return of defender Gary Warren this week.