Star performance is payback for manager Gary Johnson having faith in Armani Little

GOAL! Armani Little of Torquay United celebrates having scored to break the deadlock during the Vana

Armani Little celebrates having scored to break the deadlock during the match between Maidenhead United and Torquay United at York Road on Saturday. Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK - Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK

Manager Gary Johnson says that keeping faith with Armani Little helped Torquay United's talented midfielder to produce a two-goal star performance as the Gulls kickstarted their National League season in a thriller at Maidenhead United.

United take on former EFL rivals Grimsby Town at Plainmoor this Saturday (3pm) after beating Maidenhead 4-3 away for their first win of the campaign.

Ex-Southampton and Oxford United player Little, 24, had appeared to struggle for form during two recent home defeats, to Altrincham (1-3) and Woking (0-4), and some fans had speculated that he might be dropped.

But Little scored United's first two goals at York Road and Johnson said: "You have a choice as a manager, knowing that, when he gets his confidence again, Armani is one of the best players in the league.

"Do you leave him out because he might not be quite performing at his best, or do you try and get him up to speed as quick as you can?

"Unfortunately, he's had some big injuries over the last couple of years, so it's not fair to have judged him so quickly.

"You have to keep faith, because you don't find players like that every day.

Most Read

"I think most supporters understand that, because they've seen lads like him play really well.

"We've had to do the same with Asa (Hall) and Connor (Lemonheigh-Evans) - both lads coming back from injuries."

United led 4-0 at Maidenhead, after what he described as a 'very good 45-minute performance', and Johnson insisted: "Because they have so many big lads, it's often hard to keep clearing the ball.

"We were backs-to-the-wall, but we saw a real spirit of defence in the last half-hour, including from our goalkeeper (Mark Halstead).

"When he made a catch under pressure at the end, we cheered louder than the whole of the afternoon.

"Hopefully it's got us up and running, and we now move on to a big home game against Grimsby."