Torquay United await Hartlepool test

Plainmoor’s Torbay Weekly Stand

Plainmoor’s Torbay Weekly Stand - Credit: Archant

Torquay United fans frustrated by the injuries which have undoubtedly helped to whittle down the Gulls' once double-figure National League lead will take some comfort if their pursuers start to run into similar problems. 

It's been a major factor in second-placed Sutton United's current run (W9 D2 L2), for their manager Matt Gray has been able to pick virtually the same team week-after-week.  They are now only a point behind. 

But several of Torquay's other pursuers are starting to suffer from the relentless schedule and Hartlepool United (3rd), who come to Plainmoor on Saturday (3pm), are one of them. 

Pools boss Dave Challinor expects to be without at least three important players, maybe more, including talented young attacking wing-back Jamie Sterry, who has been in fine form recently. 

A thigh strain forced Sterry off in their 1-1 draw at Halifax on Tuesday night. 

United manager Gary Johnson was without a dozen men, for various reasons, for last Saturday's 1-0 FA Trophy Quarter-Final defeat at Woking, but at least he should have several of those absentees available this weekend. 

Goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald (suspended), who was replaced by new QPR loanee Marcin Brzozowski at Woking, Scott Boden (cup-tied) and injured trio Joe Lewis, Dean Moxey and Armani Little could all be available. 

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The postponement of next Tuesday's home game against Covid-affected Aldershot Town probably ups the 'ante' this Saturday as United try to follow up their 5-0 win on Teesside in October and complete a valuable 'double'. 

Since then Challinor has signed striker Luke Armstrong on loan, and the Salford City forward has galvanised their attack with nine goals. 

While Torquay have continued to play well on the road, their last four home games have yielded only two points, so three this time would be extra-important. 

Johnson remains upbeat, saying: "Quite a few of our injured lads are either back already or will be with plenty of the season left, and I think we've got a group of players who are good enough to win this league. 

"I believe in them and I've got faith in them."  

Apart from Sutton, the rest of the chasing pack is still at arm's length. 

They keep knocking points off each other, and even Sutton are now entering a potentially decisive spell. 

The Ambers, who have just snatched stoppage-time wins at Dagenham (2-1) and home to Bromley (3-2), entertain Play-Off chasing duo Wrexham on Saturday and Yeovil Town next Tuesday, followed by seven of their next eight games away from home. 

Their only home game in that spell is against Stockport (4th), and then Torquay go to Gander Green Lane on Tuesday, April 13. 

Plenty of swirling water will have passed under the bridge by then.  With 20 games left, for the Gulls at least, there is still a long way to go…