Torquay United in front of a national audience
- Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK
Torquay United have a chance to re-establish their National League championship claims in front of the largest possible audience when they take on mid-table Boreham Wood at Meadow Park on Saturday (5.20pm).
When the BT Sport cameras start rolling, it won't be just Gulls fans tuning in to see if Gary Johnson's men can move back into top gear - many of their rivals, who have seen Torquay's once-big lead evaporate into third position now, will be watching with interest.
United have already drawn with Wood at home (1-1) and beaten them 4-0 away in the FA Trophy, but manager Gary Johnson says: "I think we all know it's impossible to predict any results on what you did against a team before - that goes for ourselves and everyone else.
"We had to wait until the second half before we scored our goals in the Trophy up there, but we worked very hard, stuck to the plan and played with a lot of desire before the goals came, and we'll have to do that again.
"Boreham Wood are in tenth place, so they will think they have a chance of promotion.
"We've had a good talk with our lads about not being top any more, and the way to get back up there is to focus on what you can control and what's right in front of you - nothing else."
All injury-plagued Torquay's problems have come at Plainmoor, and over the last two months.
- 1 For our 'rock' as much as anybody, everything is crossed for promotion
- 2 Desperate men killing the game
- 3 Plans unveiled to demolish Torquay Debenhams store
- 4 National League round-up
- 5 Covid-19 outbreak at Torquay care home
- 6 All aboard the Land train for lots of fun - and a history lesson or two!
- 7 Prince Philip's final resting place will be in tiny chapel
- 8 An ideal family home or investment purchase
- 9 Emotional day that revealed close-knit family behind monarchy
- 10 Brooke and her band of little helpers walk tall for crisis-hit pony club
Their away record (W8 D2 L2) is still the best in the league, but since they routed Yeovil 6-1 on Boxing Day United have taken only two points from five home games.
That's allowed Sutton United (W10 D3 L2) and Hartlepool United (W9 D3 L2), who won 1-0 at Plainmoor last weekend, to overtake the Gulls with stunning runs of their own.
At least the games-in-hand situation has largely resolved itself and, with 19 games left for Torquay, there is still a long way to go.
One issue that cries out to be sorted is Dover Athletic's decision to take their proverbial ball home and stop playing.
Since several other struggling clubs are managing to continue, Dover are effectively holding two fingers up to the league and their stance has enormous ramifications for final league placings.
Boreham Wood have one of the most experienced and recognisable squads in the division.
Players like veteran centre-forward Matt Rhead, ex-Gulls, Notts County, Mansfield and Solihull Moors centre-back Krystian Pearce and forward Junior Morias didn't even get off the bench in their 0-0 draw at Woking in midweek.
Luke Garrard's side reached last season's Play-Offs, and their failure to repeat that form has been a surprise - so far.
Ten draws haven't helped, but with forwards like Kabby Tshimanga, Corey Whitely and former United duo Tyrone Marsh and Shaquille Coulthirst around, they have the potential to beat anyone at this level.
Other key games include King's Lynn-v-Sutton, Hartlepool-v-Eastleigh, Stockport-v-Dagenham, Wrexham-v-Weymouth and Wealdstone-v-Notts County.
Meanwhile, two more National League managers have been sacked - Jimmy Shan at Solihull, where their ten men were beaten 5-0 by Stockport on Tuesday, and Tim Flowers at struggling Barnet.
Flowers had been in charge for only three months, and whoever takes over at The Hive will be their fourth boss in less than a year!
Ex-Cheltenham and Kidderminster manager Mark Yates has been released by Stourbridge to replace Shan at Solihull until the end of the season.