Torquay United v Chippenham preview

Jake Andrews of Torquay United during the pre-season friendly match between Tiverton Town and Torqu

Jake Andrews of Torquay United during the pre-season friendly match between Tiverton Town and Torquay United 3rd Aug 2021 at The Ian Moorcroft Stadium, Ladysmead, Tiverton, Devon - PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK - Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Torquay United's starting XI against Chippenham Town at Plainmoor on Saturday (3pm) is likely to be much stronger than the one which kicked off Tuesday's 3-1 win at Tiverton Town, as manager Gary Johnson closes in on the team he will pick to open the National League season against Altrincham in a fortnight's time. 

This is the Gulls' fifth friendly and, with only AFC Bournemouth Under-23s to come at home next Tuesday evening, manager Gary Johnson says this is the time for hard decisions to replace experiments. 

However, United have grown fond of announcing eleventh-hour signings, and Johnson is believed to have been in contract talks with at least one of the trialists who have featured in recent practice matches. 

Johnson has deliberately left himself with two or three places to take his squad strength beyond the 20-mark and it may be another week or two before any loan signings, which proved so fruitful last season (Sam Sherring, Adam Randell etc), are finalised. 

Meanwhile, United's manager is believed to have been in contract talks with at least one of his recent trialists. 

One resident player who has yet to feature so far is skipper Asa Hall, scorer of 14 goals from midfield last season. 

Hall will have to confirm his recovery from an achilles tendon injury for Johnson to start him against Altrincham, but he remains confident that he will be in contention, so expect him to have a run-out against either Chippenham or Bournemouth. 

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Champions United managed to lose twice to Chippenham when the clubs last met in the NL South in 2018-2019, so Johnson says: "It's about time we beat them, isn't it?" 

With a management team of Michael Cook and Marc McGregor, former bosses of Gloucester City and Weston-super-Mare respectively, and an equally experienced squad, they fancy themselves for a tilt at promotion this season. 

Their attacking roster features men like former Bath City duo Ryan Brunt and Ross Stearn, ex-Bristol Rovers winger Alefe Santos, Daniel Griffiths (Liverpool, Cardiff) and winger Alex Bray (Plymouth, Rotherham). 

During the summer they have also picked up youngsters Harry Warwick (Bristol Rovers) and midfielder Harvey Bunker (FGR) on loan, as well as welcoming back defender Will Richards after a spell playing in Australia.