Semi-final mentality for Torquay United

Goal celebrations for Aaron Nemane of Torquay United during the National League match between Weymou

Goal celebrations for Aaron Nemane of Torquay United during the National League match between Weymouth and Torquay United at Bob Lucas Stadium, Weymouth, Dorset on Monday 28th Dec 2020 - PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK - Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Next Tuesday’s trip to leaders Sutton United will only be as important as all Gulls fans want it to be if Torquay United beat Weymouth at Plainmoor on Saturday (3pm). 

Manager Gary Johnson's own verdict is: "There's a cup final place at stake next Tuesday, but we've got to win a semi-final against Weymouth to get there." 

Johnson is the first to admit that his side have not been firing on all attacking cylinders, but four wins and four 'clean-sheets' in five games have come at an absolutely vital time. 

From the depths of a 4-1 rout at Maidenhead on March 16, and even from the downer of defeat at Dagenham (0-1) only a fortnight ago, United (3rd) have picked themselves up and cut the deficit behind Sutton to six points with eleven games to go. 

Sutton and second-placed Hartlepool United have done precious little wrong - after all, they're unbeaten in 14 and 13 matches respectively. 

But four draws in five games for Sutton and five in the last eight for Hartlepool have flicked the latch off the door again, and it's now a question of whether the Gulls can push it open. 

Sutton were due to play Dover this weekend, so they can only kick their heels and hope that their pursuers slip up. 

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It might happen too - Hartlepool, who have played at least three more games than anyone else, are home to Notts County (5th) and Stockport County (4th) travel to Wrexham (8th). 

Johnson reports that on-loan striker Benji Kimpioka's hamstring injury, which forced him off in Monday's 1-0 win at Wrexham, is not a bad one - "It's a Grade One pull, so we're hopefully looking at only a week or two out for him," he said. 

Midfielder Connor Lemonheigh-Evans also limped off with a knee knock, but he has recovered and is available. 

Johnson was pretty blunt in his verdict on the performance at Wrexham, and he says: "We've had a good couple of days since, first discussing what I meant after Monday's game and then putting work in to try and get back to where I think we should be. 

"We have got to be better than we have been - not with five games to go, when it'll be too late, but now. 

"It's not about going out hoping to win. It's about believing in ourselves, and what has got us where we are." 

United won at Weymouth 4-3 at Christmas, after letting the Terras back into the match and then grabbing victory through Lemonheigh-Evans' late winner. 

Their 20th position may well be deceptive. Like many lowly sides, they are playing without relegation pressures. 

An impressive series of home results has included wins over Hartlepool, Bromley, Stockport, Wealdstone and Maidenhead, and although they have won only twice away, they've conceded only 20 goals in 14 games on the road. 

Former Gulls loan forward Josh McQuoid is captain and joint leading scorer with seven goals, another ex-United player Josh Wakefield is a regular in defence or midfield, while Andrew Dallas and Cameron Murray are dangerous attackers. 

"We do respect Weymouth," says Johnson. "They are a decent team with wins in them, we have got to understand what they are good at and be ready for them."