Torquay United moving forward in defence

Joseph Bulmer

Torquay United's attempts to strengthen their defensive roster go on, but Joe Lewis and Ali Omar should have another chance to underline their claims to be the club's first-choice centre-back pairing when the Gulls try to kickstart their National League season at Maidenhead United on Saturday (3pm).

Despite eight goals conceded and only one point earned in the first three games, young Welshman Lewis has already began the campaign well, and summer signing Omar from Barnsley is back after a one-match suspension.

It could mean a return to left-back for Dean Moxey, after he partnered Lewis in the 4-0 Bank Holiday defeat by Woking.

One way or another, manager Gary Johnson and his coaching staff have been working hard to tighten things up defensively, although as Omar resumes, right-back/right midfielder Chiori Johnson drops out after his two-card dismissal against Woking.

"We need a little bit more competition for the centre-half spots," admitted Johnson. "We are looking, and we have been for some time."

United have had their eye on a couple of higher-level defenders, who have been trying to force their way into their own clubs' sides. With the EFL transfer window now shut, but moves to the National League still permitted, options may open up there.

Johnson still believes that Lewis and Omar can establish the sort of link which Lewis and AFC Bournemouth loanee Sam Sherring did so well last season, but the pressure is undoubtedly on.

United are not thought to have any new injury worries, although midfielder Jake Andrews has been sidelined by illness recently.

Skipper Asa Hall and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans both looked understandably short of match-sharpness against Woking, after their interrupted pre-seasons, but Johnson commented: "You can train all day, but without a reserve side, how else do you get lads like Connor and Asa match-fit without playing them?"

Travelling Gulls fans won't take long to spot one change in United's squad - to Hall's hair.

Gone is the veteran midfielder's 'ponytail', in favour of a more traditional look which has drawn approving verdicts around the training ground.

Maidenhead manager Alan Devonshire was busy in the summer, signing proven National League performers like Kane Ferdinand (Woking) and Will De Havilland (Dover) to add to an already experienced squad.

He still has ex-Gulls forwards Nathan Blissett and Dan Sparkes and last year's leading scorer Sam Barratt on the roster, and has just loaned Sam Beckwith from Luton Town.

Maidenhead started with a 2-1 win at Halifax, then beat Dover 2-0 at home, but tripped up 1-3 at Weymouth on Monday.

It will probably be to everyone's benefit if referee Tom Bishop (London) has a quieter day than usual - in eleven NL games last season, his first at this level, he sent off seven players and booked 56, and he's already up to ten yellow cards in two matches this time.