Torquay United's massive game at Stockport

Torbay Weekly

He didn’t say so in as many words, but if Sunday's six-pointer at Stockport County isn't the biggest game of manager Gary Johnson's three years in charge of Torquay United, it's hard to imagine what is - apart from the next two, that is!

Even though Hartlepool United boss Dave Challinor has counted his side out of contention, four teams could mathematically still lift the National League title with just three games to go.

It will be down to two if the Gulls (2nd) can beat Stockport (3rd) at Edgeley Park in front of BT Sport cameras on Sunday (12.15pm). And, of course, much still depends on what leaders Sutton United do at Maidenhead United on Saturday afternoon.

After Stockport, Torquay have Barnet (H) and Altrincham (A) to go.

"I don't know about THE most important game - I always say the next game is the biggest," Johnson stressed.

"But this takes on massive significance because of the time and the situation of the season.

"Even with only three games left, there are so many permutations.

"But we've just got to do our job, and hope that other people don't do theirs."

Sutton (Pts78/GD+32) lead from United (77/+29), Stockport (72/+36) and Hartlepool (70/+20).

Johnson will not disclose who might or might not be available this weekend, but at least United are not believed to have picked up any new injuries in last Saturday's 0-0 draw with Bromley.

"Even with an extra day, we've tried to keep things as normal as possible, the boys have given us confidence this week, training really well, with intent and a smile on their faces.

"It's a long time since we beat them (1-0) on the first day of the season, they've had a new manager and a few different players and it will be a game of thin margins - that's how football should be."

The two sides could hardly be in better form.

Stockport are on a 15-game unbeaten run, while United have won ten and lost only one of their last 13 matches.

But when County needed a win more than ever in midweek, they were held 1-1 at home by Dagenham & Redbridge, themselves on a 'roll' as late contenders for the Play-Offs.

'Held' might not be quite the word, for the Daggers gave as good as they got for most of the match, and they were only denied a late winner by a brilliant save from Hatters’ goalie Ben Hinchliffe.

Manager Simon Rusk, who took over from the long-serving Jim Gannon at the end of January, saw his big-money signing Paddy Madden score in the first half on Tuesday, but the Dublin-born forward then 'turned' an ankle and had to withdraw.

Madden, who first joined Carlisle United from his hometown Bohemians in 2011, played under Johnson for two years (2012-2014) at Yeovil Town before moving on to Scunthorpe United and Fleetwood Town.

North-West media reported that, at 31, he cost Stockport £200,000 when he joined them on a three-and-a-half year contract in March.

His goal against Dagenham was his seventh in 14 games, but he had to be replaced on Tuesday night by Alex Reid, County's joint top scorer.

Reid's 16 goals make him an obvious danger, but that's also the tally of attacking midfielder John Rooney.

United know Rooney, younger brother of Wayne, well - they've bumped into him many times over the years with Chester, Wrexham, Guiseley and Barrow, where he played a key role in their NL Championship last year.

The demands of BT Sport have forced the shift in kick-off, so the Hatters and the Gulls have to watch and wait to see how Sutton and Hartlepool fare on Saturday.

Sutton travel to Maidenhead, who have signed Reading's 19-year-old James Holden after their regular goalkeeper Rhys Lovett was injured in a 4-0 defeat by Notts County on Tuesday. An outfield player had to go in goal.

Hartlepool are away to Aldershot Town.

Meanwhile, the National League has announced the Play-Off Final will be played at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate on Sunday, June 20.