United have Daggers out to break a bad record

Joseph Bulmer

Two one-nil defeats by Dagenham & Redbridge last season eventually cost Torquay United dear, and the Gulls must now turn round a wretched recent record against the Daggers (5th) to keep their own recent revival going at Plainmoor on Saturday (3pm).

United have lost four and drawn two of the last six meetings with them, without even a goal during that spell, but Gary Johnson's men go into this game on a bit of a high after four wins from five and those six galvanising points against Yeovil Town over Christmas and New Year.

Torquay (13th) aren't due to play again until they go to Altrincham on January 22, and perhaps the biggest question, as it is for many clubs in January, is how the transfer market will impact on team selection.

Loanees Sinclair Armstrong and Harry Perritt have already returned to QPR and Accrington Stanley, while Jack Sparkes' own temporary stay from Exeter City is also due to expire this weekend.

Johnson isn't the only manager to hint at frustrations as other clubs pull back from releasing players because of Covid-related fears over their own squad numbers.

There is also the matter of outside interest in United's players, something for which the Gulls are undoubtedly bracing themselves.

It all means that any side can look quite different over a matter of a few weeks at this time of year, as it did at Plainmoor 12 months ago, when Johnson was forced by injuries to make a series of loan and other signings.

At least the injury situation is much calmer now - in fact, Johnson has nearly everyone fit.

Even the decision to take Tom Lapslie off just before half-time in the 2-1 defeat at Eastleigh on December 28 was taken in the hope that his groin problem could be overcome quite quickly.

And, of course, United also have midfielder and leading scorer Armani Little back after the one-match suspension which ruled him out of the second win (2-1) over Yeovil at Huish Park last weekend.

Dagenham manager Daryl McMahon had to miss their latest 3-1 win over Dover because of Covid, while centre-forward Paul McCallum - both men are former Plainmoor loanees - has been sidelined by injury for the last five weeks.

None of that has halted their recent progress - four wins on the trot, up to fifth and still going in the FA Trophy.

Without 'targetman' McCallum up front, the experienced Angelo Balanta (QPR, Boreham Wood) and Josh Walker (Barnet) have stepped up, with seven goals apiece.

And their defence is likely to feature Sam Ling at full-back - he's the son of former Gulls manager Martin Ling.