Torquay United’s management team turned another frustrating weekend of on-pitch inaction to good use with spying missions which could help the Gulls’ hopes of forcing their way into the npower League Two promotion race over the next few weeks.
As soon as United’s scheduled game at Aldershot Town was postponed – the decision came at Friday lunchtime with the team coach waiting at Exeter for news of the inspection at the Recreation Ground – manager Martin Ling headed straight home to Hertfordshire.
He wanted to be on hand to watch tomorrow’s Plainmoor opponents AFC Wimbledon play Oxford United at Kingsmeadow.
Assistant Shaun Taylor, who lives in Exmouth, had a shorter trip before popping along to St James’ Park to see Exeter City take on Barnet.
The Gulls and the Grecians are still trying to thrash out a new date for their postponed December 22 game at Plainmoor.
Ling saw Wimbledon slide to the bottom of the table with a 3-0 defeat. The margin of the loss was enough to drop the south London club below Bristol Rovers on goal-difference.
Taylor supervised a Saturday morning training session before taking notes as Exeter let a 2-0 lead slip in a last-gasp 2-2 draw with the Bees.
“We would have had both games watched anyway,” said Ling, “but, when you’re free to see them for yourself, you’ve got to take the chance.”
All eyes now turn to the Plainmoor pitch and tomorrow’s game against Wimbledon. As far as the weather is concerned, the decisive issue will not be ‘if’ so much as ‘when’.
Groundsman Chris Ralph has been keen to stress that the Exeter match might well have gone ahead if there had not been so much rain on the day of the game. He remains ‘very hopeful’ that tomorrow’s fixture will go ahead, as long as he gets a ‘window’ of drier weather tonight and tomorrow morning.
The postponement of the Aldershot match may help Ling a little on the injury front. Billy Bodin, who is booked for a scan on his ankle later this week, is not expected to feature, but winger Niall Thompson is fit again after a hamstring strain and skipper Lee Mansell has a slight chance of playing.
The long-serving captain had three stitches in a knee wound after the 1-1 Boxing Day draw at Plymouth Argyle, but he is healing fast.
Young home-grown forward Ashley Yeoman and midfielder Damon Lathrope are standing by to play.
As long as tomorrow’s game goes ahead, defender Brian Saah will complete a three-match suspension.