Manager Alan Knill has acknowledged the talent of Torquay United midfielder Nathan Craig, but insists that the young Welshman still needs to do more to establish himself as a regular first-team starter at Plainmoor.
Craig, 21, made 32 appearances last season, all but two of them under former boss Martin Ling, but he has not featured this term.
Ling used the skilful left-footer – he was playing for non-League side Caernarfon Town when the Gulls signed him initially on trial in March 2012 – in a three-man midfield, while Knill has switched to a 4-4-2 formation with two wingers and only two central midfield players.
“We know that Nathan has got a lot of ability,” Knill declared this week. “But we are trying to develop him so that he can play in a two-man midfield, instead of a three. That work goes on.”
Craig was one of several ‘fringe’ players who filled a reserve side which lost 2-0 to a strong Plymouth Argyle team in this week’s Plainmoor friendly. Striker Elliot Benyon limped off in that game with a foot injury, but Knill reported: “Elliot has had a stitch in his foot, but he will be OK for Rochdale on Saturday.”
The Gulls will travel to Spotland with winger Billy Bodin, who is back from international duty with Wales Under-21, but the return of goalkeeper Michael Poke is still being delayed until next Tuesday’s Devon St Luke’s Cup tie against Ilfracombe Town at Plainmoor.
Poke is back in full training after a muscle tear in his thigh, but he has received special additional treatment this week to try and break down the scar tissue which often goes with repaired muscle damage.
“With any injury, you don’t want it to recur if you can help it, so we’re doing as much as possible to make sure that Michael stays fit when he does come back,” Knill added.