MANAGER Martin Ling is backing his big-money signing Billy Bodin to come good even though the 20-year-old Torquay United forward is currently going through a lean spell in front of goal.
Bodin, 20, missed several chances in the Gulls' shock 1-0 FA Cup defeat to non-League Harrogate Town last weekend.
And, even though he was visibly desperate to score, he could not save United from what Ling called an 'ambush' 1-0 loss in League Two at Barnet on Tuesday night.
Ex-loanee Bodin cost £70,000 from Swindon Town, with the help of a £50,000 donation from a still-anonymous lady supporter in the summer.
He has scored three goals so far, but Ling says: "Although Billy is lacking a bit of form at the moment, there isn't a person in the country who's ever played football who hasn't gone through the sort of spell that he's having.
"For all his disappointment, he's not a lad who turns away from getting himself in for chances and shots.
"After what happened in the Cup-tie, it was a big test for him at Barnet.
"He didn't score, but he did everything he could to do it, and I can live with that.
"He was almost trying too hard to score at times."
Ling added: "Billy is only 20, and this may be the first time in his career when he can't quite work out why things aren't happening for him.
"We've had a couple of chats about it, because this is a big learning curve for him.
"But he's got a real talent, and as long as he keeps on getting in there, I'm confident that he'll get his rewards."
Bodin will also be without his regular partner Rene Howe away to Oxford United this Saturday, after United's leading scorer earned a one-match suspension with his fifth booking of the season in midweek. The Barnet defeat completed a bad four days for United.
But as wasteful as they were against Harrogate, even Bees fans admitted that the Gulls were unlucky to lose at Underhill.
"It feels like we were ambushed," said Ling.
"We played exactly as I wanted us to, especially in the first half.
"I thought we had a stonewall penalty for Billy Bodin early on, and it looked only a matter of time before we scored.
"Barnet couldn't cope with us.
"But I think we probably ambushed them up there last year, when Danny Stevens grabbed a goal for us after we'd been on the back foot.
"This time we were on the wrong end of it – it happens.
"The one criticism I'd have is that, even though we had a lot of the ball, we probably didn't work their goalkeeper quite enough."