12:00am, Mon 11th Aug 2008
They don?t come any tougher than this for your first away game of the season. But at least Cards fans can have an afternoon on the beach first! The Gulls are many pundits? favourite for the title this campaign. On Saturday they were denied a victory at Histon only by a late equaliser after Tim Sills had put them ahead with a penalty.
Obviously, Saturday?s home defeat to Altrincham was very disappointing but, as all football fans know, things can change quickly. Decent performances against Torquay and Burton Albion ? admittedly, very difficult places to visit ? would soon change the mood. It would be absurd to expect Kim Grant to produce, right at the outset, a team that is going to blow sides like Alty away.
Although I didn?t see the game, it sounds as if there were enough signs in the second half of what could be achieved for fans to keep their faith. Kim knows that he needs another striker and I?m sure we?ll see one before very long. And the signings he has made already will undoubtedly have better games than they had on Saturday.
The Gulls, of course, were beaten in the play-offs by fierce rivals, Exeter City, and then lost the Trophy Final to Ebbsfleet. Manager, Paul Buckle, appears to have strengthened the side considerably over the summer. He was unable to keep the impressive Chris Zebroski, who had been on loan from Millwall, but he?s brought in Mustapha Carayol to fill a similar role. Carayol was on loan from MK Dons to Crawley last season and his pace caused us all sorts of problems when the Red Devils visited Kingfield last season. Another reinforcement up front is Matt Green, who, much to Darren Patterson?s annoyance, chose Torquay above Oxford, in spite of having been on loan at the Kassam Stadium last season.
Midfield has been reinforced by some good signings too: Tyrone Thompson, another recruit from Crawley; Nicky Wroe from York; Mark Ellis, who was on loan from Bolton to the Gulls for most of last season; and Michael Brough from Forest Green Rovers. There will also be cover from the very experienced Lee Hodges, brought in from Plymouth; he can also fill a left-back role. At the back, keeper Michael Poke, who had a brief loan spell here, has joined from Southampton on a season-long loan.
Departures include striker Lee Phillips, who has joined Rushden and Diamonds, and Gulls? legend, Kevin Hill, who has signed for Dorchester.
The Gulls did the double over us last season. The away game in late November involved the controversial sending-off of Marvin Morgan for a fairly innocuous lunge for the ball, which could hardly have endangered any Torquay player. By that stage the Cards were already 1-0 down, Elliott Benyon having prodded home after a huge wind-assisted goal kick had fallen between Nick Gindre and Paul Lorraine. Once Marvin was gone, an already difficult task became nigh on impossible. It was one-way traffic as the Gulls sought to make the game safe and Chris Hargreaves got the second with a header from a corner.
The return encounter on 29 December, just after the Cards? exhilarating Boxing Day game against the Shots, exposed our attacking frailties again. Liam Marum made his first start of the season, partnering Marvin Morgan but neither was able to make much headway. The Cards might have gained an unlikely point but for Nick Gindre?s rush of blood to the head, bringing down a Torquay striker just inside the area. Tim Sills converted. With four minutes to go, the Gulls were nearly made to pay for some wasteful finishing as Kevin James thundered a shot against the bar.
Torquay United AFC
Torquay TQ1 3PS
Tel: 01803 328666
Website: HYPERLINK "http://www.torquayunited.com" www.torquayunited.com
Coach: Leaves 9.30am; ?20 members, ?25 non-members; phone the Club Shop on Monday to book your place
Car: M3, A303, A30 and M5 to Exeter. A380 to Newton Abbot (Penn Inn Roundabout). Follow signs to Torquay, past the Willows Shopping Centre, then next left at traffic lights. Follow signs for Torquay United/Plainmoor through three roundabouts. At top of hill traffic lights go straight on into Warbro Road. Ground is on the right-hand side. Away turnstiles are just off Warbro Road, down the lane next to the Gulls? Lodge. AA estimate: three and a half hours for 170 miles
Train: Direct train from Woking at 14.46 to Torquay, arriving 18.32. You would have to return the next day, though.
Come on, you Cards!