Bodin's injury and return of Pearce forces Knill into more Gulls changes
Winning teams are nearly always settled, losing ones seldom are, and Torquay United manager Alan Knill will be forced to continue chopping and changing when Portsmouth come to town for today's all-ticket game at Plainmoor.
It is a no-brainer that Krystian Pearce will return at centre-back after his one-match suspension ruled him out of Tuesday's 2-0 League Two defeat at Burton Albion, but now Billy Bodin has become the latest player to join the Gulls' injured list, and that will cause Knill more pondering time before he finalises today's line-up.
"It's felt like one step forward and two back all the time, because we've kept losing this player or that player," said Knill, whose side are perched perilously just outside the bottom two with only one point from 15.
"If you have a settled team, it makes it so much easier, and when there are continuous interruptions, it makes it more difficult. It's been quite a tough few months, but it doesn't last for ever.
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"The thing you always look for in the team is: 'Are the players committed?' They are. If you keep working hard and the players are still focused, as long as you have that, it will change definitely."
Bodin, United's Wales Under-21 winger, has been a regular in the side, and he had been doing quite promisingly in a more central attacking role in recent games.
He picked up a cartilage injury at Burton, so now Knill has to come up with another new forward line.
Poised to make his full debut, after a substitute appearance in midweek, is on-loan centre-forward Paul McCallum, 20, from West Ham.
That should be good news for fellow forwards like Karl Hawley, Elliot Benyon and Ade Azeez, who have all looked as if they could do with a proper target man to work with.
"Paul had a bit of a baptism of fire on Tuesday – he only turned up in the afternoon, was on the bench and then on the pitch before half-time," said Knill.
"He knows most of the players' first names now, and he should give us something we haven't had up front."
Knill also has to decide whether to take on Pompey with a three-man midfield (4-3-3) or go with two wingers (4-4-2) against a side who certainly look strong going forward but have often been vulnerable in defence away from home this season.
One match in which Portsmouth did not concede a goal was the 0-0 Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie at Plainmoor nearly eight weeks ago but Pompey did dominate that match in normal and extra-time, before winning it on penalties.
Knill was a teenager at Southampton at the start of his playing career, and he said: "When you play for Southampton, you can't help taking an interest in Portsmouth, and I always have. They are the biggest club in this league, and it's a big game for us.
"They have spent well beyond their means in the past, but they are trying to bring everything in line with what they can afford now.
"There's been a history of big clubs in League Two, but it took how many years for a club like Bradford City to get out?
"You usually find that those big clubs do end up back where they belong, but we hope that some of the little clubs do well as well. Three points is everything to us."
Pompey, who had just equalised against Wycombe when their midweek game was called off at half-time at waterlogged Fratton Park, have one obvious problem to solve.
Patrick Agyemang's fifth "goal" of the season will not be recognised, but central defender Sonny Bradley's fifth booking of the campaign does count, so he is suspended.
Manager Guy Whittingham has a couple of possible solutions, including bringing back fit-again Simon Ferry or promoting Shaun Cooper from the substitutes' bench, but a likelier bet could be to switch Joe Devera from left-back and play Cooper there.
If Cooper does play, it will have a touch of irony, because he had a two-match trial at Plainmoor in pre-season, and Knill might well have signed him if their finances had been closer together.
Whittingham said: "I keep hearing that Torquay are short of confidence because of their recent run of results, but they are more than capable of beating anyone as well."
All except Pompey's 1,500 fans at Plainmoor today will be hoping that he is right.
Torquay United (from): Rice, C Thompson; Tonge, Pearce, O'Connor, Nicholson, Cruise, Mansell, McCourt, Craig, Azeez, McCallum, Hawley, Chapell, Benyon, Lathrope, Mozika, Cameron, McKenzie, Sullivan, Hutchings.
Unavailable: Downes, Harding, Bodin, Poke (all injured), Yeoman, N Thompson (on loan).