Downes may yet win fitness race for Gulls ahead of Oxford visit
Torquay United are increasingly hopeful that their Australian central defender Aaron Downes will be fit to face Oxford United in npower League Two at Plainmoor tomorrow, with manager Alan Knill describing the development as "fantastic news".
Knill gave up the Gulls' regular Thursday option to train on the artificial pitch at Paignton College and worked the squad, including new loan midfielder Joss Labadie, on the real grass at the club's Seale Hayne base.
That was partly to spare Downes, who has been out with a hamstring strain, from the more unforgiving 'plastic' surface.
"We are hopeful that Aaron is going to be OK for the weekend, and just for us to be talking about him being ready is fantastic news," said Knill.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"We thought he was going to be out for a lot longer, and we were going to have to get somebody in to replace him.
"I know Aaron well. He has been a big player for the club this season, and just to get him back makes the squad a lot stronger."
Knill previously worked with Downes, 27, when he coached at Chesterfield in 2007 in between managerial jobs at Rotherham United and Bury.
Downes had to limp off in the first half of Torquay's 1-0 home defeat by Port Vale on February 23, when it was thought he would be out for at least three weeks.
On-loan striker Elliot Benyon, who has been nursing a knee problem, also trained yesterday, while left-back Kevin Nicholson is over a chest infection which laid him low for a couple of days earlier this week.
Labadie, 22, from Notts County, was welcomed into the fold, with Knill saying: "We needed some strength in the middle of the park, and Joss fits that bill.
"For a young player, he's quite experienced. But one of the best things about him was that there was no thought about where Torquay was.
"It wasn't about location or money, it was about playing football as far as he was concerned.
"The [transfer] priority last week was centre-half and centre-midfield. Now it's trying to add bits and pieces.
"I've had the opportunity to bring other people in, but I'm a big one for seeing players with my own eyes. That's just how I am – I will take responsibility if I sign them. The players who I was offered seemed OK, but I want to see them myself.
"I'm going to watch some more games next week and then I will make decisions on those."
Labadie has joined United to the end of the season, although Notts County can recall him at 24 hours' notice after the first 28 days.
Knill confirmed that a decision will be made in the next few days over the future of Benyon, whose month's loan from Southend United runs out after the Oxford match.
"Elliot wants to stay, but there are several things that need to be sorted out," said Knill.