Gulls seek a change in home fortune
Torquay United come home to Plainmoor, after two spirited away draws, to face Chesterfield tonight and npower League Two relegation rivals York City on Saturday in what manager Alan Knill describes as "two games that can define the rest of the season".
Knill stresses that his Gulls players must handle the extra pressure of playing at home, and he is calling on United's supporters to help.
"The atmosphere at Plainmoor in the last few games has been good, really good," said Knill.
"It's so edgy now. It's a fact of life, and the other teams around us will be going through the same thing. We all know what's at stake.
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"Being unbeaten in two tough away games is a step forward, but home is the most important place to play – it's the place where your own people come to watch, and you want to send them home happy.
"But, in this situation, it can be frustrating at times. People do give the ball away and they do make mistakes. That's when players just need encouragement. That's when the support is so important."
United sustained no new injuries in last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Southend United, but Knill must make at least one change.
Left-winger Billy Bodin has been called away on Wales Under-21 duty, and he will miss both tonight's match and the York 'six-pointer' on Saturday.
"It's a shame because Billy has been good in the last couple of matches," said Knill, "but I've got several options there."
New loan signing Jordan Chapell from Sheffield United – he made his debut on the right wing at Southend – could switch flanks. Knill could also turn to Danny Stevens, Ryan Jarvis, Lloyd Macklin or Niall Thompson, even though they are all right-footers.
A natural left-footer is Nathan Craig, whom Knill recalled in central midfield at Southend.
"We didn't have Elliot Benyon up front anyway at the weekend, so I was always going to play that way, with another midfielder to play with Manse [Lee Mansell] and Joss [Labadie]," said Knill. "Technically, Nathan is really good, and he gives us more balance because he's left-footed."
Notts County loanee Labadie scored for the second successive game to earn the Southend draw, prompting Knill to say: "We haven't been scoring those close-in goals, but Joss was there when it counted. He's definitely added something to the team."
On-loan striker Benyon, who was not allowed by Southend to play against them on Saturday, is poised to return alongside leading scorer Rene Howe up front, while young Reading loanee Angus MacDonald, 20, will again deputise for the suspended Aaron Downes at centre-back.
Despite picking up valuable points at Accrington Stanley, Dagenham and Redbridge as well as Southend recently, United have not now won for 11 games. "We need to start winning again, and three points against Chesterfield would be good news, especially as this is our game in hand on a couple of the other sides," said Knill.
Chesterfield kept their play-offs hopes alive with a 1-0 win at Oxford United at the weekend. The bottom of the table represents not so much a bunch as a crush, with five clubs all on 40 points. United's better goal-difference currently has them on top of that log-jam.
York City and Aldershot Town have been dragged back into trouble, but they have to sit out and sweat tonight.
Accrington, who remained bottom despite beating Barnet 3-2 at the weekend, entertain – though that is hardly the word in the circumstances – AFC Wimbledon, who are not safe by any means yet.
Barnet take on play-offs hopefuls Fleetwood Town at Underhill, while Plymouth Argyle travel to Southend.
Torquay United (from): Poke, Rice; Oastler, Saah, MacDonald, Cruise, Chapell, Labadie, Mansell, Craig, Benyon, Howe, Jarvis, Macklin, Lathrope, Nicholson, N Thompson, Leadbitter, Stevens, Morris, Yeoman.
Unavailable: Downes (suspended), Bodin (international duty), Easton (injured), Halpin, Baker, McKenzie (all out on loan).