Long run of defeats fails to knock Knill's belief in Torquay's ability
New interim manager Alan Knill is still confident that Torquay United will avoid relegation back to non-League football, despite Tuesday’s seventh successive npower League Two defeat at the hands of mid-table Wycombe Wanderers.
The Gulls have not earned a point since they beat Devon rivals Exeter City 1-0 at St James’ Park on January 28, the day that manager Martin Ling fell ill, and Wycombe’s 2-1 win at Plainmoor this week dropped them to within a point of the bottom two.
They are also only one loss away from the club record of eight League defeats in a row, as they prepare for a relegation ‘six-pointer’ away to Accrington Stanley on Saturday.
Knill, who has the backing of the Plainmoor board to go into the loan transfer market, insisted: “There are 12 games left, not three or four, and a lot of things can change.
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“I don’t know why anybody thought it was going to be any different – we need to organise ourselves a bit quicker and be a bit more determined about things,” he added.
“It’s up to us to be positive, and I’m quite sure we will get out of it.”
The former Rotherham United, Bury and Scunthorpe United boss, who had talked about “fine tuning” after last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to second-placed Port Vale, admitted that he had had second thoughts after the Wycombe defeat.
“I’m definitely looking in all areas now,” said Knill, who hopes to have at least one new player on board before the trip to Accrington.
The Gulls’ boss was already working on signing a central defender in the wake of a hamstring injury which is expected to rule out the experienced Aaron Downes for at least another fortnight.
Midfield could be another priority, especially as Knill said that sickness victim Lee Mansell was “a big loss” against Wycombe on Tuesday.
Knill added: “I don’t think the real problem was the front four – the strikers and the wingers did OK – but it was the other side of it.
“Wycombe won the ‘second balls’ on a night when they were the important bit.”
Mansell should be back for the Accrington game, although fellow midfielder Craig Easton is carrying a niggling calf injury which forced his substitution in the second half on Tuesday.
Despite being outplayed for long periods, United led through Ryan Jarvis’s 37th-minute opener against Wycombe. It was their first goal from open play since Rene Howe netted in the 2-1 defeat at Cheltenham Town more than six games ago.
“I was delighted that we scored that goal after such a long time, but disappointed that we could not keep that one-goal lead,” said Knill.
“We weren’t happy at half-time, even though we were leading. It took us 25 minutes to get going.
“I think there was a bit of apprehension out there – we’ve got some young players who haven’t been in this situation before.
“In the second half we had a great chance for 2-0, didn’t take it and they go down the other end, take their chance and it’s 1-1.
“Then we go deeper again. Instead of stepping forward, we stepped back.”
Wycombe’s victory was inspired by 39-year-old player-manager Gareth Ainsworth – he will be 40 in May – who brought himself on as a 50th-minute substitute and delivered a stream of telling crosses, including the one for Matt McClure’s 81st-minute winner.
“I was absolutely shattered at the end, and I was only out there for 40 minutes. So I don’t think there are going to be too many more cameos from me,” said Ainsworth.
“But to see the looks on the faces of our supporters made it all worthwhile, and now I think I might have to buy fish and chips for everyone on the way home!”