Martin Ling can call on Damon Lathrope as midfielder returns to Torquay United fold
Fit-again Damon Lathrope is pressing for a recall at home to Accrington Stanley today (3pm) after nearly eight weeks on the sidelines as Torquay United resume their search for the consistency that will push them closer to the League Two promotion pace.
Midfielder Lathrope has been out since sustaining a knee injury in a 2-2 draw with Cheltenham Town on August 21, and the postponement of this week's Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie against Yeovil Town robbed the former Norwich City player of a warm-up outing.
Gulls manager Martin Ling would not reveal his starting XI, but he did say: "Damon is fully fit and he'll be in the 18.
"We have missed him in a certain way. One or two players have done decent jobs, but only Damon and Craig Easton are best at sitting in front of the back-four, and I also think we have missed Damon's passing in several games.
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"He does a lot of work that goes unnoticed."
If that all sounds like a hint for Lathrope's inclusion, it would not be a surprise.
Ling thought he might have only long-term casualty Ian Morris out this weekend, but now Saul Halpin has gone down with the sickness bug which went through the squad last weekend.
Young winger Niall Thompson has also picked up a bruised foot, care of a training ground tackle from his former trainee team-mate Kyrtis McKenzie. They are still talking.
Ling himself points out that United have not enjoyed back-to-back wins since they overcame Port Vale and Barnet in the space of four days at the end of last March.
But he insists: "We are a better team than we were in October last year. We've only lost two out of 11 games, although there's been too many draws, we understand that. I am quite happy with our league position.
"It's a position we can strike from, but we need to put a run of results together."
In the wake of last Saturday's tame 2-1 defeat at Wycombe, Ling admitted: "It's been a week that's tested us, with that result to get over, the postponement against Yeovil and having both Plainmoor and the training ground unavailable because of the weather.
"But I gave the players Tuesday and Wednesday off, because that 48 hours was hopefully a chance to get the bug out of our system and it should have freshened everyone up."
Of Accrington, who have made a good start under manager Paul Cook, Ling added: "They are a different team from when [former manager] John Coleman was there.
"They are very much a passing team, but they're also above us in the league and have played one game less.
"They were deemed to be a bottom-half team which is now a top-half team, so we'll have to be on our best form."
Accrington may well pack their midfield – it would not be the first time they have done that under Cook – but they still have some dangerous forwards, including Irish striker Padraig Amond and Benin-born attacking midfielder Romauld Boco. Cook has just signed 19-year-old Bolton striker Jake Simpson on loan.
A combination of some welcome bursts of sunshine and a drying breeze has left United confident that the match will go ahead.
The referee will be Wiltshire's Simon Hooper.
Torquay United (from): Poke, Rice; Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson, Mansell, Craig, Lathrope, Easton, Stevens, Howe, Bodin, Macklin, Jarvis, Cruise, Leadbitter, Yeoman, McKenzie, Baker, Artemi.
Unavailable: Morris (Achilles tendon), Thompson (foot), Halpin (illness).