Martin Ling grateful for few extra days to allow Torquay United's walking wounded to recover
There may not be much good news coming out of the postponement of one eagerly awaited derby game, but Torquay United manager Martin Ling has seized on a couple of upbeat stories as the Gulls face another npower League Two derby – this time against Plymouth Argyle at Home Park on Boxing Day.
There was little chance that right-back Joe Oastler would have faced Exeter City at Plainmoor on Saturday, if the game had not fallen victim to the wet weather, after he went over on his left ankle in training two days earlier.
Torquay physiotherapist Damian Davey had been working feverishly to try to make sure that two more casualties, Billy Bodin (ankle) and Niall Thompson (hamstring), were both available to Ling. They would just about have made it, but only just.
"These extra three or four days will have been a big help," Ling admitted. "Nobody wanted the Exeter game off, but we had players who were not fully fit, or definitely struggling for fitness.
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"The extra rest is the plus for us at the moment. The other plus is that nearly everybody else in League Two was off on Saturday, so no one really stole a march on us. And Plymouth had a long journey to Accrington and back, so that might play into our hands a bit."
Ling is now hopeful that Oastler will be fit, and he is confident that both Bodin and Thompson will be.
Oastler's availability is important, not because Danny Leadbitter has not already shown that he can be an adequate deputy, but Leadbitter, 22, and young on-loan centre-back Angus MacDonald, 20 – who have played less than a dozen League games between them – would form a very inexperienced duo on the right of United's defence.
With Brian Saah already out through suspension, Oastler's extra experience would be a boost for Ling.
Bodin is booked for the support role for target man Rene Howe, whose partner is expecting their first child tomorrow. Thompson, who has pace to burn, can be a real weapon off the substitutes' bench.
Argyle's 1-1 draw at Accrington is the sort of result that the Pilgrims would probably have taken, if it had been offered before kick-off, and Ling said: "Plymouth are a team who have picked up a little bit of form, but derby game can level that sort of thing out. The first game against them at Plainmoor [a 0-0 draw in September] wasn't a great game – you'd call it a competitive draw – and we'll have to be ready for a real test at Home Park.
"The atmosphere down there last year was brilliant, and it definitely helped us when we got ahead in the second half. It can do the same for Plymouth, and we must make sure we give our fans plenty to shout about."
There is no confirmed date for the rearranged Exeter fixture yet, but the Gulls will now meet Rotherham United at Plainmoor – the scheduled January 5 date cannot go ahead because the Millers are involved in the FA Cup third round then – on Tuesday, February 12 (7.45pm).
The Plainmoor postponement at the weekend gave Exeter manager Paul Tisdale more time to prepare his squad for the Boxing Day home game against Oxford United.
The Grecians may be able to call upon the experience ofTommy Doherty against Oxford, whose home fixture against Fleetwood Town on Saturday was also called off.
The Northern Ireland international midfielder has not featured for City since picking up a hamstring injury during the 1-0 home defeat to Rotherham United on November 24, but has made good progress in recent weeks and is close to making a comeback.
Another experienced Exeter midfielder, Matt Oakley, was rated as doubtful ahead of the postponed Torquay game, after being substituted during the previous weekend's 1-1 draw at home to Plymouth, but he is expected to recover in time to face Oxford. Youngster Jimmy Keohane is likely to deputise if Oakley is unfit.
Rotherham United have stated that they will make an official complaint after their League Two game at Bristol Rovers was postponed on Saturday morning.
The Memorial Stadium pitch was deemed playable at 11am, but, after heavy rain, referee James Linington called off the game when he arrived.
The Millers said in a club statement: "We believe, had communication been better, our supporters could have been better informed so as to not make the journey."