Martin Rice rewarded for long wait with second successive League start for Torquay United
Having finally broken his Football League "duck" at the age of 26, Martin Rice is set to keep his place in Torquay United's side to face Southend United at Plainmoor tomorrow – and that is with Michael Poke in the squad.
Summer signing Poke, first choice so far this season but absent at Oxford United last Saturday, has a good chance of making the substitutes' bench against the Shrimpers.
However, manager Martin Ling revealed: "This game may come just too quick for Michael to be considered for a start, but he may well be on the bench without being able to kick.
"That may be a better bet than having a young goalkeeper as the back-up."
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Ling called up 17-year-old scholar Conor Thompson as cover for Rice at Oxford.
"Martin [Rice] came on to make his Football League debut at Barnet last midweek, and then Oxford was his first full start," said Ling.
"It was a bit of a surprise to us all when we realised that Barnet and Oxford were his first League games, but of course he had played loads in the Conference.
"He did a fine job at Oxford, and that definitely makes things a little easier for me now."
Poke, who is nursing a groin problem, winger Danny Stevens and forward Ryan Jarvis are all under treatment from physiotherapist Damian Davey in the build-up to the Southend game.
Stevens has been hampered by an abdominal strain for several weeks, and Ling reported: "We've had Danny scanned, because we wanted to be sure that there was nothing serious going on, but that's come back clear, so he shouldn't be out for much longer.
"Ryan pulled out of training with some pain in his lower back, but we're hoping that doesn't turn out to be too bad either."
Ling admitted that next Thursday's loan transfer deadline is circled in red ink on his calendar, and yesterday's regular monthly board meeting may well have cleared the way for the Gulls' boss to make a move.
"Let's say that the deadline concentrates the mind a little bit, with everything shutting down until January," said Ling.
"If there's money in the budget to fetch someone in, I would probably go for a centre-half.
"We're light on numbers there, and I wouldn't want to start playing people out of position to cover a problem."
Not for the first time this season, United are closing the Away End terrace tomorrow – it helps to reduce stewarding costs – and Southend's travelling fans will be accommodated in the Bristow's Bench stand.