McKenzie's absence exposes defensive gaps for Gulls boss Knill
Torquay United's options at centre-back are currently down to a minimum because young reserve Kirtys McKenzie has run into problems with his diabetes condition.
The Gulls are working with their 19-year-old former Academy scholar to restore him to fitness, after he was taken ill at training recently.
But McKenzie's absence – he missed this week's development squad friendly against Plymouth Argyle at Plainmoor – means that manager Alan Knill is currently keeping everything crossed that senior centre-backs Aaron Downes and Krystian Pearce stay fit and clear of disciplinary trouble for the foreseeable future.
The only other central defenders at Plainmoor are 17-year-old rookie Jake Hutchings and Jack Deaman, 20.
Deaman, formerly with Birmingham City, is only on trial, and any deal for him is on hold because United are believed to be close to or up to their budget limit.
Knill said: "With Kirtys out, we are stretched at centre-back, although [left-back] Tom Cruise can play there.
"Kirtys was taken ill recently, and we know that living with diabetes can be very difficult, especially to start with. But we're working hard to help and hopefully get him back in action soon."
London-born McKenzie graduated through the Gulls' youth scheme to win a senior contract last summer, and he made his senior debut in a 0-0 draw at Port Vale last September. He was diagnosed with type one diabetes in April and immediately went on a daily regime of insulin injections.
When League Two combat resumes, Knill will be looking for a much better performance this Saturday, when United travel to Rochdale, than the one which saw them beaten 4-1 at Fleetwood Town last weekend.
"That wasn't good enough. We didn't compete," said Knill. "But we can't do any more about that now – the only thing we can do is be better at Rochdale."
Winger Billy Bodin will be back from international duty with Wales' Under-21 squad. He had short spells as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat in San Marino last Friday and a 0-0 draw away to Moldova on Tuesday.
Fit-again goalkeeper Michael Poke is pencilled in for a return in next Tuesday's Devon St Luke's Challenge Cup tie against Ilfracombe Town at Plainmoor.
Striker Elliot Benyon hopes to be available for the Rochdale game after sustaining a foot injury which needed some needlework in this week's Argyle friendly.