'Miracle man' Damian Davey holds key to Torquay United's' derby chances
He will not kick a ball in anger, but the key man in Torquay United's build-up to today's 103rd league Devon derby against Exeter City has become club physiotherapist Damian Davey.
Davey, who used to work for City and is described as a "miracle man" by manager Martin Ling, holds the key to United overcoming a mini-injury crisis which could leave Ling picking from only 18 players.
It was bad enough that Torquay already go into the match without suspended centre-back Brian Saah and long-term injured trio Ian Morris, Lloyd Macklin and Ryan Jarvis, who broke two ribs and punctured a lung in last Saturday's 1-1 draw with Northampton Town.
Ling revealed that forwards Billy Bodin, who missed the Northampton game with an ankle problem, and Niall Thompson did not train yesterday, and first-choice right-back Joe Oastler went over on his ankle towards the end of the session.
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"Joe may be the biggest doubt of the three," said Ling.
"Damian is hopeful that he can get Billy and Niall fit and, if anyone can, he can. I call him my miracle man."
Ling is planning to play his £70,000 summer signing Bodin in Jarvis's role, as support for centre-forward Rene Howe, but he admits: "These injuries take us into the lower numbers in our squad, and it is stretching us a little bit.
"And the bigger picture, of four games in nine days over Christmas and the New Year, is just as important to me as Exeter and Plymouth [away on Boxing Day] in the next two.
"With Ryan Jarvis possibly out for ten weeks or more, I'll definitely be looking to bring a striker in once the January window is open, so fingers crossed that Rene [Howe] is OK and we get through the next few games. Last year we went through a lot of the season without too many injuries, and the most frustrating thing about this lot is that most of them are freak injuries, not the result of tackles."
Ling clearly has plenty of respect for Paul Tisdale and his City side.
He sent injured midfielder Ian Morris and Centres of Excellence manager Matt Williams to "spy" on the Exeter-v-Plymouth derby at St James' Park last weekend – Morris to report on Argyle and Williams to run the rule over City.
"City played three different systems in that one game, so they are very adaptable," said Ling. "We'll have to be ready for that. They also seem to be better on the road than they are at home."
If there are any decisions to be made on the pitch today, the man in charge will be there to make them – referee Craig Pawson is already in town after travelling from his home in Sheffield.
The Plainmoor ticket office has been busy over the past few days and, with City selling out their 1,500 allocation and pay-on-the-turnstile still available to home fans, United are hoping for a 5,000-plus gate.
Torquay United (from): Poke, Rice; Oastler or Leadbitter, MacDonald, Downes, Nicholson, Easton, Mansell, Craig, Bodin, Stevens, Howe, Cruise, Lathrope, Thompson, Yeoman, McKenzie, Halpin.
Unavailable: Saah (suspended), Morris, Macklin, Jarvis (all injured).