Rice agrees new deal with Gulls
GOALKEEPER Martin Rice has accepted the offer of a new one-year deal to stay at Plainmoor next season as newly promoted Torquay United make their Football League return.
Rice, 23, was due to be out of contract this summer after joining United from Devon neighbours Exeter City in summer 2007. Now he will be in Paul Buckle's squad as they bid to build on the momentum of their 2-0 Blue Square Premier Play-Off Final victory over Cambridge United.
Rice was called upon as cover for on-loan Southampton keeper Michael Poke for the play-offs as first choice goalkeeper Scott Bevan, who is already under contract to United next season, was injured for the run-in.
A year before the play-off triumph, Rice played in goal at Wembley – where he made a tremendous penalty save – during the Gulls' 1-0 FA Trophy final defeat by Ebbsfleet.
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As well as being in the successful Torquay squad at Wembley last term, he also helped guide Cornish club Truro City to the Southern League top flight.
Rice spent a 40-game loan spell at Truro – managed by former Exeter City and Plymouth Argyle striker Sean McCarthy – and was the last line of defence as the Tigers romped to the Division One South & West title to gain promotion to the Premier Division.
He also scored in Truro's 4-0 home win over Abingdon in February.
With Poke having returned to parent club Southampton following the end of his season-long loan spell at Torquay, Buckle's squad will head into League Two boosted by the inclusion of two full-time keepers, Bevan and Rice.
The United squad is beginning to take a familiar shape, with two of the five out of contract players offered new deals accepting terms in the last two weeks.
Left-back Kevin Nicholson – signed in summer 2007, like Rice, when Buckle began his rebuilding programme – was the first to confirm his acceptance of a new one-year deal within a week of the Wembley victory.
Now Rice has followed suit.
As reported in yesterday's Western Morning News, the Gulls are also hopeful that experienced skipper and central midfielder Chris Hargreaves, who led the Yellows to promotion on the field, is close to agreeing a new deal to extend his two-year stay at Plainmoor.
United have also offered new deals to 22-year-old striker Elliot Benyon – who cracked in 13 goals for the Gulls last term – and 21-year-old towering central defender Chris Robertson.