Rice reaping the rewards for his impressive run of Gulls form
Manager Alan Knill has said that goalkeeper Martin Rice has seized his opportunity and has every chance of keeping his place in Torquay United’s first team.
The former Exeter City and Truro City player, now in his second spell at Plainmoor, has taken full advantage of the thigh injury which has kept Michael Poke on the sidelines so far.
Poke is on the comeback trail, but he is not expected to return for at least another ten days. Rice has given a series of stand-out performances in pre-season and in the first two matches of the campaign proper, and a penalty save capped a memorable display in Tuesday’s 1-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Swindon Town.
“Martin deserves to be in goal – that’s the biggest compliment you can pay him,” said Knill. “I would prefer it if he wasn’t being worked so much, of course, but he’s really come on this season, and at the moment he’s on top form.”
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Rice’s agile ability as a shot-stopper has never been in question – he dived to his left to keep out Alex Pritchard’s 56th-minute penalty at the County Ground – but he is displaying new skills off his line.
One strong 35-yard throw, inside Town winger Pritchard and out to United right-back Dale Tonge near the halfway line during the second half, underlined his confident distribution.
United do not expect striker Elliot Benyon to be available for Saturday’s League Two trip to Morecambe, after his eight-minute knock-out at Swindon.
Benyon eventually regained consciousness in the County Ground trauma room, but only after a large medical team tended to him on and off the pitch. He was cleared to travel back to Torquay with the rest of his team-mates.
Knill confirmed his and everyone’s relief that Benyon is OK, but he believes that his players did not handle the long stoppage as well as Swindon, who scored their winner through Andy Williams
(83 minutes) just over two minutes after the restart.
“The game had died a bit during the delay, and eight minutes is a long time to be stopped in a game,” Knill added.
“The players were shouting for the doctor as soon as Elliot went down, and whenever someone goes down and doesn’t move, you start to worry. But we were caught by a lack of concentration after the game restarted.
“We told the players at half-time that, if they stuck to the plan and were all committed, we’d have a real chance.
“When Ricey saved the penalty, we really fancied ourselves. But Elliot had to go off so soon after going on, so that plan went out of the window.
“We were caught out for their goal and, in fairness, I don’t think we really threatened too much after that.”
Torquay forward Billy Bodin has been included in the Wales squad to play Finland in a UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifier at Bangor next Wednesday, August 14.
It means that Bodin will miss training with United early next week, but he will be available for Saturday’s trip to Morecambe and the following weekend’s home game against Oxford United.