Torquay United will get to experience fixtures of Christmas past after postponement
Torquay United will play back-to-back Devon derbies against Exeter City – just like the 1950s – after today's npower League Two home game against Chesterfield became the latest victim of Plainmoor's waterlogged winter.
The Gulls drew 1-1 with the Grecians this midweek, and their next match is now the return game at St James' Park on Monday week, January 28, in front of Sky Sports television cameras.
It was in the Fifties that local derbies were played in quick succession over Christmas, often on Christmas morning at one ground and on Boxing Day at the other.
Christmas Day games were abandoned after 1957, but back-to-back holiday matches against the same opponents continued for many years, and they still happen in the Blue Square Conference.
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United had prepared for anything approaching arctic conditions by covering the Plainmoor pitch with snow and ice sheets as early as Thursday lunchtime.
Some snow duly arrived, but it wasn't that which defeated them, just more rain which seeped through and onto a pitch which could hardly take any more. With Chesterfield due to leave Derbyshire at lunchtime yesterday, the Football League urged United to hold an inspection before the Spireites set out.
Devon referee Adam Hopkins, who was due to run the line at Yeovil Town versus Preston North End in League One until that was postponed, was called in. He took one look at the puddles already gathering, considered a depressing forecast and called the whole thing off.
Tuesday night's match with Exeter had been a rearrangement, but after the latest postponement United are still three games behind their original schedule and starting to face a daunting backlog.
They are already due to play eight games in 29 days from February 2 to March 2. Now that they have to fit the Chesterfield game in, March is already looking extra busy.
"It's putting us in a situation where we are struggling to find slots in the calendar," Torquay manager Martin Ling said.
"We still have 20 games to play, and we will be playing on a Tuesday night most weeks. That's without considering any more bad weather."
Losing today's fixture also impacts on United's cash-flow, since they will now have no home match income from Exeter this week until Fleetwood Town come to Plainmoor on February 9.
The Gulls' boss remains in the market for a forward, although the latest postponement actually eases the pressure on that front.
Leading scorer Rene Howe is still one booking short of a one-match suspension, but even if he picks up a card at Exeter on January 28, the next match is not until Cheltenham Town away on February 2.
"I don't think we need a Ryan Jarvis, Ashley Yeoman or Billy Bodin-type forward," said Ling. "What we might need is a bigger player for when Rene is out. We should get a better one if we wait.
"It's a game of Russian Roulette, because you get a better quality of player if they know they're going to start.
"I want to make sure that the little bit of money that we have got is invested wisely."
So it is another blank weekend for the Gulls, who must be feeling a little like they did in their Conference days. Then, pushed around by the demands of Setanta TV, they seemed to play every day of the week, except Saturdays.