Torquay United are optimistic about Aaron Downes being available for battle
There is growing optimism that experienced defender Aaron Downes may resume training after injury this week, easing the pressure on Torquay United manager Alan Knill to use up one of his planned loan signings to bring in a new centre-back.
The experienced Downes, 27, limped off with hamstring trouble in the Gulls' 1-0 npower League Two home defeat to Port Vale ten days ago.
At the time, the Plainmoor staff were worried that he might be out for at least a fortnight, possibly longer. But yesterday Knill said: "Aaron is better and improving, and we're hopeful that he'll be able to train later this week.
"We've got to be careful, but it would be a big boost if he's available.
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"I have been looking to bring in a central defender, but it would be good news if we can concentrate elsewhere."
Midfielder Craig Easton is being kept on the sidelines by a calf strain, and Knill revealed that on-loan striker Elliot Benyon continues to have treatment for a sore knee.
"It's an injury we have to manage, but Elliot is able to play, because we're resting him through most of the week," the Gulls' boss explained.
Benyon's presence in the squad has been a benefit to the south Devon side, despite his niggling injury. He has allowed the Gulls to give target man Rene Howe an out-and-out striker to play alongside.
"I prefer having a partner up front and the formation we were playing before didn't really work for us this year," Howe admitted in an interview for the club's website.
"A lot of clubs seemed to know how we play and they perhaps worked us out. We went under the radar last year and we've not hit the same kind of form this season.
"We've not won a number of games on the trot and that has really hurt us. Hopefully, this weekend we can push on and get the three points, and I feel the partnership with Elliot is starting to work.
"We've linked up well together and we'll be looking to do the damage on Saturday.''
Torquay, who finally ended a seven-match losing streak with a 0-0 draw at Accrington Stanley at the weekend, have no midweek game before Oxford United come to Plainmoor on Saturday.
"The draw at Accrington was just great for us to stop the rot and we can go forward to the Oxford game feeling different," Howe added. "We actually played some good football and it was just a shame that we didn't go on to win on Saturday."
None of the clubs in the relegation scrap are in action tonight, although mid-table Oxford United are, with a home game against seventh-placed Rotherham United.
Knill and assistant manager Shaun Taylor are due to be at the Kassam Stadium on a 'spying' mission.
The battle at the bottom is becoming tenser by the week. AFC Wimbledon (24th) are now only four points behind York City (18th), and those two clubs meet at Kingsmeadow this Saturday.
Knill has been frustrated in several transfer attempts over the past week, but he stressed: "We do need strengthening, and I'm still trying hard on that front."