It’s a familiar foe for Daryl McMahon tonight as former Bath City boss Gary Owers brings his Torquay United side to the Kuflink Stadium. McMahon and Owers regularly went head to head in the National League South and the Fleet boss knows what to expect.
“Gary knows us well,” McMahon told FleetOnline. “He was here watching us last Tuesday against East Thurrock and he’ll have a fair idea how we set up. At Bath, his sides were always tough to beat and tough to play against us, it was always difficult against them. You look at the table and see where Torquay are but they’re still a big fish in this league and they’re one of a couple of sides that, for me, are in the wrong position.”
The Fleet boss has little need to shake his in-form side up after their 3-2 win over Barrow that lifted them back into the Top 10 though after seven games of defensive solidity, he’ll be mindful of the two goals conceded on Saturday.
Torquay, meanwhile, are five points from safety and have themselves seen an upturn in form that began with a 4-0 demolition of Maidenhead in early October. It culminated in a decent point at The Shay on Saturday that manager Owers said was their best performance since he took over on September 13th. The win over Maidenhead is Torquay’s only victory to date but if you look at their results since Owers took over, it’s been a tale of draws and narrow defeats, with a steady improvement in performance along the way.
A couple of loan signings have helped things along, with Josh McQuoid coming in from Luton Town, George Dowling from Bristol City and Callum Evans and Rhys Murphy from Forest Green Rovers. Striker Jamie Reid, originally on loan, signed permanently from Exeter City last week while Owers has also added free agent Jennison Myrie-Williams, late of Newport County.
Injuries to first-choice goalkeeper Ryan Clarke and loanee Dan Lavercombe also meant the arrival of French goalkeeper Vincent Dorel. He’ll likely keep his place despite Clarke returning to the squad at Halifax.
There’s plenty of experience in the Gulls side, with Josh Gowling a familiar face in defence while the likes of Yan Klukowski and Jon-Paul Pittman know their way around this division. The visitors have been deploying Reid and Murphy up front together in something of a new 3-4-1-2 system and they have played three at the back lately, with their two full-backs operating further up on the wings. Owers mixed it up at Halifax last Saturday and says he’s open to change again, telling his club’s website: “I felt we moved the ball a lot quicker than we have done. We got the ball to the attacking players quicker than we have done. We hit balls in behind which you have to do in this league and get defenders running towards their own goal. I’ll certainly think about playing the same way but it is not 100% that I will because I’ll always have something up my sleeve if I want to change it.”
Torquay’s last visit to the Fleet came with a 2-0 win in 2008, a year our two clubs met on four occasions, the Gulls going on to win promotion back to the Football League at the end of 2008/09.