Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
Let’s get the unpleasantness out of the way first. Defeat tomorrow would mean we’d have lost five games on the bounce, and you have to go back exactly eight years to find the last time that happened.
Things were considerably worse then than they are now, as we suffered an horrendous run of eight losses in a row between early December 2007 and mid-January 2008. It was a run of results which left us horribly adrift at the bottom of League Two, and at the end of the season we dropped into non-league football. At that wretched run’s conclusion, Brian Little had managed just one win and two draws in his first eleven games in charge.
Both players and fans alike will find tomorrow’s journey wearily familiar as we head off on the long journey down the M5 once more to Devon!
We’ve made the trip to Torquay twice in a season once before, and that was last season! However, this time round we’ve managed to head south west even more often, as the postponement of our league match means we’re going there for the third time!
Thankfully we’ll have the memories of our recent form against Torquay to maintain our spirits on the arduous journey as we’re enjoying our greatest ever run of success against The Gulls. We have beaten them in each of our last four clashes, scoring nine and conceding just two in the process, and managing our biggest win at Plainmoor in the process.
That came last season in the FA Trophy semi-final second leg, when Louis Moult opened the scoring and two goals from Kieron Morris clinched a 3-0 win and a 5-1 aggregate success as we booked the third trip to Wembley in our history.
December’s 1-0 win, earned courtesy of a late Mark Carrington goal, meant we’d won consecutive games at Torquay for only the second time. The only previous time we’d achieved back to back victories there was in 1971. In April Arfon Griffiths and Albert Kinsey scored in a 2-1 win and in October we repeated that triumph, with Bobby Park opening the scoring before Kinsey and Griffiths struck again.
This season we recorded a league double over them for the first time since the 1985-6 season, as Jim Steel hit the net in both a 3-1 away win and a 3-2 home victory. We required late strikes to earn those results though: at Plainmoor an 86th minute own goal secured the win, while at The Racecourse Barry Horne and Andy Edwards turned things around dramatically with strikes in the last two minutes.
Coincidentally, those matches were played in front of the smallest crowds this fixture has attracted to either venue: just 1034 fans turned up for the home game and 1156 attended the away match. With United struggling and their fans no doubt focussed on league survival, it’s possible tomorrow’s trophy match might threaten to break that unwanted statistic.