By Dominic Scurr
SETTING THE SCENE
Two of the National League’s most unpredictable sides go head-to-head at Plainmoor this Saturday with Gateshead looking to continue their improving form while Torquay will be hoping to end a run of three consecutive defeats.
Two of The Gulls’ losses came against fellow strugglers Maidstone United and Woking which has left the South Coast outfit just two points off the relegation zone. Since putting nine goals past promotion candidates Forest Green Rovers over the festive period, Torquay have found things difficult at both ends of the pitch against arguably weaker opponents.
On the other hand there’s Gateshead, who are need of a win for far different reasons as they sit just six points off the final play-off place. Neil Aspin’s men are also unbeaten in the league since the 1-0 defeat at North Ferriby on 3 December. The five games since then have seen the Tynesiders pick up nine points, including 4-1 and 2-0 wins over Barrow and Solihull Moors respectively.
Last weekend’s 1-1 draw against play-off rivals Aldershot Town may not have been the result Gateshead were looking for but it was far from a disaster as they remain in touch with the top five. However with just two wins in 10, it is imperative the Heed start turning their draws into wins if they want to emerge as serious play-off contenders.
For the second week running there’s nothing to report on the injury department though Neil Aspin has hinted that Nyal Bell may return to the starting line-up after starting on the bench in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Aldershot.
WHAT WE’RE SAYING
Manager Neil Aspin: “We played Torquay already this season and I’ve seen them play on a few occasions so I know quite a bit about them going into the game.
“It’s an away game that we obviously believe we can win and will set out to win. You normally say that if you win you’re home matches and pick up points away then you’re in good stead but with us drawing so many home games we need to start winning away from home as often as possible.
“You know that they’re capable because they beat Forest Green at home on Boxing Day and managed to put nine goals past them in the two matches so they are a threat and like ourselves they’ll be wondering what team will show up on Saturday.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Torquay United boss Kevin Nicholson said following his side’s 2-1 defeat to Maidstone last weekend: “It comes down to me, it’s my fault.
“I’ve said to the team that we’ve got some good footballers in the side but if defenders keep making the same mistakes over and over again, I’ve got to find a way to get the message through to them.
“It’s okay me telling them, and it’s okay me showing them but if they don’t get it then it is my fault. I am the manager and I have to coach that, I have to teach it and get it so it becomes second nature to them.
“It is okay talking about a lack of experience, and what we need, and all that is all well and good but what we have right now I have to make better. That is the truth of it.”
Gateshead are set to wear their custom made all-white Sevcon away strip at Torquay this weekend. The Heed have won their only two matches played in that kit, scoring seven and conceding none.
Admission is priced as follows:
Away Terrace – Adult – £15.00
Concession – £12.00
Under 18s -£7.00
Bristow’s Bench Seating – Adult – £19.00
Concession – £15.00
Under 18s -£7.00
Please note Under 7s are free with a full paying adult.
Disabled supporters are charged £15.00 with one adult helper admitted free.
LAST TIME WE MET
A feisty encounter at the International Stadium back in October 2016 may have ended 0-0 but that didn’t tell the whole story as Heed striker Danny Johnson missed a second half penalty shortly before being sent off for violent conduct.
The last meeting at Plainmoor came a year ago this week as Gateshead ran out as 2-0 winners thanks to goals in either half by Ryan Bowman and Johnson.