Johnson concerned after Truro U-turn extends Plainmoor deal
TORQUAY United manager Gary Johnson is keeping his fingers crossed that the ‘new’ Plainmoor pitch, already showing wear and tear after 30 games in the first four months of this season, can cope with more pressure after Truro City’s surprise decision to extend their groundshare deal into the New Year.
Truro had indicated that they were about to return to their Treyew Road ground after redevelopment plans for the site stalled until at least next summer.
But, in a sudden U-turn, the White Tigers have now announced that they are staying at Plainmoor until after their ‘home’ game against the Gulls on New Year’s Day.
It means that both the Torquay-Truro holiday derbies, on Boxing Day and January 1, will be played at Plainmoor as well as five other league and cup games involving the two clubs between now and then.
“I just hope that the pitch holds up during that period,” said Johnson as more heavy rain fell this week.
Supporters of both clubs have greeted the news with dismay – United fans because of their concern over the effect on the Plainmoor pitch and City followers because their team will continue playing 90 miles away from Truro.
Truro’s 3-0 win over Greenwich Borough in the FA Trophy last Saturday is believed to have attracted a gate of 39 to Plainmoor, and their recent league games there have struggled to pull in more than a hundred fans.
United redrained and relaid the Plainmoor pitch under head groundsman Chris Ralph, who left recently to join Plymouth Argyle.
No announcement on a replacement for Ralph has been made by Torquay so far.
Johnson was quick to point out that a Truro v Torquay game at Plainmoor on New Year’s Day, with all gate receipts going to City, is likely to pull in a much bigger attendance than if the fixture was played at Treyew Road.
“I can understand it from [City chairman] Peter Masters’ point of view – it would be financially beneficial for them to play here on New Year’s Day. I understand that totally,” said Johnson. He has to look after his club as best he can.”
Johnson added: “Everybody entered into this agreement at the start of the season. It was obviously good for both sides, and there are benefits for us.”
One of those additional benefits for United is believed to be the regular use of Truro’s executive team coach for away games, not only good for the players’ comfort but a considerable cost-saving too.
It had been thought that, once ground re-grading work had been completed at Treyew Road, City would be back there before Christmas, and they signalled that intent. The National League have sanctioned the move and the work has now been done.
But their latest statement reads: “The repair work needed at Treyew Road following the ground inspection by the League has now been completed and we expect to get the ground Grade B rating within the next few days. Given that situation, there is no reason for Truro City to continue to groundshare with Torquay United at Plainmoor.
“Supporters of Truro City will know that the team are currently in a ‘purple patch’ (six games unbeaten) under current ground arrangements.
“Given our league position, we don’t want to take any action that may be detrimental to current form and, as such, we will not be taking any decision to return to Treyew Road until we play Torquay United at Plainmoor on New Year’s Day.
“We acknowledge that this will come as a disappointment for some supporters, but hopefully it will be accepted that this decision to remain during the interim period is the right one in our quest to remain in this league.”
United, who beat Basingstoke Town on penalties in their Trophy game at the weekend, have been drawn away in the first round proper to National League club Boreham Wood on December 15.
That, at least, has spared Plainmoor from having to cope with two games in 24 hours for the second time this season.
It will stage Truro v St Albans City this Saturday, while Johnson’s promotion-chasing Gulls (fourth) travel to Dulwich Hamlet and then to Dartford in a rearranged fixture next Tuesday night.
Torquay’s next home match is against third-placed Welling United on Saturday week December 8.
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