‘League is the most important competition’ but Gulls will give Trophy a go
Gary Johnson sees the FA Trophy as a tasty dessert to the main course of National League South promotion this season – but the Gulls’ manager will not hear of any drop in recent standards at Basingstoke Town today.
“The league is the most important competition at this stage of our club’s life – we have to get that promotion,” said Johnson. But we’ve got two competitions to play for now, and you don’t want to go into games not trying because you don’t need to win the Trophy.
Nobody is telling me that I have got to win the Trophy because of the finances, but we just want to win every game we play.”
United have registered back-toback 4-1 league wins over St Albans City and Concord Rangers since a promising FA Cup run was ended by divisional rivals Woking (0-1).
“It’s been a pleasure to watch them, and watch them develop, over recent games,” said Johnson, “but football is football, and we’ve got to be careful that we don’t start thinking we’re Real Madrid or anything like that.
“I think Basingstoke are a decent team. We’ve had them watched, they will be trying very hard to stop us and it’s going to be a good test.”
The tie will be decided today, with extra-time or penalties if necessary, after both clubs waived the replay option. “We don’t want an extra game on our pitch at the moment,” Johnson explained. “We don’t want a fixture pile-up. It would be nice to get it sorted on the day.”
Torquay have defender George Essuman (ankle) back from injury, although midfielders Ryan Dickson (concussion) and Asa Hall (knee) are being held back for another week – they should be available for next Saturday’s league trip to Dulwich Hamlet. It still gives Johnson plenty of options if he wants to make a change or two.
“There are two trains of thought – one, you give the boys an opportunity who have been on the bench or coming back from injury; two, you pick the team that you think is going to keep the continuity going,” he said, without giving any hint of which one he will favour.
The Trophy does not deliver the same financial rewards as the Cup – three Cup wins over lower division opponents earned United £49,000, while victory today is worth £5,000.
But with away league games coming up at Dulwich and Dartford, Johnson has already spoken about the importance of keeping up the ‘momentum’ created by a run of eight wins and only one defeat since he took over.12 matches ago.
Basingstoke, who started the season eyeing promotion from the Southern League Premier Division South, have had to ride out the sudden departure of manager Jason Bristow, a popular and long-serving club stalwart. He has moved down the M3 to become assistant to new Eastleigh boss Ben Strevens.
Town have turned to director of football Terry Brown to manage the team for a second time.
The 66-year-old veteran is better known for the way he turned round the fortunes of Aldershot Town and led AFC Wimbledon’s rise into the Football League a few years ago.
Town have been a little inconsistent of late, but they do score goals and will be looking to recent signing Mitchell Parker to cause the Gulls’ defence a few problems.
Dean Moxey retruns to the squad after suspension
Torquay boss Gary Johnson