‘League is the most im­por­tant com­pe­ti­tion’ but Gulls will give Tro­phy a go

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - Football Sport - BY DAVID THOMAS

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.

PHIL MINGO/PPAUK

Dean Moxey retruns to the squad af­ter sus­pen­sion

PPAUK

Torquay boss Gary John­son

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