Johnson’s squad bolstered by return of injured players for Dulwich trip
With Injured players returning to fitness, manager Gary Johnson says he has several selection decisions to make before Torquay United take on Dulwich Hamlet in South London today – and top of the list will be who to pick in goal.
Shaun MacDonald has won plenty of admirers during a ten-game absence for Portsmouth loanee Alex Bass, after both of them were signed during the summer by former Gulls boss Gary Owers.
Owers made it pretty clear that Bass, 20, was his No 1, recalling him over exGateshead and Blyth Spartans player MacDonald, 22, after a groin injury at the start of the season.
The highly-rated Bass, who made his EFL debut for Pompey at the end of last season, has looked equally as impressive during his seven appearances so far, while MacDonald has done little wrong in his 15 games.
They are even friends off the pitch, sharing a flat with team- mates Jean-Yves Koue Niate and Kyle Cameron.
Johnson is giving little away, but he did say in the build-up to today’s match: “Shaun has done very well, he’s got some good experience and we know we can trust him to be our goalkeeper.”
If either of them ends up on the bench, it will mean no place for regular and enthusiastic sub George Burton, who is a promising young keeper in his own right.
United have also welcomed experienced midfielders Asa Hall and Ryan Dickson back into the squad after knee and concussion problems.
In their absence, young Bristol City loanees Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Jake Andrews have helped to extend United’s unbeaten league run under Johnson to eight games, lifting the Gulls to fourth in the NL South table.
A recall for either Hall or Dickson could prompt a change in formation from a recent 4-4-2, which might not be a huge issue with pacy right winger Opi Edwards now out again for a couple of weeks with a recurrence of thigh strain trouble.
A proper ‘winter’ pitch kicked in as United struggled to overcome Basingstoke Town, after extra-time and penalties, in the FA Trophy last weekend.
Johnson will expect another heavy surface against Hamlet at Tooting & Mitcham’s Imperial Fields ground, especially after they beat in-form divisional rivals Welling United 2-1 in an FA Trophy replay there on Wednesday night.
“The lads were a bit below par last Saturday,” said Johnson. “We’ve had a good chat about it. It’s different things – it can be weather, pitch, complacency, lack of form – but hopefully we have got that one behind us. We have watched them [Dulwich] in their last couple of games, they had a very good result against a strong Welling team.
“Once again you have to turn up, get the journey out of your system very quickly and put on a performance.
“What people always forget is that the opposition are there to stop you playing your game, and they’ve got enough information on us. There are some clever managers at this level – they understand your strengths and weaknesses.”
This is Dulwich’s last game there before they return to their own Champion Hill stadium before Christmas.
Promoted last season, they have been entertaining if inconsistent, but they are one of the few teams to win at Woking.
Manager Gavin Rose has several ex-Football League players in his squad, including defender Magnus Okuonghae (Colchester, Dagenham), goalscoring midfielder Ashley Carew (Gillingham, Barnet, Cambridge U), winger Dominic Vose (Barnet, Colchester, Grimsby) and two former Torquay forwards, Gavin Tomlin (Brentford, Yeovil) and Iffy Allen (Barnet, Yeovil, Wrexham).
No sooner will United return from this trip than they will have to start preparing for another – they are away to Dartford (5th) on Tuesday night.
Torquay United from: Mac- Although Truro City have announced their intention to continue the groundshare at Plainmoor until their ‘home’ derby against the Gulls on New Year’s Day, the White Tigers have now switched their FA Trophy first round tie against Weston-super-Mare on December 15 to Treyew Road, providing that a ‘re-grading’ is completed by December 13.
Weston objected to the move, but have been overruled.
Meanwhile, United’s ownerchairman Clarke Osborne has added finance controller Melanie Hayman and operations manager George Edwards to his hitherto one-man TUFC board.
Ms Hayman, a qualified accountant and the daughter of former director and life president Ian Hayman, has been a Gulls fan for 30 years.
Edwards, a director of Osborne’s Gaming International group, has been making most of the key decisions at Plainmoor this season.
Osborne hinted that there may be further appointments to the Plainmoor board in the next few months.