Match Preview: County v Torquay United

With two games remaining, County know exactly what they need to do. Four points from games against Torquay United and FC Halifax Town, both at a packed out Edgeley Park, will be enough to guarantee Dave Challinor’s side the National League title, and with it promotion to the Football League.

Sunday’s sobering 3-0 defeat at Wrexham was undoubtedly a blow for County, dropping off top spot for the first time since January as the Welsh side overtook us on goal difference. Wednesday’s game against Torquay is our game in hand over Phil Parkinson’s side though, and a point or more would see us move back to the summit heading into the final game of the season.

We face a tough task though against a Torquay side who have enjoyed a strong second-half to the season. Gary Johnson’s side may not have anything left to play for having timed their run too late for the play-offs, but were very impressive in their 2-0 win against Chesterfield at the weekend, and they have picked up some big scalps throughout the season.

Having beaten County at Plainmoor earlier in the season, the Gulls have also taken four points from promotion contenders Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County, and they will be keen for revenge on Dave Challinor having lost out to his Hartlepool United side in the play-off final last year.

With tickets in the Cheadle End and Danny Bergara Stand all now sold out for this game, The Railway End has now also been made available to County fans. These tickets are available to buy over the phone, or in person from the Edgeley Park Ticket Office.

Since we last met:

Defeat at Plainmoor back in December was our first in the National League under manager Dave Challinor, and also our last defeat of any kind for well over three months as we embarked on a remarkable run of 20 wins and a draw in 21 games.

The game is set to be another near sell-out at Edgeley Park, with Dave Challinor calling on the fans to make a difference again under the lights.

After a goal at both ends from Will Collar in the first-half, a controversial penalty converted by Asa Hall just before the break saw The Gulls emerge with all three points on a frustrating afternoon in Devonshire.

Despite that big win for Johnson and his side, the Gulls remained down in 16th place in the National League, having endured a difficult start to the season following the hangover of play-off defeat last season.

Since then however, Torquay have looked much more like the side that finished 2nd to Sutton United a year ago, losing just four of their last 25 league games to start climbing up the league table. Only Eastleigh, Solihull, Halifax and Grimsby have beaten them in 2022.

Their form over that period would put them sixth and in a play-off place, and four straight wins in March and April had given them an outside chance of breaking into the top seven as they moved to within seven points with a game in hand.

Their form was always going to have to be near perfect in order to pull that off, and unfortunately for the Devon side a run of three draws and a loss prior to that win against Chesterfield mean they will be in the National League again next season. They currently sit 10th, eight points off the play-offs with two games remaining.

Will Collar is available for selection again after returning from suspension. The midfielder scored against Torquay earlier in the season.

Saturday’s performance at home to Chesterfield however displayed that they are far from being on the beach despite having nothing to play for, as they look to finish the season strongly and provide a platform going into next season.

One to watch:

It is no coincidence that Torquay’s indifferent start to the season coincided with injury troubles and a loss of form for last season’s main man, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans. The midfielder finished second to John Rooney in last year’s National League Player of the Year vote after a brilliant season at Plainmoor, that started with scoring the winner against County on opening day.

The 25-year-old, like the rest of his teammates, failed to hit those same heights in the opening months of the season but has looked back to his best in recent weeks – hitting a hat-trick in a memorable 5-1 win against Notts County last month.

Match Stats:

  • We will be looking for our first home win against The Gulls since 2006, when Adam Le Fondre scored the winner. We have lost two and drawn two of the four meetings at Edgeley Park since then.
  • Dave Challinor suffered his first home defeat as County manager against Boreham Wood. He hasn’t lost successive home games as a manager since November/December 2020.
  •  Midfielder Will Collar will be available for selection for this game, having served his three match ban following his red card against Yeovil.

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