Gulls supporters will be hoping for a better season this time around.
We take a look at Alan Knill's Torquay United side in our latest preview. To find out when we'll be facing the Gulls, visit the official website on 19th June.
After relegation from League 2 in 2007, Torquay United, under the guidance of new boss Paul Buckle, were looking for an instant response in getting back to the Football League at the first attempt. Unfortunately for the Gulls, this failed to materialise, and, although the club reached the play-offs in 2008, lost out to Devon rivals Exeter City in the semi-finals. Exeter would go on to win the play-off Final that season. The next campaign was much better for Torquay. The club earned themselves another play-off place, beating Histon in the semi-finals, 2-1 on aggregate to set up a Wembley date with Cambridge United. The Gulls won the game 2-0, goals scored by firstly, Chris Hargreaves, and then a superb header from Tim Sills in the second half. On their return to the Football League, Torquay finished 17th in their first season. 2010/11 saw Torquay reach the League 2 play-off Final, before being defeated by Stevenage and a season later reached the play-offs again, only to lose to Cheltenham Town over the two legs.
Former Wales defender Alan Knill was appointed Torquay United manager at the end of the 2012/13 season after taking over mid-way through the campaign from Martin Ling. Knill, who picked up a solitary cap for Wales in 1988, was born in Slough, and began his career at Southampton, before moving to Halifax Town in 1984. Spending three years at the Shay, Knill appeared over 100 times, before moving to Wales to sign for Swansea City. Two years with the Swans and Knill was on the move again, this time to Bury, before playing for Cardiff City, Scunthorpe United and Rotherham United, before ending his playing career in 2001. His first managerial role came at his final club, becoming caretaker manager in 2005, Knill was soon appointed the permanent boss at Rotherham soon after, however, was sacked in 2007 after a string of poor results left them bottom of League 1. He took over as Bury manager in 2008, spending three years at Gigg Lane before Scunthorpe United took him to Glanford Park in 2011. Sacked from the Iron in October 2012, Knill was out of management for four months; Torquay taking him to Devon, where he kept them in League 2 before being announced as the permanent successor to Martin Ling.
Staines-born goalkeeper, Michael Poke, is likely to be the club’s number one again this season. The 27-year-old, who has had a number of loan spells at Plainmoor in the past, has previously spent time at Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion. Poke joined the Gulls on a permanent basis in the summer of 2012. Former Exeter City ‘keeper, Martin Rice, is the man who will be battling for the goalkeeper’s shirt in 2013/14. Rice, who has also played for Truro City, returned to Torquay in July 2011, after playing nine times for the club between 2007 and 2009. Australian, Aaron Downes, is likely to line up in central defence, alongside ex-Leyton Orient man, Brian Saah, if the 26-year-old signs a new deal with the Gulls. The experienced Kevin Nicholson will line up at left back. Club captain Lee Mansell will be in central midfield, as will Ulsterman, Ian Morris. If he decides to stay with Torquay, Rene Howe will no doubt be in the goals again after an impressive couple of seasons on the Devon coast.
After an impressive loan spell with the Gulls, Billy Bodin’s stay at Plainmoor turned into a permanent one when Martin Ling signed the youngster from Swindon Town in the summer of 2012. Bodin, who came through the Wiltshire side’s youth ranks, is the son of former Wales defender, Paul Bodin, has played for the Welsh under-21 side 15 times. The 21-year-old has also had a spell on loan at Crewe Alexandra at the back end of the 2011/12 season.
After missing out on automatic promotion the season before last, most were predicting the Gulls would be up there again. However, this didn’t go to plan, and although the club looked safe throughout the first half of the season, a dismal February, which saw the club lose all of their seven games in that month to drag themselves towards the danger zone. Fortunately for Alan Knill and his side, they won twice and drew once in their final three games of the season, staying up at Barnet’s expense on the final day of the campaign.
Although Alan Knill still hasn’t brought anyone into the club, he has wasted no time in making changes, releasing the likes of right back, Joe Oastler, Daniel Leadbitter, former Blues midfielder Craig Easton, Ryan Jarvis, who has since moved to York City, and long serving winger, Danny Stevens.
BLUES vs. TORQUAY UNITED:
Blues and the Gulls played out a 1-1 draw in March. Freddy Eastwood gave Paul Sturrock’s side a ninth minute lead, only for Joss Labadie, on loan from Notts County, to tap in from close range on the stroke of half time.
Blues: Bentley, Clohessy, Straker, Reeves, Mohsni, Mkandawire, Lund, Hurst, Laird, Eastwood (Tomlin, 73), Assombalonga
Unused: Smith, Spillane, Leonard, Spicer, Woodyard, Njie
An excellent first half performance set Blues on their way to a 4-1 victory at Plainmoor. Blues took the lead in Devon through Gavin Tomlin in the 10th minute. That advantage was doubled by Britt Assombalonga six minutes before the interval, the striker racing clear before putting his effort past Martin Rice in the Torquay goal. Assombalonga grabbed his second just before half time, heading home a Kevan Hurst cross, and then former Torquay man, Gavin Tomlin earned himself a brace when he tucked away a fourth goal for Blues. Ryan Jarvis scored a consolation for the Devon side in the 52nd minute but that was as good as it got for Martin Ling’s side.
Blues: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker (Prosser, 69), Mkandawire, Timlin, Hurst, Laird, Assombalonga (Eastwood, 84), Tomlin (Corr, 66)
Unused: Bentley, Martin, Spicer, Woodyard
Torquay United are 9/1 to win promotion this coming season.