After nearly a month without a home game, United return to face Dulwich Hamlet at Plainmoor on Saturday.
Their opponents travel to Devon with the club in 18th position in National League South, six points above the relegation zone.
“We’re expecting a team that needs to win a game, as we do, they’re finding themselves quite low in the league table at the moment,” said manager Gary Johnson.
“They’re going to want to get two or three results to get away from the relegation line. They’re above it at the moment, I remember going to Dulwich and thinking they were a decent team. We scored two goals late on, but I’m surprised they are where they are because I think they’re stronger than their league position suggests”
With the last match postponed, the recent improvement in weather conditions is likely to see the pitch looking better than it has done for some time, although Johnson wants his players to be prepared, whatever the surface.
“It’s obviously looking better, you’re not going to get any grass growth in this weather so whatever is in front of us, or below us, we’ve got to do our best but I think that it’ll be better than it’s been in the previous couple of games for sure. It’ll be a lot firmer”
With back-to-back home games looming, the Gulls boss is well aware of the importance of maintaining the club’s fantastic home form, which currently includes seven consecutive home wins.
“It’s definitely key, we’ve got more home games than away games, your home games are the ones you’d like to think you’d win most of, hopefully. Then your away games become your important ones, because you’re not expected as much away as you are at home to win games. In true managerial saying, you’ve got to take each game as it comes, and that’s what you’ve got to do, and that’s what I do. Us, as staff, we don’t look further than the next game, you might have a little quick look but we certainly don’t get involved in future games, all our energies are in the next game. It’s definitely a crucial part of the season, March is always a crucial part of the season, and then you get your just rewards around about Easter time. You’ve got to put in the effort now and make sure you’re there when it comes to Easter.”
Although last week’s defeat at welling was a disappointment, Johnson is keen to look at progress made by the team in a few short months.
“Nothing surprises me, and you do get games like that when you go 1-0 down. It was a mistake by us, and so you can find yourself 1-0 down. Early on in the second half we had a great chance where Reidy and Jake did a great bit of play and Jake ‘scew-whiff’ed it when normally he puts it in the back of the net, so that would have got us back in the game nice and early. Then the fella’s got a wonder goal mid-second half and we get a sending off. It wasn’t going to be our day and you do get those days, whatever team you are, whoever you are, Man City, Liverpool, United, it’s all relative because of the level. We didn’t want to make it a disaster, we were disappointed of course, as we always are. We’ve got to remember that Woking were 10 points ahead of us when I joined, the fact that we’re only 2 points behind now is still miraculous so we’re looking to peg that back as quickly as we can but we’re certainly in the fight now.”
With United within touching distance of current leaders Woking, it is tempting to keep half an eye on results elsewhere. United’s boss maintains though, that other clubs could still have a large say in where the National League South title heads to come April.
“Well I think everybody, it’s human nature, will have half an eye on Woking, and the other half on Chelmsford, and then you’ve still got Bath, Billericay, Welling that still have enough games to make a go of it. They will all see themselves as having a chance of automatic promotion still, just, but they’ll also want to consolidate their position in the play-offs, because it’s still tight around there, there’s quite a few teams that still could break into a play off spot.”
United have no fresh injury worries ahead of The Hamlet’s visit, although centre-back Kyle Cameron will miss the game due to suspension, following his sending off last weekend.
“We’ve got a small, quality squad, which we want. Kyle is suspended so he won’t play, so that will be Olaf [Koszela] into the fray again, which is great. It’s always nice to give him some experience again. He’s been doing well in the Under 18s with Shaun [Taylor]’s team, scoring goals and looking good, so it’s another well done to him, the Under 18s, and Shaun, because they’ve kept him nice and bright, nice and fit and ready to be on the bench if we need him we won’t be frightened to bring him on.”
National League South | Torquay United Vs Dulwich Hamlet | 23/02/18 | Plainmoor | To order in advance click here.