United face another huge challenge on Saturday, as Wealdstone become the latest in-form side to face Gary Johnson’s men.
As ever though, the United boss is keen to keep changes to a minimum.
“We’ll do what we always do, and that is we’ll keep the equilibrium of everything,” said Johnson.
“I don’t want to change the way we are doing anything at the moment. Obviously sometimes you might have to make a change here or there for slight injuries, or someone who’s not quite right, a bit of tummy-ache or something, but it is a massive game, the next two games are very, very big games. They’re all big games but the way the league is at the moment, we’re coming up against two teams that have got big ambitions to stay, at least, in the play-off positions, and if we can get a couple of results against those two teams then it will put us in a fantastic position going into the Woking game.”
The Torquay substitutes bench has provided the side with a timely boost in recent weeks. Ryan Dickson, in particular, has helped swing a number of games in United’s favour. Johnson feels this illustrates the strength in depth his squad possesses.
“I think if you look back since I came, I think I’ve nearly always used two or three subs anyway, it is a squad game, it’s very important, you’re only as strong as the boys that you’ve got on your bench and whereas some bench players don’t want to be classed as impact players, sometimes as in Ryan’s case at the moment, he’s been a great impact player for us. I’ve already had this chat with him, I’m not going to give him the tag of an impact player but at the moment because of his long injuries etc etc, that’s where he finds himself and he can go to sleep each night knowing that he’s had a big, a very big, say in our last few games.”
With a small, close-knit squad, fitness and flexibility are both key ingredients to a successful side. To this end, the United boss was quick to praise his staff for their attention to detail.
“It’s a big bonus, we try and make sure our training regime is right, there’s got to be hard work, but you’ve got to know when to rest them, and me and my staff are pretty experienced in man management. We’ve got a very good physio in Dan [Feasey], who is not shy in telling us if we need to step off the gas a little bit and that’s working very well, because if you’ve got a small squad, you’ve got to look after them, and that’s what we’ve done and I think there’s none of them that can say they haven’t felt a part of it. You cross your fingers sometimes, but we’ve got insurances policies in as much as if we lose a key player or something, but I also feel that we’ve got players in the squad that can cover each other. We believe that we’ve got utility players that are pretty comfortable in quite a few positions, so that’s good. It means that generally we won’t necessarily need to bring one in if we get an injury to a key player, we’ve got one on the bench, and then we can adjust from there. We’re pretty comfortable going into the last seven games but these next two home games are when everybody’s got to be 100% ready to be involved and to push this club nearer to where we want to be.”
With so many eventualities still possible, the only thing certain is that Johnson will be leaving nothing to chance when preparing his team for the battle ahead.
“We’ve discussed scenarios, if somebody does this and we do this, then this happens, they need to know that because I’m not sure all players think like that. We’ve given them the scenarios and at that point you can take each game at a time, because they know that if you put all your efforts into this one, then the next one becomes a different scenario, and then the next one is even more different. As you get towards the end of the season you’ve scenario’d every conundrum. That’s what we’ve done, and we’re not only educating them on the field with their football, we’re trying to educate them in their thinking, their reasoning and their understanding of the maths of a league table. That’s important, so they’ve taken on board that. They all get it, and they’re all looking forward to getting to the next scenario.”
Having already done the league ‘double’ over title rivals Woking, Johnson’s men have a tough prospect in store against a Wealdstone side that has lost just once in their last 14 matches. The gaffer is keen to strike a balance between educating his players on their opponents, and focusing on their own game.
“They’re a good side, Wealdstone. I think they’ve changed quite a bit since we were there previously. They’re going for it, that’s for sure, they’re definitely going for it, and they want to get as high as they can. They’re a dangerous team. I can’t remember the last non-dangerous team we played! The boys are handling it very well and that’s why it’s about what we do now against Wealdstone and Chelmsford and then they’ll have to deal with what we do. We’ll still tell them the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses but if we play our game and get our game going then we’re a very difficult team to play against.”