DEVON DERBY COUNTDOWN: Skipper warns of tough test
CAPTAIN LEE Mansell has warned Torquay United fans to expect a much tougher challenge than last season when local rivals Plymouth Argyle come to Plainmoor for Saturday’s first Devon derby of the campaign.
Wins at home (3-1) and away (2-1) gave the Gulls their first League ‘double’ over the Pilgrims for 41 years in 2011-2012.
But skipper Mansell said: “Argyle are a completely different entity from what we played last season.
“They were struggling badly money-wise and having to bring kids in then.
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“We had just turned the corner when we beat them at Plainmoor, it was our second or third win on the trot and we had found the formula which helped to push us on for the rest of the season.
“I remember that first win over Plymouth pushed up the league a few places, and we went on a run then
“But Plymouth have got a stronger ‘spine’ now, with some older players in their squad, and there is a bit more stability down there.”
Mansell, 29 and in his seventh season at Torquay, then revealed that he would swap success against Plymouth and Exeter City for promotion any day.
“There’s a Devon ‘Mini-League’ going on this season, and we know how much it means to the fans,” he said.
“A lot of supporters deemed last season a success just because we beat Plymouth over two games.
“We didn’t see it that way, because we missed out on promotion in the end.
“I know it will be a fantastic atmosphere on Saturday, and we’re all looking forward to it.
“But for the players it’s all about where we finish at the end of the season.
“As long as we get promoted, I couldn’t care less who comes up with us.
“Saturday’s three points are just as important as any others.
“Once you’ve got 45-50 points as quick as possible, you can really start to enjoy your football and think about pushing on for the promotion places.
“This first derby comes a fair bit earlier than it did last season.
“We’re not entirely there yet in terms of our best form, even though we are more than a match for anyone in this league. Let’s hope that Saturday helps us into top gear.”
United manager Martin Ling, whose team is one of only two unbeaten teams in League Two, has several fitness doubts to resolve before naming his side.
He will definitely have Aaron Downes back from a one-match suspension, and the Aussie centre-back is likely to take over from 18-year-old ex-trainee Kirtys McKenzie, who made his debut in last week’s 1-1 draw at Port Vale.
But Ling will wait as long as possible before making decisions on midfielder Craig Easton (groin) and winger Danny Stevens (thigh).
Saturday’s match will see Plainmoor’s biggest gate since the opening of the new ‘Bristow’s Bench’ grandstand.
The Bench has pushed the capacity up to nearly 6,500, and Argyle have already sold their 1,500-ticket allocation. The game is not all-ticket for United supporters.