Martin Ling welcomes return to form by Ryan Jarvis as Torquay United prepare for derby
Torquay United manager Martin Ling believes that striker Ryan Jarvis's rediscovered confidence is a major boost for the Gulls as they head for St James' Park and tonight's Devon derby 'part two' against Exeter City (7.45pm).
Jarvis, who signed full-time for United last summer after a loan spell, has said he feels that his best form is finally returning after a stop-start season. "I'm going out now expecting to play well, and expecting to score. I haven't felt like that for a while," the 26-year-old former Norwich City, Leyton Orient and Walsall forward said last week.
Ling commented: "I think Ryan has turned his season around. He didn't have the greatest start, but he's probably been our best attacking player in the last few games.
"His career has stuttered a bit in the last few years – I think that's the right word.
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"I think Ryan is a confidence player – you look at his performances recently, compared to earlier in the season, and you can see that. But he's up to six goals now, and you can see he's playing with a lot more confidence."
Jarvis's latest injury – a cracked rib and punctured lung – kept him out for only a month, but he scored on his surprise return in the 2-1 defeat at Burton Albion two weeks ago, and he has a goal-every-other-start (eight in 15) record for the Gulls.
"I've played in every division in England, including the Premier League and the Championship, where I've done well, and I know I can play in this division comfortably," he said.
"It was hard for me to get in the team earlier in the season, and I think it took the gaffer a while to realise that I can play in the attacking midfield role behind Rene [Howe].
"Hopefully I can make it my own, push on and get amongst the goals. I hope I'm in the team against Exeter – I just can't wait to get going again and have a run of games."
Ling has another bonus as United, without a win in six matches, try to halt a postponement-assisted slide down npower League Two.
Pacy winger Lloyd Macklin, who only rejoined the first-team squad last week after three months out with a broken metatarsal bone in his foot, has been added to the squad.
"Lloyd has looked really sharp in training in the last couple of days, and he may be an option for the bench," said Ling.
United have played a 4-2-3-1 formation in recent weeks, and Ling is not expected to change things tonight.
"With so many games off, it feels like you're trying to rack your brains for when the last away game was," he said.
"But as an attacking force, we played well at Burton [on January 12], and we looked comfortable with what we were doing.
"We've got to be aware of what Exeter might do, and they have an ability to play two or even three different formations in one game. But we've got to feel right about our team as well, and it's all about round pegs in round holes.
"They are good on the ball if you let them, but if we play with a purpose and a tempo, we can get at them."
The one player who may not be his 'round hole' is young midfielder Nathan Craig, whom Ling has been playing on the right instead of his favourite position in the middle. But Ling explained: "Where we are at the moment, I think it's a necessity to have a bit more steel in the middle, with Craig Easton, Lee Mansell or Damon Lathrope.
"Nathan can still give us a threat from the right, because of his quality on the ball."
All four Devon derbies have finished in draws so far this season and, if United could break that pattern with a win, they would jump five places in League Two, still with games in hand on most of the teams around them. It would be a timely and much-needed lift after a flat spell over Christmas and the New Year.
Torquay United (from): Poke; Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson, Mansell, Easton, Lathrope, Craig, Jarvis, Stevens, Howe, Bodin, Cruise, MacDonald, Yeoman, N. Thompson, Macklin, Leadbitter, Rice (gk), Halpin, McKenzie, Baker.
Unavailable: Morris (injured).