City might as well just hand Cheltenham the points, as it’s obvious that even when Paul Tisdale’s side knocks on the door for large chunks of the game there is no way a positive result will ensue. With the disappointment of a good performance resulting in nothing on Boxing Day, attention turns to a rare Sunday fixture and a local derby with Torquay. Tisdale sprung something of a surprise with his selection for Cheltenham with Craig Woodman the odd man out as Pat Baldwin returned, pushing Jordan Moore-Taylor to the left. Otherwise it was pretty much as expected, with Tom Nichols once again impressing up front and David Wheeler putting in an enterprising display on the right. With a congested schedule of four games in 10 days, however, Tisdale may look to keep things fresh and with that in mind there may be starts for the likes of Jimmy Keohane, Sam Parkin and John O’Flynn, while Matt Gill shook off a knock to complete the Cheltenham match and will look to celebrate the news he is re-signing permanently in January by continuing to spearhead the midfield.
It’s fair to say that after surviving on the final day of last season, Torquay supporters expected better this time round with Alan Knill given the job full-time after stepping in for the ill Martin Ling in the second half of last season. Unfortunately this hasn’t led to an improvement in fortunes, although the Gulls go into the big local derby on the back of a three-match unbeaten run, having beaten Southend and Dagenham & Redbridge and drawn with Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day. Key to this form has been the loan signing John Marquis, the Millwall striker having scored two of the three goals in their mini-run. Top scorer is Jordan Chappell with five goals, while ever-present Lee Mansell will as always look to pull the strings from midfield.
Last season saw, due to a postponement, the two fixtures between the sides take place a couple of weeks apart from each other, and the only goals were penalties. The match at Plainmoor saw a late Alan Gow spot kick cancel out Rene Howe’s early penalty, while the Sky cameras were at the Park to witness Howe settle things from the spot to give Shaun Taylor’s Torquay a scrappy 1-0 win that saw City throw the kitchen sink at the Gulls without success. It is City, though, who have the overall league head-to-head lead, with 39 wins to Torquay’s 34 (31 draws).