The wait is nearly over, as Gary Johnson’s men open up their 2019/20 National League season against Boreham Wood at Plainmoor following their National League South championship success last season.
With a number of eye-catching performances and results in pre-season, manager Johnson made a point of highlighting the support his side have continued to receive throughout the close season, as Johnson has challenges his side to repay that faith.
“The supporters have been great since I’ve been here, It’s gradually grown and the interest is growing,” said Johnson.
“People seem to be confident about their team and enjoying their team, and being part of Torquay United. You can see that when I’m walking down the seafront or in the hotel, people bump into you and you can feel the expectancy and the excitement of our fans. We’ve got to try and produce to ensure they enjoy their football season.”
After winning the National League South last season, a new challenge faces Johnson’s men this season.
“We know it well enough, we’ve done a lot of homework on the first few clubs and certainly done a lot of work this week on Boreham Wood and Solihull so I’ve got good staff and they do a lot of homework where the opposition is concerned and we feel that nothing will surprise us really, hopefully we can surprise the opposition.
With eight matches scheduled in August, United will be looking to hit the ground running, but will face a tough test on the first weekend of the season, against a Wood side that reached National League Promotion Final the season before last.
“He’s a good young manager, Luke Garrard, he’s put quite an experienced team together there. Sometimes an experienced team does well in the National League, as they did the season before last, they struggled a bit last year, I’m sure Luke will have his reasons for that but they’ll always be competitive, always, and you’re going to need to compete. It will be, for sure, a competitive game.
FOCUS ON: Boreham Wood
Who’s the boss?
33 year-old Luke Garrad became the youngest manager in the top five divisions when he replaced Ian Allinson in October 2015. A former apprentice with Tottenham Hotspur, Garrad enjoyed playing spells in the league with Swindon Town and AFC Wimbledon, as well as non-league stints at Bishop’s Stortford and Northwood prior to his arrival at Meadow Park. His time in charge of The Wood has seen the club repeatedly defy the odds by holding their own in non-league’s top flight, culminating in the promotion near-miss at Wembley in 2017/18.
How have they been doing?
It took Garrad’s side some time to recover from their heart-breaking Wembley defeat against Tranmere Rovers, and The Wood failed to match those heady heights last time out. The side eventually finished in 20th place, just one place above the relegation places.
Player to watch
The Wood completed a transfer coup by fighting off a number of other clubs to secure the services of 21 year-old Congolese striker Kabongo Tshimanga this summer. Tshimanga was on a number of club’s radar, following his impressive form for United’s National League South rivals Oxford City last season. Quick and powerful, Kabongo’s 24 league goals saw him named in the division’s ‘Team of the Season’
Joining Tshimanga in relocating to Hertfordshire this summer, is former Gulls striker Tyrone Marsh. Marsh, who has also played for Oxford, Ebbsfleet, Dover and Macclesfield, notched 7 goals in 18 league games for United during a seven month spell with the club at the beginning of the 2015/16 season. Still only 25, Marsh will be looking to fulfil his undoubted potential this season.
United and Boreham Wood have been regular opponents over the last four seasons, and the two sides met last season in a dramatic FA Trophy first round tie at Meadow Park. Despite being reduced to ten men following Ruari Keating’s dismissal, United took an early second-half lead through Saikou Janneh. The Wood eventually equalised to force extra-time, and following a red card for Kyle Cameron, the home side made their numerical advantage count to secure a 3-1 victory.
Torquay United v Boreham Wood | 03/08/19 3pm KO | National League | Plainmoor, Torquay, TQ1 3PS |