Danny Leadbitter poised to make his first start for Torquay United against league leaders
Danny Leadbitter is poised to make his first Football League start, replacing suspended right-back Joe Oastler, when Torquay United try to topple npower League Two leaders Gillingham at Plainmoor tonight.
Manager Martin Ling confirmed that the 22-year-old will get the nod in defence, but he would not reveal whether he will make more changes in the wake of the Gulls' 3-2 defeat at Bristol Rovers last weekend.
"Danny did well when he went on for the second half on Saturday and, after a nervous 20 minutes, when he started against Yeovil Town last week," said Ling.
"He has now got a big test, especially as he'll probably be up against a player in Chris Whelpdale who has showed he can play at a higher level than this division. But it's going to be a big test for whatever eleven I send out.
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"Gillingham are on fire at the moment – they've only lost one game all season – and they're unbeaten away from home.
"Along with Port Vale, they are one of two teams who seem to be running away with it at the moment."
United's inconsistency was frustrating Ling. Now he says: "The thing that's annoying me, and I don't think I'm getting paranoid about it, is that we still haven't had back-to-back wins since March."
Several players confirmed that Ling, who rarely does 'teacups' in the dressing-room, ripped into his team at half-time at Bristol after a first-half which prompted him to use phrases like "pretty damn rubbish" and "terrible".
"They know it wasn't good enough, and we need to have more backbone than that," he added. "Against Gillingham, we'll need to be more at Accrington level [United beat Stanley 3-1 ten days ago] rather than the first half at Bristol Rovers."
Even down to ten men after Oastler's two-card dismissal, United managed to claw their way back from 2-0 down to 2-2, with goals from leading scorer Rene Howe and defender Aaron Downes, before Rovers clinched victory with Tom Eaves' second goal in the 76th minute.
But, with nearly all the teams around them dropping points as well, United's League position remained largely unchanged at the weekend – they are still a point off the play-offs and four behind the third automatic promotion spot.
They also pit an unbeaten home record against the Gills' unbeaten away run.
Ling can certainly make changes if he wants to. Apart from Oastler, only long-term injured duo Ian Morris and Lloyd Macklin are absent.
Torquay United (from): Poke, Rice; Leadbitter, Saah, Downes, Nicholson, Mansell, Easton, Craig, Lathrope, Bodin, Howe, Jarvis, Stevens, Cruise, Yeoman, Thompson, McKenzie, Halpin, Baker, Artemi.
Unavailable: Joe Oastler (suspended), Ian Morris (Achilles tendon), Lloyd Macklin (broken metatarsal).