Torquay United finally ended their mammoth seven-game losing streak yesterday, grinding out a 0-0 draw with fellow League Two strugglers Accrington Stanley. In doing so, Torquay avoided equalling an unwanted club record of eight consecutive defeats. The club have slipped down the league table since Martin Ling’s absence through illness, and their freefall began under assistant manager Shaun Taylor’s temporary reign before the board appointed former Scunthorpe boss Alan Knill in late February in a bid to stop the rot.
United are without a win since the defeat of Exeter on 28 January, and the seven consecutive losses since that game saw the side drop from a position of mid-table anonymity into the depths of an incredibly close relegation battle. Just two points now separate the Gulls from bottom club AFC Wimbledon, and although Torquay have the best goal difference of the bottom nine clubs, they unsurprisingly have the worst form of those around them.
However, the point gleaned from the draw with Accrington – themselves only one point above the drop zone – should provide a much-needed injection of confidence into a United side that has scored just twice in their last five games (and even that goal was heavily deflected!) and provide a platform for further improvement. Supporters will be hoping that ex-Bury boss Knill can use his contacts at Everton and Manchester United to deliver the handful of loan signings necessary to freshen up his squad, but as new Plymouth manager John Sheridan has found out, attracting players to clubs based in the South West is more of a challenge than some would imagine.
Indeed, despite previously predicting new signings to arrive before the Accrington game, Knill admitted earlier this week: “It is proving quite difficult [to sign players] but the players are definitely there. We’ve tried for about 10 players; some have said ‘no’ straightaway because the location is such that they don’t want to move.” Knill now has a full week to complete any loan deals before mid-table Oxford United visit Plainmoor next Saturday, and it is crucial that he delivers. Although goalscoring remains a huge problem, central defence cover may be a priority for Knill with key defender Aaron Downes sidelined for a further 2-3 weeks.
Elsewhere in League Two, the division’s other side in freefall, newly-promoted York City, have sacked manager Gary Mills after a torrid run of 11 winless games. Mills had been in charge at Bootham Crescent since October 2010 and guided the club to both promotion from the Conference and the FA Trophy last season, but his board felt a change was necessary after this weekend’s 2-0 reverse at home to Bradford if they were to avoid an immediate return to non-league football. The club’s directors must now move quickly to appoint Mills’ successor, with York now only four points clear of the League Two trapdoor, and with limited time for the new man to turn things around.