TORQUAY United away is one of the marquee fixtures for Weymouth this season in the Vanarama National League South.

The differences between the sides are there for all to see, with the Gulls a full-time outfit more accustomed to the EFL and the National League, whereas part-time Weymouth beat the drop to Step 3 by the skin of their teeth last season.

However, with vitriol aimed at Torquay owner Clarke Osborne and experienced boss Gary Johnson, can Weymouth get the better of their Devon counterparts?

We spoke to Dominic Roman of fans’ group Torquay Talk, plus Torbay Weekly editor Jim Parker, to get the lowdown on the fifth-placed Gulls.

NW: “Torquay seem not to have started the season as impressively as Yeovil and Maidstone, two of the other relegated sides. Why do you think this is?”

DR: “After relegation we did keep many of the players that finished 2022-23 quite well, and with the continuity that gave us we were hoping for a fast start, but despite promising signs it's been a bumpy ride so far and I feel that things needed more freshening up. The same issues from last season have repeated themselves, with the manager under pressure again and struggling to find a settled way of playing, whilst the players are lacking consistency in their performances and have too often been out-battled by determined part-time teams. On the plus side, we have only drawn one game, so the league position isn't looking too bad, but overall there's a frustration and feeling that everyone could and should be doing better.”

JP: “I think the issue was with last year and coming down, a lot of the established players Gary lost and he had to rebuild a team from scratch which is not easy getting in the experienced players. He’s had to get lots of new players in, which has not helped the cause. I’m not saying they’re not good enough but they’ve got young players finding their feet in professional football and that’s been an issue.”

READ MORE: How big would a Weymouth win at Torquay United be?

NW: “Has the unrest surrounding Clarke Osborne and Gary Johnson affected performances?”

DR: “The supporters have become frequently fed up about the club and where it's going, I'm not sure though if that's affected the players. Supporters have still got behind their team at Plainmoor and away from home. There has been annoyance and anger, with Gary Johnson the main target, and that stems from us getting relegated last season and some comments he's made about supporters, so the atmosphere has been on a knife edge, especially with the team either winning or losing this season.”

JP: “I don’t think so, they’re professional people. It doesn’t help the cause, absolutely, but at the end of the day they’re all human beings and, in particular, Gary. I know Gary’s been here for a long time and will have faced that unrest and that feedback from fans before. But, for me, it has become very personal with Gary and Clarke and the CEO George Edwards. Social media is that anonymous frenzy that you can attract sometimes. It’s got a little bit out of hand, I think. The club brought it to a head this week by talking to the Supporters’ Trust and Clarke giving his first interview to us in several years, which has helped ease relations going forward, fingers crossed.”

NW: “Do you think Torquay are a better side this season than last?”

DR: “Not really! I think if we were in the National League now we'd be around 22nd-24th again. No disrespect to the current crop, but there's very few who would stand out in the National League and many are struggling to make much of an impression in the National League South. Performances have been very similar, we've just been playing poorer teams.”

JP: “Again, it’s that building from scratch. It’s that mix of seasoned pros and ones learning the game at that level. It’s trying to get that balance. Whenever Gary’s wanted to bring in a player, the club have said: ‘Yes’. There’s a will and a want there to support Gary and his efforts to get players in. You take the lad (Callum) Dolan who only played (six) games, he came in from Fleetwood and you could see he was a class above the rest, with all due respect. He was a really good little player and he’s now been recalled. That’s what you get, he’s immediately made an impact and exactly the player Torquay want, entertaining, up and down the pitch, looking to score goals, a real dynamo in midfield, he plays a couple of games and is recalled.”

NW: “Who are Torquay’s main dangermen Weymouth must look out for?”

DR: “Bradley Ash, of course. The striker had a poor run of form between September and October, but has recently bagged a few goals, including a smart finish last Saturday. Lewis Collins is a player we had high hopes for this season, but he has yet to score a goal, that must change at some point. In midfield, Brett McGavin is capable of scoring a beauty from outside the area and Jack Stobbs is a busy winger who is capable of making something happen.”

JP: “The interesting thing at the moment is (Aaron) Jarvis their centre-forward has been injured for the last few games. He’s out until at least the New Year, so they’ve got that issue up front. They do miss Jarvis as the main target man but (Dillon) da Silva is always good to watch out on the right-hand flank. He’s dangerous when he plays and they could maybe get him involved more but you need him and Jarvis for that two-pronged attack.”

NW: “What formation and style has Johnson deployed this season?”

DR: “The formation and style has yoyoed around from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 to 4-1-3-2, need I go on. It was I think a 4-5-1/4-4-2 on Saturday, with Brad Ash the main man up front and Lewis Collins closest to him. With injuries and player form, Gary has struggled to find a settled formula.”

JP: “He’s trying to play football, passing it to feet, the long ball he’s never been keen on. You can see he wants to play from the back, play neat one-touch football and getting in the other team’s box. Sometimes it’s frustrating to watch and sometimes you think why don’t they play a long ball? But again, it’s that lack of a target man up front that makes you think that’s why he’s trying to pass through midfield.”

NW: “Brad Ash has obviously made the summer switch from Weymouth to Plainmoor. Now we’re four months into the season, what’s the verdict on him?”

DR: “I like Brad, he's a very busy player who constantly harasses defenders and wants to be involved, plus he's got a trick or two in his locker and is capable of a strong finish. He has however missed a number of chances this season. including some real sitters, and also doesn't get his head up early enough in possession. So, a mixed bag, but his attitude and effort is always there, and we appreciate that.”

JP: “He’s gone down a bomb, he played on Saturday at Tonbridge and for me was one of the players of the match. He ran his socks off, he’s got a big heart, doesn’t give up, does bit at the back, and he’s gone down as a fans’ favourite. I liked him on Saturday, he showed a lot of guts.”

NW: “Torquay win, draw or Weymouth win – which result are you backing?”

DR: “I'll say 2-1 Torquay. Fitness-wise a few players were hobbling around on Saturday, so the line-up will be difficult to judge and we didn't play very well against Tonbridge, despite the win.

“But we'll hopefully have enough quality to beat Weymouth, with Ash hopefully scoring against his old team.”

JP: “I’m going to say a Torquay win, I’ll say 2-0.”

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