MANAGER Alan Knill was quick to follow Torquay United’s best win of the season with a warning – that the Gulls must follow up Saturday’s 1-0 upset of promotion-chasing Southend United.
“We have had false dawns before, where we’ve done well, and then the next game hasn’t been up to the same standard,” said Knill after loan striker John Marquis’ second goal in successive games had beaten the Shrimpers, who were third in League Two before the start of play.
“We have to have this type of performance every week,” the Gulls’ boss added. “We all know how important it was.
“The last two weeks have given the players and the staff a chance to breathe and refocus. Obviously, what we were doing wasn’t working, so we had to do something else. That’s what we did.
“We’ve done a lot of work on a new shape, and I thought we were good value for the win.
“At Scunthorpe [where his side lost 3-1], we were too open in the middle of the park and, once we knew that [on-loan striker] Jayden Stockley was injured, we decided to strengthen the midfield.
“I thought we looked really competitive in there. When you’re in a dog-fight, the first thing you have to do is fight.
“Southend have been on an unbelievable run, but you have to be brave, you have to do the things that we think we’re good at.”
Knill acknowledged the solid displays of Anthony O’Connor and Aaron Downes at centre-back, but he also focused on the match-winning display of Marquis and a key decision to recall Michael Poke for Martin Rice in goal.
Of Marquis, the Gulls’ boss said: “He’s scored two in our last two games, but it isn’t just that – it’s his work-rate.
“A lot of times it looks like it’s a centre-half’s ball, but it never is. I know as a centre-half that I wouldn’t want to play against him. And it was a great finish with his left foot for the goal.”
Of the Poke-Rice decision, Knill stressed: “It was a tough call, one of the most difficult I’ve had to make, and it was tough talking to Martin.
“He has been fantastic for me, but sometimes you have to make these calls as a manager.
“As always, Martin took it as he should have taken it – he wasn’t happy, but he said he would support Michael as ever. He is a really good person to have around the club.
“Fortunately for me, we had an important clean-sheet and it’s worked out well.”
Southend boss Phil Brown said: “My reaction is bitter disappointment.
“It was an unrecognisable team performance today, from last week at Chesterfield [where his side won 3-1 in the FA Cup].
“To a man, you can’t say that any individual played well.
“We tended to go ‘route one’, maybe because of the conditions, but they are only going to get worse through the winter.
“It’s all about ‘bottle’ and pressure – we didn’t handle the conditions or the opposition.
“Today it was all about the battle, and you’ve got to give Torquay credit – they are fighting for their lives, and they won the battle.
“I think Torquay stepped up to the plate and the challenge of keeping their manager in work.
“I know what my ambitions, and the chairman’s ambitions and the club’s ambitions, are, and I want the players to have that ambition as well.”
In the stand on Saturday were two managers watching their old clubs – ex-Torquay boss Paul Buckle and Paul Sturrock, who has managed both Southend and Plymouth Argyle.