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Torquay turn focus to Northampton after another postponement

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 09, 2014

Chris Hargreaves

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ATTENTION at Plainmoor is already focused on Tuesday's vital League Two showdown between Torquay United and Northampton Town after the Gulls suffered a third successive home postponement against Bury on Saturday.

More than a month after his appointment, new manager Chris Hargreaves is still waiting to send United out at home for the first time, and all eyes at Plainmoor are on the weather forecast ahead of the key midweek game.

Former manager Alan Knill is due to return to Torquay – he was only sacked on January 2 – as assistant to the Cobblers’ new boss, Chris Wilder.

United have already had to re-arrange games against Northampton and Burton Albion (February 25), and now they must find a new date in an already busy March for the Bury match.

Torquay have seven games next month anyway, and the problems over the Plainmoor pitch will force Hargreaves and his players into an even more demanding schedule as they try to haul themselves out of relegation trouble.

With the Bury players and staff already in Torquay, West Sussex referee David Phillips delayed his final decision on Saturday until 12.20pm after a morning in which the ground staff tried desperately to convince him that the pitch was playable.

The weather was not quite as bad as expected, but there were still enough showers to keep undermining the hard work, which was concentrated on the two problem areas on each side of the pitch, which have caused such concern in recent weeks.

Phillips made one inspection at 9am, and after finally calling the game off he said: “The fact is that the whole pitch is very wet, but I also have major concerns about one or two areas.

“There is an issue about players’ ability to turn, even without being challenged, and I am concerned about their safety.

“The forecast is not good, and the likelihood is that conditions will get worse, not better, during the rest of the day.”

United manager Hargreaves said: “In my day as a player a few years ago, I think we’d have given it a go in those conditions, but referees have to make decisions on pitches on different criteria now.

“So I’m not going to criticise this decision, because I appreciate that the referee was in a difficult position.

“We have to accept it and, hopefully, get the Northampton game on.”

As it happened, the weather hardly improved during the afternoon, and the strong wind would also have made things even more difficult for the players.

Results elsewhere were reasonably kind to United. Mansfield Town were the only team in the bottom half of the table to win, beating Southend United 2-1 at Field Mill.

Everyone else drew and, instead of playing more games than most of their rivals a few weeks ago, that situation has turned round for Torquay.

It is now a question of whether they can take advantage – when Plainmoor allows them to.

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