Next Wednesday will mark Torquay United boss Gary Johnson’s 67th birthday, and despite their best efforts, his family and friends are unlikely to be able to top a win or, at the at least, a draw, at Wrexham today (3pm).
At the Racecourse Ground, where the Red Dragons (2nd), owned by Hollywood and with the largest budget in the National League, have won all four games thus far while scoring 14 goals and allowing three, odds as high as 10/1 have been placed against the Gulls (20th) winning.
A few victories can still move you from the bottom of the standings into the top half of the early-season leaderboard.
Johnson didn’t enjoy last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Wealdstone, either, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that United will need to play much better if they want to slow the Wrexham train down, especially in midfield and attack.
In a position where the squad has struggled thus far, United are rumored to add 20-year-old midfielder Scott Smith from Wigan Athletic to their list of loan acquisitions.
But they have demonstrated that they can defend resolutely away from home, defeating Southend United and FC Halifax Town (both 1-0). (2-1).
Similar pressure applied to Wrexham as it did to United last Saturday at Southend resulted in a scoreless draw. From that outcome, draw what you will.
Johnson reported this week that he and his assistant Aaron Downes haven’t just been doing more physical work in training. He has captain Asa Hall fully fit now, and center-forward Aaron Jarvis is not far off it.
Will Goodwin, a young striker on loan from United, is one player who is enjoying the occasion.
Goodwin began his professional career with Wrexham’s neighborhood rivals Chester City after being born in Cheshire.
He has never played at Racecourse, despite having faced them at the young level at the Deva Stadium, and a number of his relatives and friends will be there to support him.
Torquay’s challenge can be be gauged by taking a basic look at Paul Mullin and Ollie Palmer, Wrexham’s strikers.
They were lured out of League One last year from Cambridge United and AFC Wimbledon, respectively, on contracts that both clubs admitted were well beyond what they could afford. Mullin and Palmer have combined for 13 goals so far.
The whole Gulls team has collected six.
Luke Young, a former United captain, has played in midfield for Wrexham’s first team both before and during manager Phil Parkinson’s tenure, and his club would be competitive in this level.
He deserves a promotion back to the Football League more than anyone else.