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In Focus: Robins v. Gulls

31 January 2013

Fan and columnist Murry Toms looks ahead to this weekend's big game after an exciting week.

Torquay United will tomorrow make their ninth trip to the Abbey Business Stadium to bring the curtain down on an absorbing week at Cheltenham Town Football Club.

In have come a raft of new faces as manager Mark Yates aims to revitalise his side's promotion push.

It's increasingly congested in and around the play-off zone ahead of this weekend's round of matches, and a win would haul Torquay back into the picture after a recent wobble.

The Gulls looked good value for another tilt at the play-offs having held eighth position at the start of December, but a wretched run of results saw the Devonians slip to 17th before Monday night's match.

But in defeating arch rivals Exeter City at St James' Park, thanks to Rene Howe's first-half penalty, they brought to an end a run of six matches without a win and are forcing themselves back into promotion contention.

Now sat in 13th place, a fourth away success of the campaign this weekend would inch them closer to the top seven, a fact not lost on manager Mark Yates from his pundit's seat at the derby contest four days ago.

Honours are fairly even between the pair in the league since 1999, with Cheltenham winning five and Torquay six. There have been six draws.

At Whaddon Road the advantage firmly sits with the Devon side, who have lost only twice in eight league visits and won on Valentine's Day last term en route to the play-offs.

Unfortunately from their perspective, they left themselves with a mountain to climb after a first leg 2-0 defeat in Gloucestershire, Jermaine McGlashan and Ben Burgess with the goals.

Rene Howe limped out of that match in the early stages and missed the return fixture at Plaimoor, but the powerful striker has returned this season with 13 goals and represents the primary threat to the manager's new-look central defence this weekend.

Burton Albion and Northampton Town's charge to the summit have usurped Cheltenham as the division's most prolific performers at home, but with eight wins and four draws in 14 matches at the Abbey Business Stadium, Yates' side is no rollover.

They've sat in the top five since mid-October, despite stuttering in recent outings.

Yates though is searching for his first win in 2013 and will hope his replenished squad will draw a line under a run of eight games in which there has been just one win (against Wycombe Wanderers on Boxing Day, 4-0).

The two sides shared the points after an entertaining 2-2 draw at Plainmoor earlier back in August.

Shaun Harrad handed the Rubies the perfect start but two goals in as many minutes, by Aaron Downes and Howe, turned the game on its head before the break

Fortunately Chris Zebroski salvaged a deserved point ten minutes from time on a fine, late summer's evening in Devon.

Will the new recruits help kick-start Cheltenham's campaign tomorrow? Get yourself down to the Abbey Business Stadium and welcome the new boys to town.

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