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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Big Match Preview

Torquay United vs. Cheltenham Town
Sunday December 26, 15:00, Plainmoor

It's a localish affair down on the English Riviera this Boxing Day as Torquay United host Cheltenham Town with both sides gunning for a place in the League Two play offs.

The two teams are separated by just a single point and place as they lie either side of the cut off point for the end of season play offs in 7th and 8th place respectively.

For the visitors from Gloucestershire, manager Mark Yates celebrated a year in charge at Whaddon Road this week and things couldn't be more different from when he first took over.

Twelve months ago, Cheltenham sat in 21st, and were fighting relegation. Now they travel to the South West challenging to reclaim the place in League One they lost in 2009.

It's been a dramatic turn around in fortunes in the Cotswolds - and they have impressed on their travels this season, too.

Indeed, only Bury have scored more goals on the road than Town this season, with 17 notched up in their 10 away games. Wins have been attained at Aldershot, Accrington, and Macclesfield.

They also come into the game four games unbeaten away from home. However, they have tasted defeat on the road at Barnet, Chesterfield, Bradford, and in an extraordinary 6-4 loss at Rotherham.

Key for the Robins has been striker Wes Thomas. The bargain buy from Dagenham during the summer is the club's top scorer having found the back of the net on nine occasions.

Mark Yates has turned Cheltenham from strugglers into play off candidates

Hosts Torquay have enjoyed a strange season to date, but the Devon side find themselves in the top seven in their second season back in the Football League.

Paul Buckle's men topped the table in the early weeks of the campaign, however a nine match winless streak saw them slide down the standings.

Just one defeat in their last six has seen them recover though, and the Gulls will be hoping to maintain their fine form to ensure they remain in the race for a place in the end of season play offs.

For that to happen, they'll need to improve upon a record at Plainmoor which has been patchy at best. Wins have been achieved over Northampton, Bradford, and Morecambe.

However, Macclesfield, Aldershot, and Bury have all returned home from a trip to United with maximum spoils.

Outstanding performers for Torquay this term include striker Elliot Benyon, whose ten goals has seen him attract interest from clubs higher up the pyramid. Chris Zebroski also has six to his name and is another goal threat for Buckle's side.

With Cheltenham's decent away form and Torquay's erratic record at Plainmoor, this is a difficult game to call. Throw in a big Boxing Day crowd and the recent postponements both sides have suffered, who knows what to expect?

Will one side come out fresh and the other rusty? Will the game even go ahead and beat the snow? If it does, then I think this one has 'draw' written all over it.

Nobes' Prediction: Torquay United 1 Cheltenham Town 1

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