In the spotlight: Torquay United

Fact File

Full Name: Torquay United Football Club

Year Formed: 1899

Nickname: The Gulls

Stadium: Plainmoor

Capacity: 6,200

2021/22 Finish: 11th in the National League

Review of the 2021/22 season

Torquay United looked to replicate their title charge the season before but suffered from play-off defeat hangover and were sitting in 17th by the start of October. The Gulls struggled to string together any sort of unbeaten run during the first half of the season. A three-game winning streak over Weymouth, Stockport County and Yeovil Town showed the potential of the side from the ‘English Riviera’. The second half of the campaign proved looked to have awoken Torquay with their form improving no end. From the start of February, the Yellows embarked on a seven-game unbeaten streak as they slowly crept up the table. Draws seemed to be the only thing from stopping Gary Johnson’s side from making a late push for the National League play-offs. A 1-1 draw away at Southend United on the final day saw Torquay finish in 11th – just eight points behind Chesterfield in that last play-off place.

Manager – Gary Johnson

You will struggle to find a manager in the National League who has won more than Gary Johnson in their career. The highly experienced manager has taken charge of teams in the Football League, in non-league and even at international level – with Latvia. He has had two spells with Yeovil Town winning the FA Trophy, the Conference and League Two before guiding the club to the Championship in his second stint after beating Brentford in the League One play-off final at Wembley Stadium. Johnson also won promotion to the Championship with Bristol City before gaining success in the National League system. After falling short of League Two safety with Cheltenham Town, the 66-year-old bounced back and steered the Robins back to the Football League at the first attempt. He also succeeded in bouncing back with Torquay United as they won the National League South title in their first season in the sixth tier.

Star Player – Asa Hall

Torquay United have lost a few of their key players over the summer however, Asa Hall has been one of the club’s most important players over the past few years. Before joining the Gulls in 2018, he gained vital Football League and National League experience. The midfielder joined the club whilst they were still in the National League North, and he enjoyed a wildly successful season as Gary Johnson’s side won promotion at the first attempt. His 2019/20 season was mostly hampered by injury before COVID-19 curtailed the campaign. Hall experienced his best year in a yellow shirt the season after as Torquay challenged for the title – he scored 15 goals in 44 games before they were defeated in the play-off final by Hartlepool. The Gulls’ 2021/22 season was more of a transition campaign with the 35-year-old still providing six goals in 30 league games.

Overall Head-to-head Record

P47   W20   D14   L13

Despite Chesterfield having a better head-to-head record over Torquay United, the Spireites failed to beat their counterparts in the 2022/23 season. Kabongo Tshimanga scored a second half brace in what looked like a comfortable win for the Spireites until added time goals from Armani Little and Tom Lapslie secured a draw for the Gulls. The reverse fixture was a lot more straightforward; Stephen Duke-McKenna and Little scored in the second half to give Torquay a 2-0 win at Plainmoor.

Played for both – Lucas Covolan

If there is one man who knows about beautiful country of Brazil, the English Riviera and now north Derbyshire, it is Lucas Covolan. He started his career in his native Brazil, signing his first professional contract with Atletico Paranaense in 2012. The goalkeeper had stints with other clubs in his home country as well as two years in Spain before moving to England. Covolan joined Whitehawk in 2016 and spent one year with the National League South club, including a loan spell with Lewes, before playing for Worthing for two years. The former Brazil U20 international signed for Torquay United in 2019 and enjoyed a relatively successful two seasons at Plainmoor. In his final campaign, Covolan helped the Gulls to the National League play-off final and scored a dramatic injury time equaliser before losing on penalties to Hartlepool United. The 31-year-old joined Port Vale in the summer of 2021 and played 22 times as the Valiants secured promotion to League One with a 3-0 victory over Mansfield Town in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium. Covolan made the move to Chesterfield in July on a season-long loan spell.