Head coach Gary Owers has challenged his improving Torquay United squad to lift the club out of the National League relegation zone before Christmas. The Gulls travel to Play-Off chasing Tranmere Rovers on Saturday after taking seven points from three unbeaten games, without conceding a goal.

Then they take on Owers’ hometown club Gateshead in a rearranged game at Plainmoor next Tuesday – and that’s the night he hopes to see United out of the bottom-four.

Over the last fortnight United have won at current NL leaders Sutton United (1-0), beaten Leyton Orient (3-0) and helped to knock Aldershot Town off the top of the table with a 0-0 draw at Plainmoor at the weekend.

Because Gateshead have asked their game to be brought forward (from Dec 23), United’s only other fixture between next Tuesday and Christmas is an FA Trophy First Round tie at home to Maidstone United (Dec 16).

Owers’ belief that United will stay up has never faltered.

“I wouldn’t have come here if I thought we were going to fail,” he said. “We are doing all right now, and we have a big game coming up at Tranmere.

“Again we will be the underdogs, but we believe we can go there and win. But with the Gateshead game being brought forward next week, that could be a big night.

“We are going to be playing when the other teams aren’t, so that could be the night that sees us out of the bottom-four for the first time.”

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