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Torquay United captain Lee Mansell defiant in the face of relegation

20 March 2014

By Tony Leighton

It's d?j? vu of the worst kind for Torquay United captain Lee Mansell as he battles to help his team avoid relegation from Sky Bet League 2.

In 2006/07 - the midfielder's first season at Plainmoor - the battle was lost as the Gulls finished bottom and dropped out of The Football League.

Two years later they returned via the Conference Play-Offs, but after then twice going close to promotion up to League 1 they are once more in big trouble.

Lying bottom of the table, five points below the safety places and with just nine matches remaining, the signs are not looking good for the Gulls.

But Mansell, who has now played almost 400 games for the club, is feeling far more optimistic than he was at this time in 2007.

The 31-year-old midfielder told football-league.co.uk: "The club is in a totally different situation to my first season and I'm confident we can stay up.

"In my first year here the club was in turmoil - we had five different chairmen and four different managers, so there were wholesale changes going on.

"If a club is not right off the pitch, the chances are that it won't be right on the pitch and that's how it was with us in a very disappointing season.

"This season has also had a lot of disappointments, but we're slowly but surely piecing things together under our new manager and confidence is building."

Manager Chris Hargreaves, appointed in January, is particularly well known to Mansell after having played alongside the former striker on many occasions.

The pair were team-mates at Torquay, where Hargreaves was skipper, and before then at Oxford United, the club from whom Mansell joined the Gulls.

Mansell said: "It was very strange having Chris come in as manager, partly because he's not only a former playing colleague but also a good mate.

"On the day he came in we sat and had a long chat, and the friendship had to go out of the window in terms of him now being the boss and me his captain.

"And that's working fine. He was a really good captain himself, and I learned a lot of things from him that these days I use in my own captaincy.

"He's a winner and he's trying to instill that into the playing squad, a squad that I reckon should be good enough to have us at least in mid-table."

Sadly for the Gulls, that mid-table potential has not been realised this season and they now have a nine-match run-in to try and secure survival.

Two wins in their last three matches have brought precious points, however, and Mansell is looking ahead in determined fashion as the end of term looms.

His own self-confidence will have been boosted through scoring his first goal in 13 months during Tuesday evening's 2-1 victory over Bury.

"That was a huge result for us," he said. "It tightened up the gap between ourselves and the teams just above us, and they'll be starting to get nervous.

"We've got to play the majority of those sides in the run-in, and if we can build on recent form - which I know we can - then we'll keep ourselves in the League."

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