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Is Ryan Jarvis Torquay's missing link?

Saturday 3rd March 2012
After two consecutive losses in League Two and a tough game at Crawley Town in the pipeline, Torquay United fans are hopeful that Martin Ling's latest signing can prove to be the Gulls' missing link.

Jarvis has joined on loan from League One club Walsall, but spent five years at Norwich City at the start of his career. There, he became both the Canaries youngest ever player and youngest goalscorer, netting his first goal in professional football in a 2-1 loss to Watford on 15 November 2003. Further success followed after Norwich's promotion to the Premiership in 2004 allowed Jarvis the chance to play, and  score against Liverpool in January 2005. It was his first Premiership goal but it would also be his last, suffering the fate of a perennial loanee soon after. Less than three months after playing in Norwich's 3-0 defeat at Villa Park on 15 January, Jarvis had joined Colchester United on loan and was competing against Doncaster in League One.

That goal against the Reds would prove to be the high point of a career that has since seen Jarvis loaned to six clubs, only having permanent deals at Leyton Orient and Walsall since leaving Norwich. Although his career has seen him gradually drift down the leagues, success with Torquay in his brief spell could reignite a career that had such promise. His journeyman career is best illustrated by the fact that he has never scored more than ten league goals for any of the clubs he has played for.

Jarvis arrives at Torquay as an alternative to first-choice strikers Rene Howe and Taiwo Atieno. Although the Gulls have overachieved so far this season, even reaching the summit of the table for a brief period during the match against Bradford, their season is in danger of tailing off due to the lack of a proven and regular goalscorer. While Jarvis has not been prolific at any of his previous clubs, at Torquay he could be benefited by build-up play that has been praised for its intelligence and creativity, but has often lacked the finish.

Neither Howe nor Atieno has managed to reach double figures in the league this season, the Gulls instead relying on midfielders such as captain Lee Mansell and winger Danny Stevens to chip in with decisive goals. The fact that defenders Kevin Nicholson and Mark Ellis are respectively Torquay's fourth and sixth top scorers this season highlights the need for more firepower.

Even during the seven-game winning streak that catapulted the Gulls to a secure play-off spot in February, many games were won 1-0. Victories by this margin were assured thanks to a strong defence, but since the departure of first-choice centre-back Chris Robertson to Preston, scoring one goal no longer appears to be enough to win games. This point was proved against Bradford. Torquay scored first, as usual, but were hampered by both a weakened defence and an inability to score more than one in a game, a feat which the Gulls last achieved on 21 January against Morecambe.

Manager Martin Ling may decide to use Jarvis as an impact sub to turn to when a game is getting away from them. Ling himself has admitted "when I've looked behind me to the bench in the last couple of games I've felt we needed another attacking option" and the increased competition for places in the attacking third may also bring the best out of the club's other strikers. With young forwards Ashley Yeoman and Ray Spear loaned out early in the season, Atieno and Howe's competition was almost non-existent, but the arrival of Jarvis will keep them on their toes.

Jarvis may face his first test away at Crawley today and could well prove himself up to the task of being Torquay's much-needed goalscorer. Torquay fans certainly hope so.
Dan Rawley

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