All posts tagged 'Andy-Hessenthaler'

Gills hoping change is for the better

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, October 17 2013

Changing the manager mid-season can often produce an instant impact but Paul Scally’s management changes haven’t always reaped rewards.

Martin Allen’s dismissal came about with the Gills on course for relegation. With just nine points coming from their opening 11 games the Gills chairman acted early.

Scally’s mid-season changes have gone wrong more times than right but at least new manager Peter Taylor has time on his side. He may be here on an interim basis but he remains odds-on to get the gig permanently, irrespective of results in the next few weeks.

Only a disastrous run of results will see Scally turn elsewhere. The Gills chairman may well be leafing through a few CVs but none are likely to better Taylor’s.

The managers from Scally’s early days, Tony Pulis and Taylor – during his first reign – both ended their spells at the end of a season – both following differing fortunes at Wembley.

Andy Hessenthaler – taking over from Taylor - may have guided the Gills to their highest position ever in their history but in 2004 his time was up. A 4-1 defeat at Crewe led to Hessenthaler’s departure, after the manager and chairman had a frank discussion about which direction the club were heading.

In came Stan Ternent and although the results improved, the situation didn’t. Hessenthaler had left the club sitting second from bottom, with 15 points from their opening 20 games, with their only wins coming against Leeds, Preston, Burnley and Wolves.

Ternent almost doubled the points-per-game ratio but too many draws proved costly. Many wished he had come in earlier, as the Gills dropped out of the Championship by the narrowest of margins. Just a single goal separated themselves from Crewe, who were safe.

Neale Cooper was next in the hot-seat, as Ternent returned back home up-north, following his first ever relegation. Cooper’s reign was short-lived and painful. An embarrassing FA Cup exit at Burscough was followed by a limp performance at Walsall and that was enough for Mr Scally to send the Scotsman packing.

Gills were sitting 21st in League 1 with 17 points from 17 games. This time around the new manager at the helm would have plenty of time to put things right. And no-nonsense Ronnie Jepson did just that. A six-game winning run towards the end of the season helped to keep the Gills comfortably safe from relegation, finishing 12 points clear of the drop, in 14th.

For Scally, it had turned into a shrewd move, although few chairmen would have kept Cooper in a job after a poor effort. Bad signings led to bad results and his hasty exit.

Jepson’s side finished the following season in 16th but Mr Scally was quick to act after a difficult start to the 2007/08 season. With five defeats from Gills’ opening six games, Jepson was gone. Gillingham were sitting third from bottom.

After a prolonged chase, Mark Stimson finally wriggled out of Stevenage and arrived at Gillingham at the start of November. Many of his trusted non-league stars followed him, creating a divide in the camp instantly. It also created a divide amongst the fans. Gills won just seven games that season under Stimson with the club getting relegated in the same position than which Jepson left – third from bottom.

So what now? Gills are sitting 17th and with just two wins behind them. Fortunately Taylor comes into a squad that seem united and up for the fight. It’s doubtful there will be many changes to personnel, although the football might change, with less long-ball and more freedom to express going forward.

Scally has acted early and few managers have as much experience as Taylor. There won’t be any more bold statements about smashing this, or smashing that. If the Gills are still sitting 17th at the end of the season, then it will be a change for the good.

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

Crucial period ahead for Gills

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, February 7 2012

BY this time next week we could well have a much clearer picture of which way Gillingham’s season is going to pan out.
With two games scheduled in three days it could well be a defining period.
First up is a trip to a Burton side who have wobbled of late but are having a surprisingly good season.
The toughness of that trip could rest on how well some of the Burton players are recovering from injuries, with strikers Billy Kee and Justin Richards on the treatment table recently.
The Gills follow up Saturday’s trip to Burton with a home game, live on Sky, against second placed Southend.
These aren’t the kind of games you need after conceding eight goals in your last two games.
For Andy Hessenthaler’s men they should be looking at four points minimum. Any less and those play-off places might start looking like a distant dream.
Hopes of automatic promotion should now be forgotten and only the most optimistic of fans can hope the Gills can gatecrash that party. It would need an incredible run of results now, indeed the Gills will need to double their current points tally to stand any hope, with just 19 games left.
The Gills are already nine points off sixth placed Torquay and with Accrington (8th) and Oxford (7th) - who hold the final play-off position at the moment - meeting this weekend, the gap between Hess’s men and the play-offs would definitely grow, if they don’t get a win at Burton.
At the start of the season the Gills set themselves a rough target of two points a game, on average, to achieve promotion.
That was assuming they would need 80 points plus to get into the automatic places.
Their current points to games ratio is just over 1.5.
If they keep going at this rate then they’ll finish the season with 68 points, which would be the same as they finished last season.
Fans won’t be happy to see the team not only miss the play-offs again but also make no progress.
Last season that points total just enabled Torquay to scrape into the final play-off spot, having had a point deducted for fielding an ineligible player. They finished above the Gills on goal difference.
What is for certain is that Gillingham need to improve or the season will be another one to forget.
Only once in the last decade has a points tally lower than 68 bagged a club a play-off spot, when Lincoln got on board with just 66 points after becoming the draw specialists. They did, however, only lose 10 games. That’s how many the Gills have already achieved.
Points tallies aside, the Gills now have two massive games to focus on.
Two defeats and the play-offs will be a struggle, a draw and a win and there is hope, two wins and it’s game on again.
Let’s hope it’s the latter.

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

Hessenthaler's defensive dilema

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, January 24 2012

 Gillingham defender Matt Lawrence

After conceding six goals in two games Andy Hessenthaler snapped on Saturday with a verbal volley at his defenders.

Four avoidable goals against Wimbledon at the weekend led to him threatening to bring in the youngsters.

But now after making that threat will he go through with it?

The danger is that Hessenthaler could make a bad situation worse by bringing in untried youngsters and we’ve already seen it before.

Following the disaster that was the Dover FA Cup game last season, Hess hauled in Callum Davies to play against Crewe, in the following league match.

Just 28 minutes into his debut Davies saw red after Crewe’s Clayton Donaldson was tugged back by the young defender. Gills went onto lose 3-1.

Hessenthaler, who made his players watch the DVD of the Wimbledon game on Sunday morning, is now talking up the return from loan of Connor Essam to inject some youth into his back-line.

Essam has been playing for Dartford during the last month or so and will make his final appearance for the Blue Square Bet South side tonight (Tuesday) at Staines. He could now find himself in the starting line-up to face Accrington on Saturday instead of facing Thurrock for Tony Burman’s play-off hopefuls.

Connor has been with the Gills for some time and is now a second year pro. But in his 18 months of being among the first team he has not even made a substitute appearance.

Is it wise to bring him into an already nervy team at a place as unforgiving as Accrington?

But then when is a good time? He is clearly talented, hence the second year contract he was handed in the summer, and if he isn’t going to be given a chance then what’s the point?

He could be joined in the back four by Simon King, who before injury looked destined for bigger and better things than Gillingham, but has barely been seen in the last two years. Fitness could be a problem, but again, it could be a case of now or never for King.

No doubt young Davies will also be knocking on the manager’s door this week but if none of those players get a shout they may as well start looking elsewhere for football.

Hessenthaler is in a no-win situation now. If he drops Lawrence, Garry Richards or Joe Martin he may lose their respect. After all, until recently the defence were performing well. But if he ignores the others in his squad then they will be asking what more they need to do.

It’s going to be a pivotal moment of the season this weekend.

The automatic promotion places are already looking like a long shot and unless Hessenthaler can quickly establish a solid system at the back even the play-offs could slip from their grasp.

The Gills haven’t lost three league games in a row this season and the last place Hessenthaler will be wanting to go is Accrington, where 18 months ago his team conceded seven.

Hess said this week he was in the market for an "athletic" defender in the ilk of Nyron Nosworthy. But looking for a player and signing one are two completely different things.

Changes are inevitable at the weekend but it will be a brave move for Hess to tinker too much.

He is under pressure to get results, he knows the score, but he’ll need to show the fans and perhaps more importantly the chairman that he is taking assertive action to put things right.

The braver move for Hess, and arguably the sensible move, could be to stick with the same defence and give them a chance to prove the doubters wrong. Saturday’s team-sheet will certainly make interesting reading this weekend, whoever he chooses.

Picture: Barry Goodwin

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

Who will be the winner from the Rooney saga?

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, January 17 2012

LUKE ROONEY is all set for a move to Swindon Town but who is the winner here?

For the Gills they look set to get an unexpected January cash windfall while Town get a young player with undoubted talent.

It is likely that talks and a medical will be concluded one way or another on Tuesday.

The problem for Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio will be how he gets the best out of Rooney.

Only fleetingly have Gills fans seen him at his electric best. When he is good, he is a pleasure to watch, but all-too-often we have seen him let frustration get the better of him.

Rooney, who turned down an offer of a new deal with the Gills, has the problem that afflicts all players at this level, a lack of consistency.

On Saturday, and the week before against Stoke, he showed exactly what he is all about at the moment. He came on to do what he does best, as an impact sub. He doesn’t like the tag but since he progressed into Gills’ first team his most dangerous displays have been when coming on against a tiring defence.

Against Stoke he nearly scored a blistering goal, after side-stepping two markers, only to be denied by a good save. He did the same against Shrewsbury on Saturday as he produced a shot at goal - something the rest of the team had failed to do in the first 70 minutes.

He has the ability to get people off their seats and excite but he is a luxury player at present.

Neither team are likely to reveal the full details of the agreement made, but I’m sure if the Gills got £150-200k then they would be happy. I doubt they would get so much in the summer when he would leave for a fee set by an FA tribunal.

But if fans are expecting an injection of cash into Andy Hessenthaler’s transfer pot then think again.

The budget was already maxed out before Jo Kuffour agreed a contract until the end of the season and Gavin Tomlin checked in on a half-season loan.

If anything the money will be used to level out the deficit and off-set a few debts.

Hessenthaler, if he is lucky, may be afforded the luxury of just one more player.

We await to see if Di Canio can turn Rooney into a genuine star player and how well a hot-tempered player (on the pitch) and the equally hot-tempered manager can hit it off. That, of course, is on the assumption that Rooney and his dad can broker a deal.

They clearly felt the Gills were under-valuing him. But Rooney is still someway off making even 100 appearances at first team football (61 at present) and the 21-year-old is nowhere near the finished product. Only time will tell who is the winner on this one, but at present I think the Gills will be feeling pretty comfortable about the situation.

Whatever the thoughts are about Rooney’s decision, however, nobody should question his desire to help Gills succeed out on the pitch when he played. He is a real winner and a nice lad as well.

Players come and go in football and all he is doing is looking after number one now, as we all do. Let’s hope it’s the right decision and I personally wish him luck.

 

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

Rooney facing uncertain future

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, November 22 2011

Luke Rooney had dominated the headlines this week for all the wrong reasons in a saga that would usually be reserved for the circus that is the Premier League.

Judging by comments on the situation from Gillingham fans there seems to be large-scale support for the club’s stance but how much damage could the episode do to the club or the player.

After Gills’ first half performance on Saturday no doubt many will say he wasn’t missed but when Chris Whelpdale started limping late on at Aldershot the list of possible replacements looked slim.

Gillingham came into the season with limited resources out on the flanks and Rooney’s omission will leave them short of numbers further still.

Could Gillingham’s hard-line approach to the situation hinder the team or is Rooney more of a luxury player that won’t be missed?

Rooney, who is out of contract in the summer, has only just started to earn a right to call himself a regular first team player but if the contract talks remain stalled then he could well find himself sidelined for the next six months and joining the hundreds of players looking for a new club in the summer.

Because of his age Gillingham would still be entitled to compensation if he joins another club so they seem to be the ones with the least to lose.

Rooney is a likeable lad and always very approachable and nobody should doubt his appetite for the game and determination on the field. But he seems to have made a grave mistake this time around by listening to his representatives or perhaps his own ego.

As we don’t know what he has been offered it would be wrong to label him a "money grabber" as some have done. For all we know the offer may be derisory and he is well within his rights to say, thanks, but no thanks.

But with Jack Payne agreeing to a deal last week it seems that the Gills were prepared to entice both young players with reasonable deals to stay. Had both declined than perhaps there would have been questions over just what was offered.

Rooney’s last contract extension was protracted after the Gills offered him three years and he eventually accepted two after a long delay.

It appears that the Gills aren’t willing to be as patient this time around.

Rooney really needs to sign the deal and get back to concentrating on improving his game. He has looked a more rounded player this season but six months on the sidelines will do nothing for his career. He could be in danger of going backwards.

If he signs and then does well the big boys will soon start calling and he can then start to make demands but right now, with his career in its infancy, he should take what he can get and then prove that he can harness his undoubted skill and make it big.

Gillingham are League 2 and Rooney is currently a League 2 player who has yet to claim a "key man" status so it’s still too early for him to be calling the shots.

Let’s hope he, his representatives and the club can come to agreement quickly, because Rooney is a quality player and Gillingham will benefit from that. Sitting in the stands will be a shocking waste of talent that the Gills have worked so hard to nurture.

Of course, he could already know, via his representatives, that another club are willing to pay him what he wants…

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Kuffour signing key for Gills' promotion push

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, November 15 2011

GILLINGHAM are aiming to keep Jo Kuffour on a permanent basis and that deal could well prove to be one of the most important of the season for the club.

Boss Andy Hessenthaler has instructed the Gills chairman to do the business and bring Kuffour to Priestfield on a permanent basis, after the striker’s impressive first five weeks at the club.

Bristol Rovers’ loss has been Gillingham’s gain after the livewire forward hit a hat-trick last week to help beat Northampton - taking his goal tally to five goals from eight games since arriving on loan from the Pirates.

He has not just contributed goals but has also given summer signing Danny Kedwell much-needed support in attack.

Before Kuffour the Gills lacked sharpness upfront and had nobody with experience to help fill the void left after Adam Birchall was left sidelined for the season with injury.

Kuffour has been a Gills target for some time and he has been a class act in the eight games he has played. The way he tore apart Torquay’s defence at Plainmoor showed he has the skills to make a mockery of League 2 defences - as he did again against Northampton.

Without him, the Gills just haven’t got the attacking presence upfront to sustain a promotion charge.

League 2 defenders are not used to the kind of movement that Kuffour possesses. He is quick, alert and intelligent and enjoys working off a big man like Kedwell. He is ideal for Gillingham and hopefully Gillingham will be ideal for him. He has already decided he wants to stay near to his London home permanently and he has clearly got the hunger back after moving to Priestfield. Hopefully he and the Gills can come together and sort out a long-term solution.

Fellow West Ham forward Frank Nouble has also made a valuable contribution but his loan can only be extended for a further month before he must return to the Championship side. Short term loan rules mean he can stay for a maximum 92 days. Hessenthaler is due for talks this week with Nouble to keep him until mid December, having already had positive vibes from Ian Hendon (West Ham development manager) and Hammers boss Sam Allardyce.

Kuffour and Nouble both return for the Gills this weekend and both will be back in the starting eleven.

For Gillingham fans the sight of Kuffour back on the field will be a big boost and now they will be hoping the club can get the business done behind the scenes to keep the striker at the club permanently.

His current deal may not expire until the end of December but if he keeps scoring goals and making things happen then other clubs will start sniffing around.

Gillingham must act fast to get their man. He is a striker who can make a real impact in League 2 this season - with or without the Gills.

 

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Dons defeat the sign of things to come

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, October 4 2011

EYEBROWS were raised on Saturday as "little" AFC Wimbledon battered the Gills into submission.

Under-estimating clubs coming up into the Football League is an easy mistake to make and just ask fans at Grimsby, Lincoln and Darlington if they think the Conference is a walk in the park.

Teams dropping out of the Football League have struggled in recent years while those coming up have had little problems in adapting to life outside of non-league circles.

There is an abundance of quality in the Conference Premier and AFC Wimbledon proved on Saturday that they may not be a recognisable force but they are worthy to be competing at League 2 level, and possibly above.

Clubs facing relegation from League 2 can be easily swallowed up after falling out of the trap door and that indicates how strong teams like AFC Wimbledon have to be to claw their way out of non-league.

Last season’s relegated teams Stockport and Lincoln have won just five games between them this season from 26 after struggling to adapt to life outside of League 2.

Since the two-team relegation from the bottom end of the Football League was introduced there is an abundance of clubs struggling to reignite former glories.

Grimsby were once regulars in football's second tier and often caused cup shocks, while ex-top flight side Luton, Stockport, Cambridge United, Mansfield and Wrexham are all facing tough competition to regain their Football League status. Scarborough and Chester City ended up going bust.

Next season we may well be seeing Fleetwood Town, Braintree or Gateshead and although not recognised names to the general football public they will no doubt come into League 2 aiming at the top end rather than the bottom.

Between the 2000/2001 and 2005/2006 season of the 10 teams relegated, six regained their league status, with Carlisle and Exeter now playing in League 1.

In recent years, however, the non-league scene has been transformed with full-time players, with only a handful of teams in the Conference Premier now operating on a part-time basis. It has narrowed the gap between the top of non-league and League 2 massively.

In the last five seasons Lincoln, Stockport, Grimsby, Darlington, Chester, Luton, Mansfield, Wrexham and Boston have all been relegated with only Torquay regaining their status. Life outside League 2 is tough and some argue the standards at the top of the Conference are superior to much of what is served at the bottom of League 2.

Gills boss Andy Hessenthaler rightly described his team’s defending as like a "circus" on Saturday but he was also quick to praise Wimbledon and their boss Terry Brown.

After managing Dover for several seasons he knows that quality doesn’t stop at the 92 league clubs. The Dons may have come from non-league but they are no mugs and anyone who underestimates those from below are going to be continually shocked.

Gillingham were beaten by a better team on Saturday and with plenty more talented sides waiting for their chance those at the wrong end of League 2, like fallen giants such as Bradford, won’t want to be the next to fall into the abyss never to be seen again but that is something which could easily happen.

 

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Local hot-shots shouldn't be overlooked

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, September 27 2011

GILLINGHAM have made it clear they will be keeping a close eye on local talent after missing out on some high profile players in recent years.

Boss Andy Hessenthaler will be hoping another Chris Smalling doesn’t slip through the net and at present they don’t have to go far from home to see some quality talent just waiting for a chance to impress.

The Gills recently plumped for West Ham’s Frank Nouble to give their attacking options an immediate boost but the club will no doubt also have noticed some familiar figures doing the business upfront in the lower leagues.

Raw talent needs nurturing, so it was no surprise Hessenthaler went for someone of Nouble’s stature for a quick fix, but in the long run he could be turning to some of Kent’s top non-league sides as he did when he went back to Dover to land Adam Birchall.

As Danny Kedwell is proving, since getting his dream move to the Gills, it can be a long route into the professional game but there are so many players out there just waiting to show what they can do.

At Ebbsfleet they have an attacking threat in Michael West who would no doubt do the business at a higher level. He came through Fleet’s youth set-up and has grown into a key player for Liam Daish’s side.

He’s a skilful player, hampered by injury this season, who loves to run at defenders. Although not a striker, he knows where the net is. His goals in last season’s successful Blue Square South play-off campaign were crucial.

It wasn’t long ago that Charlie MacDonald was banging in the goals for the Fleet. He was linked to the Gills but ended up at Southend and then Brentford. He reportedly cost MK Dons £1m this summer and has hit three goals in eight games so far.

Andy Pugh, meanwhile, who was released by the Gills in 2007 has become a big hit at Welling since taking a step backwards. The 22-year-old top scored for the Wings with 17 last season and has 10 in 10 so far this season. He is quick and skillful and will surely be back in the league some day.

Another former Gillingham youngster, Frannie Collin, has netted double figures for Tonbridge Angels and will be just as determined to prove that he has developed and is ready for another shot at the big time.

Charlie Sheringham meanwhile has the name, thanks to his father Teddy, and is fast developing a good reputation at Dartford. He has 11 goals to his name already and after spending his younger days with Tottenham he has been brought up to play decent football.

Dartford have certainly produced some talent in recent years. Cody McDonald wasn’t there very long but they cashed in when he went to Norwich City just a few years after wing-wizard Dave Martin moved to Crystal Palace.

Kent may not be awash with top teams but is developing some good footballers and the Gills need to remain alert so it’s them that benefit and not others.

Chris Smalling went from Maidstone United to Manchester United and the Champions League in the space of a whirlwind three years, which included a £10m move from Fulham to Old Trafford. Despite going to Chatham Grammar he bypassed his local club completely.

Young defender Jack Baldwin moved from Faversham to Hartlepool in the summer, despite brief interest from the Gills. Will he prove to be another that got away?

Clearly the Gills can’t sign every half-decent player in Kent but the good thing is that Hessenthaler has made a point of keeping in with the locals, by spending the summer playing numerous pre-season friendlies and loaning a number of players to local clubs. It is unlikely local talent will by-pass Priestfield so easily in the future and the next big star could be turning out in blue and not elsewhere. Just who can make it remains to be seen.

 

 

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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

What has happened to fortress Priestfield?

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, September 13 2011

IN recent years the big question among Gillingham fans has been ‘why can’t the team win away’.

The worrying trend of late is the team’s inability to impress on home soil.

Home form is crucial to anyone’s hopes of success and at present things at Priestfield are not going to plan.

An opening day win over Cheltenham gave everyone high hopes of success this season, and those certainly haven’t been written off yet, but since then the form on home soil hasn’t been great.

The 3-0 win over Plymouth may look good on paper but the two penalties converted by Danny Kedwell gloss over what wasn’t the best of performances against a team crumbling into oblivion due to financial problems.

A failure to do the business on home soil isn’t confined to this season but seems to have rolled over from the previous one.

Last season the Gills narrowly missed out on a play-off spot after successive 4-2 defeats to Barnet and Macclesfield. That had followed draws against Morecambe and Hereford. All four games were certainly winnable.

So what’s gone wrong at home?

It wasn’t long ago that Priestfield really was a fortress. The 2009/10 season saw the Gills sweep aside the likes of Southampton, Leeds, Huddersfield and Millwall. It really was a place to be feared.

Unfortunately that was a time when the Gills were the small fish in a big pond. Teams weren’t coming to Priestfield shutting up shop but going out for the win. At the time it suited Gills’ attacking style at home.

They enjoyed teams coming at them because with a fired up crowd behind them they had the confidence to exploit the space left and make the most of it.

Nowadays, back in the basement division, the Gills are no longer small fry.

Most of the opposition journalists, when I speak to them, admit their side will be just happy to take what they can from Priestfield. A draw at Gillingham in League 2 is thought of as a big result.

Managers will always say they are going to a win but League 2 teams appear to be heading to Priestfield with some basic instructions to their players. Number one would be to stifle the Gills and frustrate.

Once frustration sets in the players start over-playing and forgetting to do the basics. Some players try to be too clever and then the spiral of frustration just gets worse.

Gills boss Andy Hessenthaler has been banging the ‘patience’ drum into his players and that is key. At the moment it seems clubs are coming to Priestfield and disrupting play. There has certainly been a lack of quality this season, not just from Gillingham.

An early goal is always key to settling a side down and drawing opponents out of their shell. Opposition will protect a 0-0 draw all day long, but 1-0 down, they will have no choice but to leave gaps at the back.

So when Burton arrive in a fortnight let’s hope the Gills players come out positively and keep doing the basics. Smart-arse play won’t get them anywhere.

One or two wins and then the team will be flying. It’s still early days in the season and the Gills shouldn’t be written off yet.

Defeat to Burton though won’t go down well with the home fans who are fast deserting their team.

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Payne of a dilemma

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, September 6 2011

Gillingham must make do without Jack Payne for the next month through injury and that could be cause for concern.

Medial ligament damage to his knee will leave him sidelined for several weeks.

Payne may only be 19 but he is fast becoming a key figure for the Gills and his brief absences this season have already proved costly.

The youngster’s substitution at Rotherham, because of illness, was followed by a monumental collapse and his departure at the weekend preceded another break down in the team’s ability to defend.

His knack of breaking up play as the extra man in midfield has frustrated many teams this season. His bite and appetite to win the ball back has been key to keeping teams quiet.

With Payne doing the dog work in a five man midfield it should also allow the likes of Curtis Weston and Charlie Lee to break forward and help Danny Kedwell upfront. Unfortunately that didn’t quite work out against Shrewsbury, but that wasn’t Payne’s fault.

When he went off at Rorherham there was a tidal wave of attack that the Gills just didn’t look capable of stopping. It ended 3-0, it could have been four or five.

So what will Gills boss Andy Hessenthaler do now that he has lost his barrier between the defence and midfield?

Reverting to 442 and adding an extra attacker hasn’t worked for the Gills so far this season, but now they have Chris Whelpdale back and, most important fit, it gives them a proper option on the flank. Luke Rooney, fired up by an impressive showing last week, adds another natural option out wide. It means Hessenthaler is not putting round pegs into square holes anymore.

If Hessenthaler wants a replacement for Payne then his best bet looks to be Danny Jackman. He was unlucky not to start the season after doing as well, if not better, than Joe Martin at left-back in pre-season.

He can play midfield, albeit ideally at the left side of a diamond, but no doubt he would just be pleased to be off the subs’ bench again.

It all seems to be resting on whether Hessenthaler can do business in the transfer market.

If a new striker arrives, and the signs are looking more promising now, he is likely to go 4-4-2 against Accrington at the weekend, with Kedwell being joined by the new man.

At least Hessenthaler has options but he will be cursing the loss of another key man. First Adam Birchall and now Payne.

Danny Kedwell apparently has a bang on the knee. Fans will be praying they don’t lose him as well.

And with no spare keeper Ross Flitney better be careful or the Gills may be bringing coach Ron Hillyard out of retirement, although Hessenthaler does rate Matt Fish as an excellent shot-stopper.

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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

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