All posts tagged 'Gillingham-FC'

Has Scally's change of manager worked?

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, December 24 2013

Paul Scally’s decision to sack Martin Allen was a controversial one but is it looking like a wise one?

Allen’s replacement Peter Taylor has now been at the helm for 11 league games – the same number that his predecessor had.

The new manager had to work with a group of players drilled for 16 months to play a certain way, relying on power and pace, rather than players who may not be at ease playing the Taylor way.

Taylor may not have been able to get the team playing the kind of football he wants on a consistent basis but nobody can argue about the upturn in results.

After 11 league games at the start of the season under Allen, the Gills registered just a couple of wins, with an average of 0.82 points per game. Allen left the Gills sitting 16th in League 1 when he was fired following defeat at Shrewsbury.

Taylor brought in some new players but injuries have meant he has had to rely on youngsters Bradley Dack and Jake Hessenthaler to bring a bit of class to the team. And it seems to be working.

The pair have injected a fresh look to the team and that has been infectious.

Taylor’s 11 games in charge have produced five wins, nearly a sixth against Peterborough and five defeats, with an average points-per-game total of 1.45.

Is that because the opposition have been weaker or because Taylor has been able to get more out of this squad than Allen?

Taylor’s games have been against teams generally lower down the table. Allen’s 11 games have been against sides with an average position of 11th (going on current standings), while Taylor’s has been 15th. Not a lot in it really.

The win against a poor Sheffield United side has probably been the stand-out performance of the season and that was under Taylor’s watch. Allen would point to his team taking apart Crewe, winning 3-0.

What if the former manager had been given the funds to bring in four new players himself, like Taylor had? Would that have made the difference? He certainly needed extra in midfield, having missed out on several summer targets, including, apparently, John–Joe O’Toole.

Survival is the aim and on that score Taylor at least seems to be doing the business. And with injuries to most of his new signings, he has had to do it with Allen’s squad – minus the surely soon-to-be-departing Charlie.

Gills’ current position of 14th is as high as they have been all season and with 25 points already in the bag, the Blues are halfway to the magic 50, which should guarantee League 1 football next season. It would have done last season – just.

But on current form the Gills could end the season with 60 points – a tally which would have left them sitting 14th in last season’s table – which wouldn’t be too shabby at all. They haven’t finished a season that high since Ronnie Jepson led them to mid-table obscurity in 2006.   

There is certainly a lot more confidence in the team and in the stands at present but the festive season will be a great measure of just whether this team has progressed under Taylor. The top two teams in the division, Leyton Orient and Wolves, will both visit Priestfield.

Walsall are also in town and a trip to Stevenage won’t be easy.

Let’s hope the Gills can finally put on a decent show infront of the TV cameras for the Wolves game, which ends the busy period, and show everyone that things at Priestfield really are on the up.

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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Title shot may be just the beginning for Gills

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Monday, March 25 2013

Gillingham are in with a chance of claiming the League 2 title with five weeks of the season remaining.

But if they can hold onto top spot just which way will they turn.

Over the last 20 years the winners of the division’s basement division have gone in many different directions afterwards, from euphoric heights to catastrophic collapses.

Some of the winners of recent years have gone onto achieve great success, such as the winners in 2000, Swansea City.

A move into a new stadium coincided with bigger crowds and success on the pitch. Next season they will be playing European football after their Capital One Cup triumph over Bradford.

Twenty years ago it was their South Wales bitter rivals Cardiff City who were tasting the title champagne and it looks like the Premiership is within their sights now as they sit pretty at the top of the Championship table.

Wigan Athletic won that title four years after Cardiff, in a chase for honours that saw fellow Premier League side Fulham finish second.

Brighton have taken their time to reach their full potential - not helped by ground problems - but now in a new home they are chasing a play-off place in the Championship this season and building what is a solid club now at the AMEX.

But while there have been great success stories there have also been some clubs who have failed to make the most of their success.

Poor old Rushden & Diamonds won the league a decade ago but back-to-back relegations saw them drop into the Football Conference before they eventually folded under the weight of crippling debts.

Plymouth Argyle had won the title the year before Rushden and they too have suffered a tale of financial woes. Just two points separate them and the relegation places in League 2.

But for the majority of clubs who have won this League 2 title, they have at least held their own or gone onto bigger and better things.

Chesterfield came straight back down last season but few others have.

Of the last 20 title winners 12 (which includes two wins for Carlisle, in 1995 and 2006) are in League 1 and only two are playing in League 2.

Wigan and Swansea are having contrasting fortunes in the Premier League, while Cardiff and Brighton are both dreaming of reaching the top flight this season.

So for the Gills there is not just a title to aim for but much more. This could be the start of great times ahead. If Mr Scally can get his dream stadium as well, which will boost revenue and crowds, there is a fairly well trodden path to bigger and much better things ahead.

Now with six games left let’s hope the Gills can match what the team of ‘64 and take the title.

All-action fixture-list could benefit Gills

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Monday, March 18 2013

THE LAST few weeks of the season often sees a number of dead-rubber fixtures that mean little to either team.

But the fact that there could be something riding on every Gillingham game from now to the end of the season may well benefit Martin Allen’s side.

The sticky moments this season have arisen when teams have sat back deep, settling for a point.

But with Gillingham’s last eight games being against either promotion hopefuls or relegation threatened teams, nobody will have the luxury of settling for a point.

At the business end points aren’t going to be any use to anyone. It means teams will have to play more open football and that could suit the Gills, as they make the most of that space, like they did at the start of the season.

The rollercoaster starts this Tuesday night when the Gills visit a Rochdale side still needing points to steer clear of an ever-gripping relegation tussle.

Rochdale sit just above a six-way scrap, where only one point separates all six teams.

From Tuesday on it really is make or break for those sides facing the Gills.

Accrington, who visit Priestfield on Saturday, sit bottom of the league at present, with the worst goal difference. Only wins now will save them.

At the end of March the Gills head to a Fleetwood side in the last chance saloon as they chase a play-off place. Draws won’t do for them either.

April begins with the visit of a Rotherham side who still harbour ambitions of gate-crashing the automatic promotion party. Their visit is followed by the arrival of a Torquay side plummeting headlong towards non-league football.

In the first half of the season Torquay were sitting on the edge of the play-offs but with just one win in 18 they are in a desperate state.

In mid-April the Gills head to Cheltenham, where their former boss Martin Allen is sure to come under fire, after a disappointing stint there. The Robins currently sit fourth and could sneak a place in the top three.

Wimbledon are the last team to visit Priestfield and unless they sustain their recent good form, they too could be needing points to keep clear of trouble.

The excitement ends on April 28 when Burton Albion host the Gills. Hopefully by then everything will be done and dusted for the Gills, but for Burton, they may well be looking to take an automatic promotion place alongside Allen’s men.

None of those sides should be sitting back and so hopefully that means the Gills will have space to attack and finish the season off in style, just like they started it.

Chasing teams eye up top spots

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Wednesday, March 6 2013

GILLINGHAM and Port Vale have been left to their own devices in the battle for top spot but could all that be about to change?

With Port Vale stalling and Gillingham dropping vital points on home soil the door has been left ajar for others to join the party.

Rotherham look set to be the team best positioned to make a late charge with just a handful of weeks left between now and the season finale on April 27, but they are not alone.

The Millers are the form team, winning four of their last six, including a 4-0 win at Oxford on Tuesday night.

They could move to within a point of Port Vale if they win their game in hand over the long-time title challengers.

The last few weeks have been a massive disappointment for Vale, who have won just one of their last six, scoring just two goals in the process.

Even Tom Pope - with 27 goals so far - is struggling, as he hasn’t found the target in any of the last eight games. Is it any coincidence that his form has waned ever since the arrival of Lee Hughes.

If the results don’t turn quickly for Micky Adams’ side they may be finding themselves sucked into the play-off mix, as the likes of Exeter, Burton, Northampton and Cheltenham pull out all the stops for a late promotion push.

Cheltenham are unbeaten in six, with just one defeat in 12, but draws are slowing them down. A last minute win over Chesterfield in midweek leaves them in third but they have played more games than anyone else.

Nobody should take their eyes off Paul Tisdale’s Exeter side, who have quietly manoeuvred themselves into a good position. With four wins in five they are making up ground quick and could take over third spot with a win at Bristol Rovers on Wednesday night.

Exeter’s 3-0 win over Northampton on Saturday stopped another form team in their tracks. The Cobblers had been surging up the table before that heavy defeat.

Burton will be cursing themselves for losing so badly at Bristol Rovers, having won their previous four, netting 13 in the process.

Of the five teams below the Gills and Vale, in 30 games, there have been just three defeats between them, which highlights just what a concerted effort they are putting in.

The Gills’ form isn’t too shabby, with just one defeat in six, but any slip-ups and it seems that there are plenty of willing suitors to take over the mantle at the top.

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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Fresh faces make sense

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, February 21 2013

THE recent arrival of new faces was the breath of fresh air the Gills needed.

Michael Richardson and Ryan Williams may not be recognised names but their enthusiasm can be infectious.

The same can be said of Steven Gregory and Anton Robinson - two players itching to show what they can do after barely kicking a ball for their parent clubs this season before arriving at Priestfield.

Those arrivals coincided with the departure of the likes of Danny Jackman, Ben Strevens and Ross Flitney.

Not long before that, the Gills said goodbye to Lewis Montrose.

There is no doubting that these are good players but when good players don’t get games they get frustrated.

Just as that enthusiasm can give the team a lift, players who aren’t playing regularly and are down in the dumps can set in motion a wave of negativity.

It’s nothing personal, it’s just football.

Everyone wants to play and at this level sitting on the bench for some just isn’t an option.

For someone like Strevens he had to get games. In the summer his contract at the Gills was at an end and it was doubtful it was going to be extended.

So rather than join the mass summer cull, he’s gone early to make sure he has some money coming in from football next season.

The same has happened to Jackman, now playing regularly for a Kidderminster side who are flying in the Conference.

We have all seen what a quality player Jackman is, but if he’s not getting games then he’s going to start getting itchy feet. Does the Gills manager want a player in the squad who is unsettled or one who is young, fresh and full of beans?

The recent player changes may not have just been based on skill alone. Footballers want to play football and any footballer with a passion for the game will be annoyed when he doesn’t play.

That is not to say it’s what happened in this case but boss Martin Allen did admit himself it would be better for these players to leave for first team football.

So it was no surprise to see Gills boss let some good senior players go, to be replaced by youngsters who aren’t at the stage of their careers when they can be making any kind of demands.

It makes life off the field more harmonious and gives the likes of Strevens and Jackman the chance to start enjoying their football again.

The extra bonus is that a lot of these youngsters will be on a lot less money and if things don’t work out after 28 days they can be sent packing without any fuss.

Allen may not be finished in the transfer market this season. There is speculation he could make a loan offer to Sheffield Wednesday for young forward Harry Grant.

More youth, more enthusiasm and more energy helps keep everyone on their toes. It’s a mix that blends perfectly with the experience heads like Adam Barrett and Deon Burton.

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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Gills on course to smash record

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Wednesday, January 16 2013

IF Saturday’s match gets the green light and avoids the frost it could end up being an historical occasion.

Amazingly the Gills have only ever hit double figures in away wins once before in their history,

That came back in the 1984/85 season under the management of Keith Peacock, where the Gills won 10 and lost 10, while drawing the other three of their away outings.

This season the Gills are already on the nine-win mark, with 10 games left to go, so it’s a near certainty that the record won’t just be beaten - it will be smashed!

That 2009/10 season under Mark Stimson now seems like a long way off, when the Gills failed to win a single game in the road.

So why so good away?

Key to the Gills success on their travels this season has been a solid defence, one that is able to soak up anything thrown at them.

The game at Southend was the perfect example of what’s been going right for the Gills away from home.

Home teams can pile the pressure on as much as they want but with a stone wall to get through, it’s brought in an abundance of points this season.

On the flip side to the Gills’ solid back-line is their ability to hit teams on the break - the old smash and grab routine.

The pace of Myles Weston upfront and those in support, like Whelpdale, Lee and Allen mean that those teams are being punished.

Quite often this season, and as shown in their last two away travels, they’ve got an early goal and teams have just been unable to find an answer back. Gillingham have conceded just nine goals on their travels so far - compared to 14 goals at Priestfield in the same number of games.

To have conceded two sloppy goals last weekend was quite a shock, particularly as winning balls in the air has been one of Gills’ strengths this season. Both goals originated from crosses that should have been defended better.

Rochdale are a team in despair and the Gills could really enjoy themselves if they get an early goal.

The talk from Spotland is that their manager is under a fair bit of pressure and it won’t take much for an already frustrated home crowd to turn against their team.

The covers are on at Rochdale and an army of volunteers are ready for remove the snow on Thursday and Friday. I was told by someone in their office the pitch underneath the covers is “ideal”.

It seems to be an ideal time to play a disheartened Rochdale team and if they do, don’t be surprised to see the Gills bounce back with a bumper win to equal that record set by Peacock and co.

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Categories: Gills | Government

Hectic day at Priestfield as Allen trims the fat

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, January 3 2013

IF you weren’t paying attention on Thursday you missed an awful lot.

Mid-season transfer windows usually come and go with precious little activity at Priestfield.

But the arrival of midfielder Steven Gregory on Wednesday, shortly after defender Leon Legge signed from Brentford, took Martin Allen’s squad size to 31 and something had to give.

Cue the departure of four players, the loan departure of one, with another likely to follow, and three heading for the exit door on potential free transfers.

And all this amid rumours of a major signing to bolster the strike force, even if the manager is staying pretty cool on the subject.

So if you weren’t paying attention, then here’s how we stand after a frantic start to the January transfer window.

Boss Martin Allen was hoping to bring in David Wright from Crystal Palace, on a permanent deal rather than a loan, but the Gills were unable to match the demands from the Championship club and so in came Steven Gregory.

He played in the same AFC Wimbledon team as Danny Kedwell as they returned the original Dons back to the Football League in 2011. Allen stepped up his interest in Gregory after sitting in the stands and watching Gregory captain Wimbledon (while there on loan) during their recent FA Cup game against bitter rivals MK Dons.

And the Gills didn’t even need to part with any cash after Gregory was released by Bournemouth on a free just before Christmas.

Allen saved his players from a miserable Christmas by choosing to wait until the festivities were over before delivering the news to those he felt were not going to make the grade.

Making it as a League 2 players is not enough anymore, as Allen said in Thursday’s press conference.

“Everyone that comes in has got to be able to challenge in League 1,” said the Gills boss.

“There is no point in bringing in squad players. Our young players are coming up to fill those gaps and what comes into the building now has got to be good enough to do it again next season and challenge at the top.

“We are not going there (League 1) to make the numbers up, we aren’t going up there to play around with relegation, we can go up there and smash it again; that’s what we are aiming to do.”

So Allen had the task of telling Tom Brunt, Jack Evans, George Humber and Alex Brown that their futures lie elsewhere. All were released.

“One of them (Tom Brunt) told me it was his birthday when he walked into the blinking office!” said Allen, who described the task as being a “horrible” experience.

Allen had bad news for some of his more experienced pros as well.

Striker Ben Strevens, keeper Ross Flitney and defender Connor Essam have all been made available for free, although all will remain Gills players and the door hasn’t been close on any.

Strevens has four strikers infront of him in the pecking order and, contrary to several rumours, all are set to see the season out for the Gills.

“Those four are staying right the way through to the end of the season,” said the Gills boss.

Flitney started the season injured and there is little chance of shifting Stuart Nelson from the number one spot. But even Allen admitted letting Essam go will be tough.

He knows the defender has massive potential and will slap in a 30% sell-on fee if anyone wants him. He is contracted to the Gills until 2015 and Allen said: “The door is not closed and I would be delighted if he forces his way in to be first choice.”

Two more players face time away from the Gills, but with differing reasons.

Bradley Dack is only 19 and has plenty of potential but Allen was keen to get him some game time so contacted Conference Premier side Braintree to see if they would take him. Their manager Alan Devonshire didn’t have to think long, especially as he has got him for virtually nothing.

And lastly, on a frantic day at Priestfield, it looks as though Lewis Montrose has played his last game for the Gills. His contract expires in the summer and he is set to join another club on loan until the end of the season. The deal has yet to be completed so Allen wanted to destination to remain quiet for now.

So that’s it for now, although those asking about Cody McDonald will be interested to here what Allen had to say, so here you go.

“I don’t really know Cody that well,” said Allen. “I know what a good footballer he is but I don’t know what his situation is at Coventry, I just don’t know.

“My priority has been to get a centre back in place of Tom Flanagan and my priority was to get a central midfield player in the position that David Wright was playing.

“It was like a new signing to give Adam Birchall his (league) debut at Southend. He is like having a new centre forward in so I am not banging Mr Scally’s door down to get a new centre forward.

“With regards to that player I am not specifically saying yes or no but what I will say is that I do ask Mr Scally about players and about how we can improve, what we can do to improve, who can we get to improve us, how much it will cost. When he says no I am fine, we just carry on working.”

It’s been a busy start to the January transfer window and it wouldn’t be a shock if we see a little more action before the end of the month.

January transfers should give Gills final push

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, December 18 2012

THE points total may have slowed down a bit for Gills in recent weeks but with January looming things are surely only going to get better.

There is no question over how much the Gills have missed the presence of David Wright as a calming influence at the back and no doubt he’ll be number one on Martin Allen’s hit list.

The defensive midfielder hasn’t played for Crystal Palace since ending his initial loan spell at the club.

Hopefully when the transfer window opens the Gills and Palace can pick up where they left off with the paperwork and complete a deal that wasn’t done in time when the previous window shut.

Apart from the 2-1 home defeat to Rochdale, the Gills were a tough nut to crack with Wright in the team, conceding just three goals in the seven games he played and winning most of them.

Tom Flanagan is another miss. The Gills have some talented youngsters at the back, in Connor Essam, Callum Davies and now Devante McKain, but Flanagan has something the rest didn’t - experience.

It was such a shame to see him pick up an injury just days after celebrating making his international bow for Northern Ireland’s under-21 side.

Another loan defender with a bit of pace and experience will be a valuable addition to the squad. That’s not to say Davies and co can’t do a job if a newcomer doesn’t arrive.

Perhaps a back-up for Myles Weston wouldn’t harm either. He has been a fantastic free transfer signing for the club but there are few others on the books with his pace and direct approach in attack.

Could Allen also be looking at a back-up in the full-back department. Both Matt Fish and Joe Martin are on four bookings - so likely to face a ban soon - and a versatile and experienced player to rampage up and down the wing wouldn’t be a bad move.

Whatever Martin’s plans, January looks like being an exciting time for the Gills fans. Hopefully the extra players coming in will give them that push to take them up as champions. And to think some people STILL moan!

The Gills seem to have money to burn, now chairman Paul Scally and his fellow directors have wiped out the bank loan that had been like a noose on the club’s neck.

Let’s not pretend the debt has disappeared. Mr Anderson and the fellow directors will want their money back at some point, but better them than owed to a bank who could call in the debt at any time.

The money generated from Matt Jarvis, Paulo Gazzaniga, Luke Rooney and Ryan Bertrand will have given the balance sheet a much better look and helped pay off some of those loans. Maybe it means that stadium move - designed to help wipe the debt clean and generate money away from 3pm on a Saturday - can wait a little longer.

Things are certainly looking good for the Gills, with a man in charge that is desperate for that first promotion and title win on his CV. 

Saturday’s attendance showed that the fan-base is still there so let’s hope the second half of the season sees the Gills push on and make this season an historic one.

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Categories: Gills | Government

Fitness could be key for Gills

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, July 10 2012

 

Martin Allen, Gillingham managerWHILE all of the recent hype has surrounded the appointment of Martin Allen (pictured) at Gillingham, just as vital could be the arrival of conditioning coach James Russell.

 

Russell - a Gills fan and former St John Fisher School pupil in Chatham – has a wealth of knowledge, experience and the qualifications to bring the current squad into tip-top shape.

 

Not since during former manager Mark Stimson’s reign and the “Terror Tuesdays” sessions under the guidance of Danny Ellis have the players had a dedicated fitness mentor.

 

Previous manager Andy Hessenthaler had his own methods but decided against employing a dedicated fitness guro and the arrival of Russell could be a key ingredient to turning a decent-looking squad into one who can challenge for automatic promotion places.

 

Players can have all the skill in the world but if their legs aren’t up to it then all of a manager’s best laid plans just aren’t going to work.

Fitness was an area that Stimson was keen on – it was the first thing he tackled when he arrived at Priestfield - and he was able to show off at Wembley during the 2009 play-off final win, leaving all of his substitutes on the bench, with the confidence that his XI had the stamina to get the job done.

 

A lack of physical fitness can lead to a lack of mental concentration and perhaps that was the reason for the side leaking so many goals last season.

 

Injury problems have also plagued the Gills over recent seasons and, although the majority of those can’t be helped, it will no doubt be easier to avoid little niggles with a squad in prime condition.

 

Russell, who is qualified in coaching, sports science and nutrition, worked under Allen at Notts County, following a spell in America, with the Kansas City Wizards and also at Rochdale. 

 

Allen certainly appears to be keen to bring a new dimension to training, with earlier starts and an impromptu dip in the pool at the Strand on Friday.

 

County were certainly well prepared last summer, as they made a blistering start to their League 1 campaign, earning Allen the September manager-of-the-month award. Things went wrong for Allen over the Christmas period and wasn’t given the time to turn things around.

 

A good start, at least, will make a refreshing change for the Gills faithful, having seen their side stall early on in both of the last two seasons. A hard pre-season under the watchful eye of Russell will certainly see them well prepared for the League 2 opener against Bradford.

 

The players head to France on Thursday for a four-day training programme in Le Touquet and no doubt Allen, and Russell, will have plenty more surprises in store for his squad.

 

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Categories: Gillingham | 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

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