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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gillingham Preview

Our eighth win of the season then, a number that equals our total for the whole of last season and put us back on top of the table, if only for a couple of days. But there's still only a two point gap back to that accursed Wimbledon reborn, MK Dons, still in third, and with that team we can't beat, Colchester, - now 8 games unbeaten and who have scored more and conceded less than we have - a further point behind.
And it could be that we'll need to see off both of them before the seasons end because steaming up fast are the Canaries, despite Mondays blip, now only 1 defeat in the last seven.

Its krbs v krbs this weekend in our first local derby against the Gills for 5 years although it'll be our first visit to the restyled KRBS Priestfield stadium. Its 14 years since the controversial Paul Scally bought the club in 1995 for the ridiculous sum of one pound and the Gills have enjoyed some success since then with a remodeled ground to boot. As for the management, they change pretty regularly down at Priestfield but manager at the moment is Mark Stimson who joined in November 2007 and like last weeks Lee Clarke, he's in charge of his first League club.
A local boy from Plaistow he succeeded in getting the Gills relegated from League One in his first season but somehow survived Scally's wrath ( ignoring the numerous caretakers, he's Scally's seventh full-time man in charge in 14 years) but got them back again at the first attempt ( its promotion or your head) via the Play-Off final. But it was a close run thing and just as sweat was becoming visible on Stimson's brow, a late minute headed goal from Simeon Jackson, from a Josh Wright corner, gave them a 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury.

Gillingham are currently slipping down the table and are in 16th with 14 points and if it wasn't for their home form they'd be in a bit of trouble with only one point away from home. So its at Priestfield where they are happiest and where they are ranked 5th best in League One home form with 4 wins, a draw and only a single defeat. And with fourteen goals scored at home means that only Norwich and Huddersfield have outscored them on their own patch. And whereas they have easily the worst away defence in League One conceding 18, three more than anybody else, at home its completely the opposite with only 4 conceded in 6 games.
So you wanna know who they beat. First was a celebration of their promotion from League Two with a 5-0 demolishing of Swindon on opening day which was followed by a sobering 1-0 defeat, their only League one at home so far, to away specialists Hartlepool. An easy 3-0 win over Exeter, a comfortable 2-0 over Millwall, an unlucky 1-1 with Norwich where the Canaries equalised in the 97th minute (what again!) and lastly a tough 3-2 win over Wycombe after the Wanderers had equalised twice.
So things are slowly getting tougher for the Gills and you can throw in there a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Norwich in the JPT just two weeks ago.
Goalie is, of course, our old boy, and he is now 38, Simon Royce. Playing most of his career at Southend before he came to the Valley, he spent his first one year stint with us in 1998/99 as understudy to Sasa Ilic. Eight of his nine appearances came in that season, his first being that memorable 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, after we had been two goals down and heading for a depressing ninth straight defeat. Mark Bright and then a Martin Pringle poke in the last minute saved the day. He then played seven straight games which included our first victory over Liverpool for 40 years, the 1-0 at the Valley with a Keith Jones winner 20 minutes from time with Liverpool down to 10 men after Callagher had been ordered off for catching Pringle with his arm. He then returned in 2003/04 as reserve to Dean Kiely but only made one further appearance.
There's also the Gills club captain Barry Fuller who lead our reserves for a couple of years but failed to make the first team back in 2004/06 and they also have the "elegant" midfielder Rashid Yussuff, another recent recruit during the summer.

The Opposition
An eleven of completely non-household names, except for Fuller and Royce, of course, and there's nobody that springs to mind for analysis.
And to prove what I mean, Stimson's been out and about in the loan market mainly because leaky goals leads to desperate measures and he's found two new loan signings - Matt Fry, a 19 year old from West Ham in central defence ( now that's what I call desperate), and Scott Vernon, a striker from Colchester, both making their debuts last weekend at MK Dons although Vernon didn't last long, limping off with an ankle injury on 43 minutes and he's now been sent back to Colchester.

The Dangerman
Getting to double figures should be a strikers first aim of the season and there's already five of them in League One with more than 10 goals, including cup games. And while Deon is only halfway there on 5, over at Gillingham their number 10 is appropriately, already on 10 goals. He's the Jamaican, Simeon Jackson, who in this strange world, plays international football for Canada and has scored 7 League and 3 cup goals so far this season and follows his 21 last season. He may or may not have been on Parkys wish list during the summer but our own Chris Dickson definitely was on Stimsons. Dickson was the Gills top scorer for the season during his loan spell in 2007/08 and Stimson dreamed of having him alongside his Simeon but to no avail it seems.

Whats Their Secret?
After the bruising clash last weekend with Huddersfield it'll be a pleasant change to play Gillingham. The Terriers, you remember, are renowned for their fighting abilities and never say die spirit and there's still only three teams - Huddersfield, Bristol and Walsall - that have come from behind to win twice this season. Meanwhile the best thing to do against the Gills is to score first because they are one of only two teams in League One, along with Tranmere, that have won exactly nothing after going behind, even at home. Which is, of course, good news for the Addicks, as we have scored first 6 times in all.

Our only visit to the Priestfield in the last 28 years was an FA Cup 3rd Round tie in 2004 that saw the Gills score their biggest win over us, 3-2. Apart from that game all the others at Priestfield have been Third Division matches with most of them coming in the 1920's with us winning 4 of them against their 3 with 5 draws. We've won the last 3 League games at Priestfield and you have to go all the way back to 1929 to find the last time they beat us at their place.
Overall its a massive 12-3 to the Addicks but, perhaps due to the derby influence, there's been a huge number of drawn games, 9 in all.

Doing a Leicester?
After thirteen games Leicester had a record of 7 wins, 4 draws and 2 defeats (to Millwall and Brighton); and were therefore three points behind us on 25 points.

What Are They Saying
An ominous, though fruitless, talk from Paul Lambert over at Carrow Rd before visiting Leeds, "We'll go there to try and win. We're playing really, really well at the moment and if we go there and play like we have been, then we'll be right in the game. We'll defend strongly but when we have it we'll go and play our game. We'll have a terrific following up there so I'm not going to go up there and look for a draw, I'm going to go there to try and win." Perhaps you should have gone for the draw, Paul.

The Team
The three points gained last weekend, using 4-4-2, will have pleased Parky although it was his defence winning all the plaudits and that may well cause him to return to his crowded midfield and his previous 4-5-1 for an away game that will be hotly contested.
And with Richardson, Dailly and Youga ever present is not hard to see that its our back four that are currently earning the points. Only 5 players have appeared at the back in our 13 League games and during that time only one of them, Llera, has been substituted.
Semedo is sure to be there in front of an unchanged defence while our reliable duo of Racon and Bailey are unlikely to have any doubts over their selection. While Racon has been subbed twice, late on at Leeds and against Exeter, skipper Bailey is the only midfielder/striker that has not been subbed in League games.
Wagstaff continues to threaten Sam but a starting berth will have to wait a while which leaves the only question mark this week over Shelvey, Burton and McLeod. The issue is one of formation. Does Parky continue with a shaky but attack orientated 4-4-2 or revert to his season long 4-5-1?

And while Parky clearly has no time for Pardews idea of strikers he also knows that there are no less than 13 League One teams that have outscored us over the last eight games and that's why, despite getting Mooney on loan, he's still running his eye over strikers. Another one, along with a midfielder, were included in a secret behind-closed-doors reserve friendly against a Glenn Hoddle team on Monday night. And it was one of the trialists - name unknown - who scored the first goal; "a visiting defender could only flick the ball into the path of one of the players on trial for Charlton, who raced clear to slot home." Sign him up, Parky.

So what's the team then? Will Parky listen to my advice that if we score first we'll win and use an attacking lineup with McLeod and Burton or will he see instead a grim, tight local derby where the rules are out the window and that could go either way.

For me its down to man management and he'll feel he owes something to Matt Spring for his first half performanace against Huddersfield and his acceptance at being subbed by Semedo while at the back of his mind will be the need to remind McLeod that removing your shirt and waving it to the crowd is liable to mean more time spent sitting down. Both these things will tempt Parky to include Spring in a 5 man midfield which would allow Bailey more time to attack.

So its;

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Spring, Bailey; Burton


It'll be a grim local derby with nothing in it. There's been draws a plenty between us and it could be down to a single goal but with our League record down there and with our away support driving us on, I'll go with a 2-0 away win.


StoneMuse said...

Win for me as well, but I'll go for 2-1.
Great review as always.

nelson said...

Thanks, SM, but, like my mums pineapple upside down cake, I've always loved a 2-0..