ITEN FA Cup Preview: Gillingham
Rovers look to plot a course into Round 3 of the FA Cup for a third straight year when they take on Gillingham this Sunday. Darren Moore’s side will have played more cup games than league matches by the time the weekend is out but will be grateful not to have another free weekend after a stop-start season so far.
Steve Evans’ Gills are two points and two places behind Rovers in the table, albeit having played three more games, so will represent a keen challenge. Building some momentum will be key as the busy winter period kicks into gear, with this the first of seven games in December.
Welcome return for Cameron John
Tom Anderson begins his three-match suspension after being sent off in the defeat at Wycombe last Saturday, so the return from injury of Cameron John couldn’t have come at a better time. John has been sidelined since the end of September but came through 60 minutes in an U23s game against Exeter in midweek and so should be able to slot straight into the side at Gillingham.
Donervon Daniels came off with a suspected concussion at Adams Park, suffering the blow when he ploughed through Adebayo Akinfenwa to concede the decisive late penalty, but could be available after a short recovery period. If not, John should have no problem starting alongside Joe Wright, himself recently back from a long absence.
Rakish Bingham figures to keep his place in attack, making a decent contribution in a 90-minute display on his full league debut in place of Kwame Thomas. Kieran Sadlier is another option but the winger, who remains Rovers’ top scorer this season with seven goals in all competitions, has been left on the bench for the past couple of games with Madger Gomes taking his place on the left-hand side.
Niall Ennis is not quite ready to resume full training yet, and unfortunately it now appears as though Kazaiah Sterling may not be returning at all after suffering internal bleeding in his thigh and failing to make progress with his recovery since suffering a dead leg against Rotherham back in early September.
Evans ready for “50-50” tie
Gills boss Steve Evans is well versed in FA Cup runs, particularly from his time in charge of Crawley, and cut a bullish figure in his pre-match press conference this week. The injuries are piling up for his side, as they are for many clubs as the season wears on into its fifth month, but there has been a consistency to Evans’ 4-3-1-2 formation despite mixed results of late.
Veteran Barry Fuller recently returned to action at right back, whilst Olly Lee is likely to be the talisman playing in the #10 role. It is ahead and behind Lee however that the question marks over Gillingham’s team selection lie on Sunday. Accomplished central midfielder Stuart O’Keefe is a doubt, meaning Ousseynou Cisse may deputise since Ben Pringle is suspended.
Up front, Evans has several options to play alongside first-choice Brandon Hanlan, who netted the Extra Time winner that took Gillingham past Sunderland in the 1st Round. Mikael Mandron seems the likely candidate having played in the loss to Wimbledon last time out, but top scorer Alex Jakubiak – who netted in the opening day draw at the Keepmoat in August – and Mikael Ndjoli are both available to take his place.
Gillingham have managed two good results at Priestfield Stadium despite patchy overall form recently, seeing off Sunderland and defeating Lincoln 1-0 prior to that. However, they are one of the lowest scoring sides in League One and play a pragmatic style that is typical of Evans, so Rovers should be able to get at them if they are on form when in possession.
It ended 1-1 the last time these two sides met as both Darren Moore and Steve Evans took charge of their respective teams of the first time on the opening day of this season. Alex Jakubiak scored on his debut for Gillingham before Kieran Sadlier began his goalscoring run with a volleyed equaliser to earn a share of the spoils.
Rovers are unbeaten in their last six games against the Kent outfit, although last season’s 3-1 win at the Priestfield was the only one of those games that didn’t end in a draw. Rovers dominated on that day and won through goals from John Marquis, Mallik Wilks and Danny Andrew. This fixture has never before happened in the FA Cup.