Opposition Talk: Gillingham
Doncaster Rovers host Gillingham this weekend in a League One clash between two sides looking to keep their momentum going and mount a top six challenge as we head for the busy festive period.
To get an insight into our opponents, our editor sat down with Gillingham fan Matt Boosey from the excellent Gills In The Blood channel. Read on for our interview, then when you’ve done that check out his video preview of the game featuring thoughts from our editor on the fixture and both sides.
ITEN: Gillingham are one of the division’s form teams at the moment, with four wins in five League One games. What do you think have been the main factors behind this run?
Matt: I think there are a couple of factors. We’ve been more consistent in our selection in defensive areas, with five players playing in at least three of this five-game unbeaten run and three playing all of them. On top of that the form of Robbie McKenzie sitting in front of the back four has been a real boost, he’s settled into the role now and we are seeing consistent performances. We’ve got players to score goals so this more settled selection at the back gives us a good platform.
Steve Evans and Darren Moore were in opposing dugouts for their first game in charge of these two sides. How do you view Evans’ tenure so far?
I think he’s done very well overall, considering he’s had to make do with a much smaller budget than what he’s used to. He knows how to set up teams in this division, he’s not fussed about how much ball we have, more what we do with it. We have a fairly decent mix within the squad, and he’s proven what a good coach he is at this level, particularly with all the youngsters this season. Thankfully, we are now a team that seems to be looking upwards rather than over our shoulder.
The Gills have a revamped forward line this season, with Vadaine Oliver and Dominic Samuel hitting goalscoring form and John Akinde also figuring heavily. Have these players impressed you and is your team better for the changes in attack?
You can add both Jordan Graham and Trae Coyle to that list too, who have six and four goals respectively. It’s a good array of options in offensive areas and on the whole it has worked pretty well. Early on in the campaign we went with a central striker and two wide attackers, but more recently - with Graham injured - we’ve reverted to a diamond and all of Oliver, Akinde and Samuel have played their part in that system.
Who have been the stand-out players aside from the strikers this season to date?
Jordan Graham up until this recent hamstring problem, he’s looked a cut above in plenty of games. More recently Robbie McKenzie has gone from strength to strength in the holding role and the skipper Kyle Dempsey is starting to influence more games. Connor Ogilvie has generally shown the consistency that won him multiple awards last season.
Gillingham and Doncaster are both sides looking capable of pushing for a Play-Off place. Is the top six a realistic ambition for the Gills in 2020/21?
I keep changing my mind in all honesty. Before the season got underway, I said we would finish in 8th, then after our positive start I became more optimistic of a Play Off charge before a five-game winless streak tempered my enthusiasm. After the latest good run, I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. I think we have a chance, like plenty of clubs do, but I’ll be boring somewhat and stick to 8th.
Finally, how do you see Saturday’s game panning out?
Looking at the head-to-heads over recent years (only one Donny win in the last 11 matches going back to 2014) plus our comparative form and current league placings I am going to go for a 1-1 draw.
Many thanks to Matt for his thoughts on the game - do check out the GITB channel above, it is in our opinion the best vlog channel in the EFL and well worth a look.
We will have full Match Day coverage on our social media channels this Saturday - @DRFC_ITEN on Twitter and Instagram, which you can find at the top of the site - featuring a video preview, live updates and much more.