Opposition Talk: Gillingham (A)
Doncaster Rovers take on Gillingham this weekend, with their Play-Off hopes hanging in the balance after a rough couple of games marred by a raft of injuries. Steve Evans and his Gills side are among the form teams in the division and are looking up towards the top six, so it is sure to be a tough game once again for Andy Butler’s side.
Ahead of the game, we spoke to Gills fan and journalist Lewis Browning to get his thoughts on the game and how his team is faring in League One at present.
Gillingham are flying coming into this game, with four wins from the last five games – scoring three goals in each of those victories. In your view, what has been the main factor behind the upturn in form, and are the Play-Offs a realistic ambition for this season now?
I think the mentality has changed more than anything, which has been a big plus. The players seem to genuinely believe we are in contention for the Play-Offs now, and it seems like they feel they can score goals and beat a lot of teams, as we have seen.
The Play-Offs are certainly a realistic ambition, but it’ll be tough. I think we’ll need to win six or seven of our last 10 games to get in them, but that’s not impossible, and it’s definitely what we should be looking to achieve at this point.
Doncaster were the opponents in Steve Evans’ first league game in charge of the Gills. More than 18 months on, how do you think the team has developed since his arrival?
Well we’ve certainly changed a lot of the players! We all know Evans likes to involve himself in the transfer market and I think only two of the players that started that day are still at the club - both he had signed that summer anyway. But this side is completely his own now.
He’s also got the fans onside which has helped, because naturally the fan base was split upon his appointment. But you can absolutely tell we’re a Steve Evans side when you see us on the pitch too - lots of direct play and trying to out-battle opponents.
Vadaine Oliver is the man of the moment, with seven goals in the last six games. How important is he to this Gills team?
He’s really important. Funnily enough just before he started this streak I remember saying to my dad that he was the one forward player that could have done with a goal, and now he can’t stop. He’s playing with real confidence - Vadaine’s a great personality and has really connected with the fans and I think that helps him on the pitch, even though there’s no one in the stands.
He’s also a beast in the air - he’s won the most headers in League One this season - but he has a turn of pace and is very good with the ball at his feet. He’s been a great signing.
Aside from Oliver, who are the other key players to watch out for this weekend for your side?
We’ve got a bit of a familiar trio when it comes to attacking returns so to speak; Oliver, Kyle Dempsey and Jordan Graham. I think Dempsey and Graham could easily play in the Championship and they’re both simply formidable footballers.
Dempsey is the skipper and will be the one arriving late to burst into the box, whilst Graham will probably play wide right and look to take on his man and hit the by-line as much as possible. They’re two exciting players to watch.
Rovers won the reverse fixture 2-1 back in December, in what was probably our most dominant performance of the campaign. What are your thoughts on Doncaster, and do you think they pose a significant threat on Saturday?
I feel sorry for Doncaster because of the Darren Moore situation, but I guess that’s football these days. You looked set for the Play-Offs - and you could certainly still get them - but recent results suggest there’s been a bit of a blip in form at the wrong time.
Rovers definitely pose a threat and it’s another game where we will have to play well to get anything. I like the club though, and wish them all the success possible.
Finally, how do you see the game going? And are either or both sides likely to make the Play-Offs in your opinion?
Admittedly I do think Gillingham will win the game. We’ve been inconsistent this year so we’re probably due a defeat to be honest but, with the confidence we’re playing with right now, it just feels different. Our form is really good, and I think the players are hungry to take on this task we have on our hands to get into the top six, and the pressure is more on Rovers really.
In my opinion I don’t think either side will make the play-offs, but both are very capable of doing so. Plenty will change in there during the run in, so we will see what happens!
Many thanks to Lewis for his thoughts on Gillingham, Rovers and this weekend's game. You can find him on Twitter @Browning_Lewis_ and you can check out our live updates of the game this Saturday afternoon from 2pm on our Twitter and Instagram pages, which you can find at the top of the page.