Past meetings mean nothing really, it’s like using the last lottery numbers to predict how you’re going to do this Saturday. Traditionally, some places are harder to go than others and in my mind, Gillingham is a hard ground to visit. We didn’t win there between my first season and 2009, but fans who have found the club in the last decade or so will remember two wins from two.
Each year brings change though and so it’s impossible to say we’ll do well or badly based on those two seasons. That win in 2010/11 was only one of two Chris Sutton enjoyed before he jacked it in and it’s not hard to see why. Albert Jarrett, Ben Hutchinson, Clark Keltie and Cian Hughton all played, with Andy Hutchinson and Drewe Broughton coming on. Hardly a dream team effort.
That means nowt tomorrow though and our first trip there in just under a decade promises to be a lively affair. Here’s a harsh snippet of truth; we need a win tomorrow. If we draw or lose our season won’t be over, but this is the sort of game by which you define who you are. If we are relegation strugglers then we don’t get a win. If we aspire to be midtable also-rans, the sort of level at which we’ll all be happy, then we sink them into deeper problems.
Four of the Gills five wins this season have come at home; taking out Bolton (for obvious reasons) and Spurs Kids, they’ve also beaten Southend and Wycombe at home. Southend is almost as much as a gimme as Bolton kids, so in truth, their form hasn’t been scintillating. They’ve lost five at home too; Rotherham (3-0), Peterborough (2-1), Ipswich (1-0), Burton (2-1) and Colchester in the EFL Cup (3-2).
Stats wise, they’re actually doing better at home than their xG suggests they should be, which is one aspect for us to be positive about. They score 1.85 goals per game, but their xG suggests that should be 1.62. the obvious game skewing the figures here is that Bolton win, which I don’t want to have to keep mentioning. In terms of goals conceded, they let in 1.45 whereas the xG suggests they should only concede 1.11.
Evans is a hugely unpopular character and if results continue in this vein, Scally could be onto his next manager
None of the numbers make good reading for Gills fans; their form is patchy and performances haven’t been great either. Their fans are a bit edgy already, some reacted badly after being thrashed 3-0 by Oxford (which I suggest politely isn’t a real thrashing against Oxford). I also chatted to a Gillingham fan I know in October as their season faded a little and he said to me; “I have to say my early season optimism is beginning to wane. Evans is a hugely unpopular character and if results continue in this vein, Scally could be onto his next manager. Hope I am proved wrong.”
The opportunity is there to put a nail in Evans (oversized) coffin tomorrow. I can’t see him being sacked on the strength of us winning but, if we can be clinical in front of goal, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get a good victory. As much as I’ve analysed their line up, results and form, my gut feeling is that the game is actually about us. If we go there and play as we have been doing, but finish the chances we create, we could well give our season a kick up the harris and there isn’t a great deal Gillingham could do about it. However, if we go and get drawn into his antics, get blocked by a resilient and spirited home side, then we’ll come away knowing it’s going to be a long, hard winter.