Tim Stoodley looks ahead to Saturday's trip to Gillingham.
Gillingham are the hosts as Peterborough United head to Kent in search of their first Sky Bet League One victory of the month. The struggling Gills will provide a stubborn and tricky test for Posh, with this one getting underway at 3pm on Saturday, at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Gillingham are a side who have endured an uninspiring season. They’ve spent the entire campaign in the lower halves of mid-table and are now flirting dangerously close to relegation, with just seven games left of the seasons calendar.
In the longer term, their form has been okay. Three wins in their last six outings, including credible victories against promotion chasing Scunthorpe, as well as Bury. More recently though and they’ve lost their last two games, with an aggregate score of 1-8. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was on the score sheet as Rochdale thumped The Gills 4-1 last Saturday, with a heavy 0-4 home defeat to Bolton the week prior. All this said, they are pretty handy at home, indeed on home form alone they’d be nestled in mid-table. Their problem has been shipping goals – they hold the unwanted honour of having the leakiest defence in League One, conceding more goals so far this campaign than any other side.
Current gaffer Adrian Pennock is an attack-minded coach who takes the philosophy of ‘we’ll score one more than you’. It’s a style-of-play not too different from that of recent Posh outlooks and providing ‘Boro bring their shooting boots, this could be an entertaining match-up. Expect them to play 3-4-1-2, with an attacking midfielder to provide a pivot between attack and defence. They host a large squad, the fourth-highest in the league at 29 players, compared to Peterborough’s smallest, at just 23 professionals.
The attacking midfielder that we’d expect to line-up against Posh is arguably The Gills brightest star. Not a transfer window goes by when Bradley Dack is not linked with higher-placed teams vying for his flair and talent. He’s the clubs joint top-assist maker this season and is usually given a ‘free role’ behind the two attackers to create and score goals. He’s a hard worker and Posh fans who travel will notice Dack’s work rate as he attempts to boss the higher area of the midfield. As well as his work rate, Posh need to watch his long shot ability and his tasty free kicks.
On the goal front and experienced centre-forward Cody McDonald is one of the players to watch come Saturday. The former Norwich front-man is a stalwart at Priestfields – in his third spell as their recognised number ten, he’s chalked up nearly 200 appearances for the Kent-based outfit, scoring 75 times. He’s on seven so far this campaign and is the regular centre-forward, usually alongside Joe Quigley. McDonald has great technique and like Dack, his work rate is notable.
There are goals at the back as well in this Gills side. Indeed centre back and skipper, Max Ehmer, is joint second top-scorer for the season and has made a real impact since joining from QPR in 2015. He’s actually German by nationality but moved to the UK when he was a boy. On the pitch, and apart from his obvious ability to find the net, you’ll see a player with exceptional heading ability (most of his goals coming from headed corners) and a player with a real talent at tackling – he’s utilised to stop the main attacking threat of the opposition.
Gills boss Adrian Pennock is a newbie to the job and the football league. He joined the sinking Gills boat in January in an attempt to find steady waters. Before that, the unknown gaffer was in non-league and had spells with Welling United and Forest Green Rovers. He does come with a committed reputation though and boasts a credible 43% win record from his 257 games as a manager. For comparison Grant McCann is 40% from 52 matches.
Brendan Malone takes the whistle for this one. He’s an experienced referee in his seventh season on the football league. This campaign he’s officiated 26 games, showing yellow 102 times – that’s an average of nearly four cautions per match. He’s also sent off three players this term. He’s taken charge of both sides already this season. He was the main man for ‘Boro’s 1-1 away draw with Southend, with Andrew Hughes and Chris Forrester seeing yellow. Before that he took charge of the Gills, at Priestfield, when they beat Bury 2-1 in August.
Gillingham scored a 90th minute equaliser when these two teams met back on Boxing Day last year. Lee Angol had opened the scoring before Baily Cargill netted with seconds to spare. The last time Posh headed to Priestfields was January of 2016, when a Bradley Dack goal consigned ‘Boro to a 2-1 defeat. In fact you have to go back to April 2014 for the last time we were successful against The Gills. An Assombalonga and Tommy Rowe double was enough for the 2-0 victory at The ABAX. The clubs have met on 45 occasions and the spoils are actually split totally evenly at 13 wins each. That makes a draw the most popular result, which has happened 19 times. Peterborough have never won by more than a two-goal margin and neither side has scored more than two goals in the last 12 matches.
For ‘Boro and goalkeeper Luke McGee will be looking to return to action after he was rested against Oldham. Ryan Tafazolli will be hoping to return from a slight groin injury that saw him miss last weekend’s action and Paul Taylor is another who will be hoping to play after suffering with a tight hamstring last time out. Jermaine Anderson and Gwion Edwards are both definitely out with injuries.
Your experience at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium depends not only on what happens on the pitch, but what happens with the elements. The away ‘stand’ was originally a temporary scaffolding setup, but has been in place many years. It’s completely open to the elements, with no side protection and no roof. This also makes the atmosphere poor as there is simply no acoustics to help fans with chants and songs. Note that if it does rain, the club generally give out free rain macs, but still be prepared for a wet and miserable experience if the weather conspires against us. At the time of writing, the weather forecast is predicting a fine and sunny day.
If travelling down by train, then the train station in Gillingham is a ten minute walk away from the ground. This is served by trains from London Victoria, Charing Cross, St Pancras and Stratford International. If travelling by car, note that there is no street parking around the ground, and a resident permit only scheme is in place. That said there are two good, cheap pay-and-display car parks within a ten minute walk. One on Railway Street, near the station, which is £1.40 for four hours and the other at the Our Lady Of Gillingham Catholic Church on Ingram Street (ME7 1YL). This costs £3 and again, is just ten minutes from the action.
The police have a designated pub for away fans so we have to recommend using this. It’s The Fleur De Lis pub on Gillingham Road, which is a 10-15 stroll from the ground. It shows BT Sport, has hot and cold food available is located near to a fish & chip shop.
In the ground and prepare for the ‘southern inflation’ with programmes, pies and brews all costing higher than the League One average. A pie here will set you back £3.80 while a hot tea costs £2. Brought together that’s 80p more than the League One median.
The key figures:
League positions; Gillingham – 18th Peterborough United – 12th
Last five; Gillingham - LWWLL Peterborough United - LLLDD
Previous meeting; 26/12/2016 (Sky Bet League One) - Peterborough United 1-1 Gillingham
Average attendances (2015/16); Gillingham – 6,316 Peterborough United - 5,447
Top Scorer (league); Gillingham – Josh Wright (11) Peterborough United - Tom Nichols (10)
Interesting fact: The 2005 hit ‘Green Street’ was filmed predominately at the Priestfields stadium, making use of their traditional football stands and tiers.
There are two options available when purchasing tickets for this one. You can select the uncovered Brian Moore Stand, which is open to the elements and costs as follows; Adults £10, seniors 65+/under 18’s £5 or a family ticket (2 adults and 2 under 18’s) £25.
Alternatively, you can place yourself in the Gordan Road Stand which has cover, but is in one corner. Prices here are as follows; Adults £22, seniors 65+ £19, under 18’s £11 and under 12’s £8. Tickets can be purchased on-the-day for this game (Brian Moore Stand only), with no price increase. Coach travel is also available. Tickets are on sale at www.theposhtickets.com, via the Ticketmaster hotline 0844 847 1934* and in person at the ABAX Stadium Box Office.
*calls cost 7ppm plus your network access fee.