Gillingham FC meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers return to Prenton Park this weekend as they host Gillingham FC in League Two action. 

The Whites have faced two relegation-threatened sides in their last two games, picking up four points after conceding in the dying moments at Gander Green Lane last Saturday. 

It’s safe to say that the second half down in Sutton didn’t meet the expectations that new manager Nigel Adkins had of his team, as the players looked like they had run out of steam.

It has been a big week at The Campus, Rovers’ training ground, as two players have extended their contracts: Connor Jennings and Sam Taylor. It has also been revealed that striker Luke Norris will be out for up to three months, requiring surgery on an injury sustained during Remembrance Day’s 3-0 win.

Gillingham are positioned 8th in the division after beating Salford City 3-1 at Priestfield and will look to carry on their good run of form.

Ahead of the game I spoke to Mail Sport and Kent Sports News freelance writer Lewis Browning who told me about the incredible turnaround under the new owners, The Galinson’s. 

Hi Lewis, how long have you been a Gillingham fan? What was the first experience like?

Hi mate. My first Gills game was in 2007 when I was eight years old. I got free tickets from my school so went with my dad and sat in the infamous stand with no roof. We lost 2-1 to Port Vale and it hammered it down all game. Start as you mean to go on and all that.

What have been some of the best and worst moments in your time following the club?

The best two moments are winning the 2009 play-off final and the 2012/13 title, both in League Two. I remember the play-off final so well, a late goal from Simeon Jackson in a 1-0 win and my dad picking me up and throwing me all over the place. I’ve also enjoyed some great away days, perhaps most notably beating Premier League Brentford on penalties in the Carabao Cup last season.

In terms of negatives, most have been in recent years. We were relegated from League One in 2022 and were bottom of League Two at Christmas last year. It was the worst it had been as a club in my time with money running out under Paul Scally and the Galinsons saved us. That takeover is one of my best memories too. 

You’re a podcaster and a freelance writer, could you tell us about the content you produce regarding The Gills?

So my writing is how I earn my living and it’s incredibly rare that’s about Gillingham. But podcasting is fun, it’s a hobby. I’m often on the ME7 Podcast, run by my friends James and Owen, and we talk about all things Gills twice a week. It’s done really well and players and staff get involved and we have a live show with a crowd coming up from Priestfield next month, which is pretty cool.

Gillingham finished 17th last season and are now placed just outside the play-offs. How great has the turnaround been?

The best turnaround was from Christmas last year to the end of the season. We were gone at Christmas and would have been relegated had the takeover not happened, but the second half of the season, after completely reshuffling our squad, was a dream and we achieved safety which was the sole aim. It’s been a bit slower going this season but it’s light years ahead of this time last year. 

How much credit would you give to new owners Brad and, wife, Shannon Galinson? The Florida-based businessmen came into the club in December 2022 looking to have an immediate impact.

All of the credit. They saved us, from relegation and as a slub, plain and simple. Both of them are so lovely and completely get what it means to be a Gills fan, one of the many things former owner Paul Scally was so out of touch with. They delivered on their promise of an aggressive January transfer window, helped us survive and have continued to plough money into the club and community, on and off the pitch.  

How great was the summer transfer window? 

It was alright, yeah. We had some really good pick-ups such as Shad Ogie and Conor Masterson, and other players that we’re now starting to see the best of, such as Jonny Williams and Connor Mahoney.

I do think we went into the season a little short. We needed at least one more winger and our struggle for goals has been obvious so maybe another forward too, but I expect we’ll put that right in January.

Stephen Clemence, Steve Bruce’s highly praised assistant at Aston Villa and Hull City, was appointed earlier this month following on from the dismissal of former Milwall boss Neil Harris. It will be the 45-year-old’s first managerial role, How happy were you with him coming into the club? Why was it time for Harris to leave?

It was a massive risk appointing Clemence because, like you say, it’s his first role. But he obviously did a great interview and we’ve already seen he’s very smart tactically, much smarter than Harris I think.

It was time for Harris to go because despite our league position we were the lowest scorers in the league and the method of our early wins wasn’t sustainable, which we were starting to see. Our attacking play was awful, I didn’t enjoy watching the team and we weren’t moving forwards. Goal scoring was an issue throughout Harris’ entire reign and it wasn’t changing. Brad wanted a more controlling and positive approach and we’re getting that now. 

January signing 30-year-old Tom Nichols, formerly of Bristol Rovers and Crawley Town, has netted three goals and picked up three assists in 20 games this campaign. How great is he? What’s his strengths? (We need a good scout report on him!) 

Tom is really good. He can be a hard player to understand because he’s a forward but he’s not really a natural goal scorer. He is really good on the ball and really clever and his link play is class.

I was surprised to see him start up front on his own against Salford last week but we had to get him back in the team and it was potentially the best we’d seen him. With us playing more ‘football’ now, if you like, he’s a really good player for our system and his goal on Saturday will give him confidence too. 

Looking to claim all three points, how will Clemence and Nichols work on Saturday? What will the starting eleven, formation and tactics be?

To be honest I’d be surprised if we weren’t unchanged. A 4-3-3 looks to be the way Clemence wants to go and I think his system can get the best out of our key players, getting Williams and Lapslie playing together as well and Mahoney on the right.

The defence won’t change. It’ll be Jake Turner in goal, Cheye Alexander right back, Ogie and Masterson centre back and Max Clark left back, unless Scott Malone is back fit, then he will play there. Ethan Coleman will sit in front with Dom Jefferies and I imagine Lapslie either side, though Tim Dieng might put his hand up for a place.

Up front it’ll be Mahoney right, Williams left and Nichols through the middle. Ashley Nadesan and Macauley Bonne will provide support from the bench.

Gillingham and Tranmere have played each other 37 times, The Rovers have won six more meetings than The Gills. The last time the two clubs came head to head was in March as Gillingham won 2-0 at Priestfield. What is your score prediction for the game this time ‘round?

Tranmere are struggling but I get they’re made a change recently, and that’s for the best. Despite being away it’s a nice fixture for us and I do expect us to be more commanding, which likely wouldn’t have been the case under Neil Harris. I’ll go for a 2-1 Gills win. 

Finally, what are your thoughts on Tranmere? New manager Nigel Adkins has picked up four points against two relegation threatened sides since being appointed.

Obviously the change was needed and that’s great to see because a club like Tranmere shouldn’t be getting relegated again. I think they’ll pick up and we’re already seeing signs of that under Atkins and they won’t be in trouble come the end of the season I wouldn’t think. But hopefully that doesn’t start yet!

Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park. 

After reading this chat with Gills fan Lewis Browning, why not give this week’s Mere Or Far podcast a listen? Zak Hayes is with me, as always, to preview the upcoming game and reflect on the point picked up at Sutton.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *