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Club News

A look at the opposition: Gillingham

22 September 2023

Club News

A look at the opposition: Gillingham

22 September 2023

The table-topping Gills arrive at the Eco-Power Stadium full of confidence after their impressive start to the season.

Arguably the most efficient side in the division, five of their opening right matches have brought 1-0 wins with defeats to Colchester United and Grimsby Town their only blemishes so far. Having been threatened by relegation in the first half of last season, with good investment they have ploughed ahead and are expected to challenge for promotion.

LAST TIME OUT

Gillingham 2 Morecambe 1

Sky Bet League Two, Saturday, September 16, 2023

Line-up: Turner, Alexander, Masterson, Ogie, Malone, S Williams, Coleman, J Williams (Nichols 74), Lapslie (Clarke 26), Mahoney (McKenzie 90+4), Bonne (Nadesan 75).

THE MANAGER

Key to the Gills’ revivial has been manager Neil Harris, who raised a few eyebrows when he took up the challenge at the Priestfield Stadium with the Gills facing relegation from League One. A long spell at Millwall, beginning with a caretaker stint in 2013, saw Harris blooded in management a club where he had two stints during a playing career as a striker that amassed almost 500 appearances. He joined Cardiff City in 2019 and guided the Bluebirds into the Championship play-offs in his first season in charge.

THE KEY MEN

The keeper: Jake Turner

The 24-year-old joined the Gills from Newcastle United last summer and has delivered five clean sheets in eight league matches so far this season. Turner came through the ranks at Bolton Wanderers and earned the switch to St James’ Park to be part of the U23 squad on Tyneside. Loans at Morecambe and Colchester United gave him a first taste of EFL football.

Defender: Shadrach Ogie

The Ireland-born defender arrived at the Priestfield Stadium from Leyton Orient for an undisclosed fee in the summer. The 22-year-old joined Orient in 2018 after moving across the Irish sea and picked up experience with loans in non-league. Ogie claimed the man of the match award on debut for the Gills and has starred since.

In midfield: Jonny Williams

The experienced Wales international arrived in the summer following his release from Swindon Town. With the potential to be one of the stand-outs in the division, the Gills will be banking on Williams staying fit this season – which has done so far. The 29-year-old started his career at Crystal Palace and has extensive experience at Championship level.

Up top: Macauley Bonne

The 27-year-old arrived at the Priestfield Stadium in the first week of the campaign and has gradually settled in with appearances off the bench. The striker spent six months with Charlton prior to his arrival at Gillingham. Bonne began his career at Colchester United and has had spells with Queens Park Rangers, Ipswich Town and Leyton Orient.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Although Rovers first joined the Football League in 1901 and Gillingham were members from 1920, the clubs did not meet until the 1959/60 season following the end of the regionalised Division Three.  

The first match was a Division Four fixture at Belle Vue on April 15, 1960. Rovers won 3-0 with a goal from Tony Leighton and a Jim Fernie brace. Three days later, at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium, the home team won 2-1.  

Gillingham have dominated this fixture, winning 36 of the 70 Football League matches contested. Rovers have won only 14 times – 11 of them at home.  

TURNED OUT FOR BOTH

A popular player for both clubs was Leo Fortune-West. He took his Football League bow with Gillingham aged 24, having had extensive experience in non-league football. In his first season, 1995/96, his 12 goals helped the Gills earn promotion to Division Two. His opportunities were limited after that, and he joined Lincoln City in 1998.  

Five years, and five clubs, later, the striker signed for Rovers following their promotion back into the league. He scored two goals on his debut at Leyton Orient with Rovers winning 3-1. In three seasons with Rovers, he scored 23 goals in 104 appearances.

Contributors: John Coyle and Gavin Hepworth

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