First of all, how did you get into supporting Gillingham?
I have my dad to blame for this one! He surprised me with a ticket to my first ever game back in 2003. Rod Wallace scored in a 1-1 draw against Rotherham. I can’t really recall how a 7 year old me reacted to it all back then, but I must have enjoyed it as I’m still addicted 14 years on!
What do you make of your season so far?
In all honesty it’s not veered too far away from how most Gills fans anticipated things to pan out before the season got underway. Over the summer we lost our best player in Bradley Dack, our main striker Cody McDonald and also Josh Wright, who was our top scorer and Player of the Year last season. We knew that all three would be near on impossible to replace in our financial situation, and so it proved as the vast majority of our signings were players who had been plying their trade in leagues below that of the third tier.
As a result, we generally expected to be a bottom half outfit once again this term, with the realization deep down that another relegation battle could be on the cards after escaping the drop on the final day last season.
We started really poorly, winning just one of our opening twelve league games under firstly Adrian Pennock and then Peter Taylor for a short period, both of whom were correctly shown the door after a run of turgid displays generating negative results.
Steve Lovell has taken over for the rest of the season and certainly steadied the ship. Admittedly we’re still 21st in the table which is probably where many outsiders expect us to be, but Lovell has ensured that we haven’t been cut adrift from safety, and has overseen away wins at Peterborough, Rotherham and Walsall, instilling a belief that we can compete.
How is Gillingham’s league form looking right now?
We’re doing okay at the moment – competing without any shadow of a doubt. Since Steve Lovell took over we’ve lost just one of eight League One games, although we have drawn half of those fixtures, which explains why we’ve not shot up the table quite as quickly as we’d have liked.
This season we’ve very much broke the Gillingham trend however, as we’ve been unusually poor at home, but our away form has been excellent under Lovell, something us Gills fans rarely experience! We’re unbeaten in Lovell’s four away games in charge, winning the three I mentioned in the previous question, along with a midweek draw at Blackpool.
How would you describe your team’s style of play and tactical approach to matches?
We’re much better suited to being an away team this season. On the road we first and foremost make ourselves as difficult as possible to breakdown. We generally let home teams have a large chunk of possession, then try to exploit the spaces on the break when we turn possession over. As of late we’ve been starting games with two tall forwards in Tom Eaves and Conor Wilkinson, also giving us the option of playing high and long when required.
Who should Argyle fans keep an eye out for on Saturday at Home Park from within the Gillingham ranks?
Sheffield Wednesday loanee Sean Clare is certainly a talent, who isn’t afraid to go past a man in attempt to make something happen in attacking areas. Although an incredibly frustrating player, Tom Eaves can also cause havoc in opposition penalty areas if given effective service from wide areas, as shown with his respectable goal record so far this season.
What do you view as your side’s strong spots and weak spots?
Our strength is definitely in defensive areas, particularly under the Lovell regime, where we’ve only conceded more than once in one of his eight league games at the helm.
Our achilles heel however is going forward. We’re lacking of creativity in midfield, meaning that the two strikers are often feeding off scraps rather than quality service. We generally don’t create many chances in games, so we just have to try and be efficient with the few we do carve out, or hope that Eaves can land his head on some of our punts into the penalty area.
How has Steve Lovell done for the club since taking over as manager in October?
It’s been a pleasant surprise how well he’s done. Having been part of the coaching team throughout Pennock’s disastrous reign, I personally felt that he should also have left the club, and would never have listed him as a potential candidate for the full-time role. That said, he had his audition in caretaker charge, where he orchestrated some excellent results, so was deserving of his opportunity until the summer. Whether he’s a viable solution beyond this season I’m still not sure, but he gets a thumbs up from me for his work so far!
If you could sign one Argyle player to improve your Gillingham side, who would it be?
You probably get the same answer from everyone but I’d have to say Graham Carey. An attacking midfielder with a strong eye for a goal is exactly the type of player our team is crying out for after losing Bradley Dack in the summer.
What do you make of Argyle’s season and our chances of avoiding relegation?
I must admit I’ve been a little bit surprised by how much Argyle have struggled so far. Plymouth have generally had an excellent home record in recent seasons so I expected results at Home Park to be a real strength, but that hasn’t proved to be the case.
In terms of survival chances, nobody is being severely cut adrift. It’s very tight at the bottom, and despite being bottom, if (if not when!) Argyle were to beat us on Saturday, then you could potentially go level on points with teams currently outside the relegation places. If Carey hits top form and the defence can be plugged a little, then I think Plymouth have just as much chance as everyone else to escape the drop.
Finally, a score prediction for the game?
The fact we’re 21st means Plymouth will probably target this game as one to go all out for 3 points. That kind of approach would fall right into our hands, so I’m predicting Gills to edge a tense and tight affair. 2-1.