Fixture: Gillingham v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, November 12, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Priestfield Stadium
Forecast: 8C, showers
Outs and doubts: Gillingham: Jonathan Bond (groin), Ryan Jackson (dead leg), Bradley Garmston (knee), Aaron Morris (knee), Lee Martin (ankle), Frank Nouble (hamstring). Cobblers: Jak McCourt (neck), Gabriel Zakuani (international duty)
Betting: Gillingham 13/8, draw 12/5, Northampton 8/5
Form guide: Gills WDLDDL, Cobblers DWWWLL
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Gillingham 1.4/1.8; Northampton 1.7/1.4
Likely line-ups: Gillingham (4-3-3): Nelson; Jackson, Herd, Ehmer, Konchesky; Dack, Hessenthaler, Knott; Nouble, McDonald, Emmanuel-Thomas. Northampton (4-3-3): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan; O’Toole, Taylor, Hoskins; Anderson, Hooper, Richards
Man in the middle: Lee Probert
Gillingham’s problems have largely stemmed from an inability to keep clean sheets; they’ve yet to stop an opposing team from scoring in any league game this term, conceding 29 goals in 16 outings.
Last time out: West Brom U21s 0 Gillingham 2 (Oldaker, Emmanuel-Thomas); Northampton 1 (Beautyman) West Ham U21s 1
Most recent meeting: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 – Gillingham 2 (McDonald, Weston) Northampton 0
Record v Gillingham: P108 W51 D18 L39
Opposition view: Tuesday’s win over West Brom in the EFL Trophy was Gillingham’s first in almost two months, and manager Justin Edinburgh told Kent Online: “We are a team that are capable of beating anyone in this league. We will concentrate on ourselves, the crowd expect us to win. We are positive, the players are positive and the (West Brom) result will increase that positivity.
“Mentally it will help. It has been far too long (without a win) and it is an obstacle we have overcome. It could help us in the long run.”
Cobblers connection: Sadly there will be no reunion with former loanee Lee Martin for Northampton this weekend after the Gillingham winger suffered a horror injury in pre-season. After the Cobblers chose not to keep him at the end of last season, Martin signed for Gillingham but he’s yet play a game this season after breaking and dislocating his ankle at Leyton Orient in a friendly. Thankfully, he is making a quicker than expected recovery and could even return to action before the end of 2016.
James Heneghan’s preview: With a testing run of fixtures to come against rivals Peterborough and high-flying duo Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers, all before the end of November, Saturday’s visit to free-falling Gillingham represents an excellent opportunity for the Cobblers to consolidate their place in the play-offs.
Northampton are currently stationed in a steady sixth in Sky Bet League One but are yet to face three of the top four this season, making games like this one all the more important.
Gillingham, on the other hand, will be hoping the visit of Rob Page’s men to the Priestfield Stadium signals a change in fortunes following a wretched run of form.
Their 2-0 win over West Brom U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday was their first victory in any competition since September 24, and they remain without a league win since beating Coventry 2-1 seven games ago.
That pitiful run of form has taken the Gills from eighth on September 24 down 10 places to 18th ahead of this weekend.
The FA Cup failed to provide much light relief either, having only just about survived an almighty scare when recovering from 2-0 down to take National League North side Brackley Town to a replay.
Gillingham’s problems have largely stemmed from an inability to keep clean sheets; they’ve yet to stop an opposing team from scoring in any league game this term, conceding 29 goals in 16 outings. Indeed, their last league clean sheet came all the way back on April 9 when they drew 0-0 with Sheffield United, a mighty 22 games ago.
There is, however, some good news for Gills boss Justin Edinburgh who’s set to be boosted by the return of several key players from injury this weekend, including Bradley Dack, Scott Wagstaff and Chris Herd, though former Northampton loanee Lee Martin remains sidelined duo to a nasty injury picked up in pre-season.
The Cobblers are on the up following successive league wins, scoring seven goals in the process, and they’ll be fancying their chances of continuing that good form against struggling Gillingham, albeit without two mainstays of the side
Gabriel Zakuani, who’s on international duty, and the injured Jak McCourt will be big misses, especially the latter who brings balance to the midfield and whose unrivalled ability to play the holding role has been key in allowing the likes of Matty Taylor and Sam Hoskins to flourish higher up the pitch.
Lewin Nyatanga and John-Joe O’Toole are likely to come in, while Marc Richards, with six goals in his last seven games, will feel he’s done enough to keep Alex Revell out the side, that is unless Page opts for the unlikely choice and starts with both.
Otherwise, the team largely picks itself, and with 14 goals in their last four games, there’s little reason to change what has been a winning a formula.
Saturday is a meeting between two sides who have been heading in very different directions over the last six months. If it goes to form, there’s only one winner.
But as we’ve seen already this season, form can count for little on the day.
Prediction: Gillingham 1 Northampton Town 3