Behind Enemy Lines: Gillingham

MILLWALL’S priority is always going to be the league, with this game providing an early chance to rest key players.

It is expected that Neil Harris will make a host of changes, giving players such as Tom Elliott a chance to show what they can do. He netted twice against Stevenage at this stage of the League Cup last season.

Gillingham have started brightly in League One and sit fourth in the table following two wins, including a 3-1 victory over relegated Burton Albion last Saturday.

Steve Lovell will be hoping that his side can cause an upset.

Lucas Ball spoke to Gillingham fan Reece Heard ahead of the game.

Twitter: @Reece_GFC

Why do you support Gillingham?

I’ve been a Gillingham fan since 2003 after my dad surprised me with a ticket to my first ever game against Rotherham, back at a time when we were living the high life in the Championship!

Gills are also my local club, based just a few miles from where I live, so they’re also the easiest and most convenient team for me to support.

What’s been your best season following Gills?

Without doubt the 2012-13 campaign, when we won the League Two title under Martin Allen’s stewardship. The squad was fantastic, and Allen ensured supporters were a vital part of the journey. It’s also our only league title in over half a century!

Watching my team win the League Two play-off final at Wembley in 2009 was also an amazing experience, but nothing can top being champions.

Is Steve Lovell the right man for the job?

As we know, things in football can change incredibly quickly, but at the moment he’s more than the right man. He’s doing a fantastic job considering the position we found ourselves in when he took over, and where we are now.

In October 2017 we were already relegated in the eyes of most supporters, however he stepped up from a coaching role under the previous regime, drastically changed our style of play and with it, our results too. He’s made us a much more attacking and exciting outfit, and he’s already orchestrated a number of memorable away victories in his short time in charge.

How would you assess the summer for Gills?

I would say our transfer window didn’t necessarily produce any spectacular business, but we had an efficient summer, and Lovell has recruited the right type of player for the style of football he’s seeking to instil in the team.

Barry Fuller, Dean Parrett and Callum Reilly know our division well and have proven their qualities at this level. Meanwhile Josh Rees, Regan Charles-Cook and Brandon Hanlan are completely new to League One, but early signs suggest they could emerge as gems for the club if Lovell can unlock their potential.

In terms of possible loans, I wouldn’t be against us looking to bring in an additional centre-back for extra cover. However, they’d more than likely be fourth choice behind Gabriel Zakuani, Max Ehmer and Alex Lacey, so as much as one more would be ideal, we’re not desperate. The squad is generally in good shape, with plenty of options in most areas.

Who are Gillingham’s key men?

Should he play, Millwall will need to keep an eye on Luke O’Neill. He’s our width on the right-hand side as he pushes forward from right back. His standard of delivery is excellent and he’s a certain goal threat from set-pieces on the edge of the penalty box, demonstrated by his belter of a free-kick against Burton on Saturday.

Striker Hanlan could also be key. With Millwall being the superior opposition in terms of divisional status, the onus will be on them to get on the front foot and take the game to us, which could leave the pacey Hanlan with lots of room to potentially expose the Lions on the break. He’s playing with confidence and was desperately unlucky to not score on Saturday, getting into numerous good positions and hitting the woodwork twice.

Which Millwall players will Lovell’s side be wary of?

This is a tricky one to answer as I’m not too sure what Neil Harris will do with his team in terms of rotation. Jed Wallace is a player I like a lot and, if he plays, he’s one that Gills will definitely have to pay close attention to.

Tom Elliott is also a player we’ve come up against several times in recent years and is always a handful, so we’ll have to keep an eye on him too should Steve Morison or Lee Gregory be rested.

What’s your predicted Gills starting XI and formation?

While I think Lovell will make a couple of changes, I still expect us to field a strong team, with every intention of winning the game. We’ll more than likely play with a 4-1-2-1-2 narrow diamond in midfield, and I can see the line-up being the following:



Fuller, Ehmer, Lacey, Garmston

Bingham, Byrne, Charles-Cook, Nasseri

Eaves, Hanlan

Finally, a score prediction?

There’s no doubt that this will be an incredibly tough test for Gills, but the fact we’ve won our opening two league matches has brought out my optimistic side.

Should Neil Harris make a few changes, I see no reason why we can’t take Millwall all the way given our impressive away record under Lovell. I’ll be bold and go for a 1-1 draw, with Gillingham winning the tie on penalties!

Image: Millwall FC