Can Gillingham Hold their Nerve as Crunch-time Nears?

Thursday’s last minute defeat against Wigan was a crushing blow for a Gillingham team that had won their previous 4 games, including fantastic away wins at Swindon and Millwall. Following the mid-week ties, the Gills are currently one point ahead of Walsall in third place, and thirteen ahead of Sheffield United, who sit just outside the play off positions. January could be a key month for Justin Edinburgh’s side, who will look to further cement their play-off position and maintain touch at the summit of League One. To come: away games at Doncaster and Blackpool, sandwiching a crucial home game against promotion rivals Peterborough.

Doncaster have picked up under Darren Ferguson, Peterborough are flying under Graham Westley and Blackpool are battling for their lives at the bottom of the table. These are the games that will define the promotion narrative. Games where Gillingham need to dig deep, avoid injuries, and continue to pick up the points.

Both Peterborough and Gillingham share one key facet: players coveted by teams higher up the pyramid, as Posh seek to preserve their young talents of Conor Washington and Marcus Maddison. On the other hand, keeping Bradley Dack will be essential to Gillingham’s promotion hopes, such is the impact that he makes in the team — in both his work-rate and the added flash of brilliance that he can bring to any game.

The eleven goals he has provided from midfield, if anything, undersell the importance of the midfield livewire; it doesn’t include the assists, the tackles, and the passion that he brings to a very youthful Gillingham team. John Egan is another player that Gillingham must keep hold of in the transfer window, as his assurance from the back is crucial in a back four that lacks experience, and certainly lacks experience in a promotion chase at this level.

One thing is for sure: Sheffield United, Millwall and Wigan, amongst others, will not be standing still during January, and Edinburgh has already intimated that he is looking to bring in reinforcements. A striker would bolster a creaking front-line. Samuel is class at this level, yet is only at the club until the end of the month. Cody McDonald and Luke Norris have both been held back by injuries of late, and Rory Donnelly is just starting to hit a bit of form again. A move for a loan striker could provide a certain re-invigoration to the Gillingham attack, especially with a two game ban for Dack looming. Moreover, if Deji Oshilaja can be restored to the starting XI it would be another big boost for a Gillingham defense that can look shakey and was especially vulnerable in the air at the DW Stadium.

Memories of 2000 and 2013 are hard to ignore as Gillingham try to sustain a promotion push that has surprised the Priestfield faithful as well as the wider League One audience. If Edinburgh can pick up a couple of wins in January, convince Dack to stay, and bring in a couple of reinforcements, there is no reason why Gillingham cannot go all the way in 2016.

Can Gillingham hold their nerve? Yes. Can I control my nerves? Absolutely not.

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