As all Gillingham fans will know, away form has never been a strength of the club. While Priestfield has so often been a haven, a fortress even, for the Gills, venturing away from Kent has often brought misery for players and fans alike.
A quick look at certain results will tell you all you need to know, and will not be erased from Gillingham folklore. The 7-0 thumping at Shrewsbury; FA Cup defeats at Brackley and Burscough; the utterly miserable relegation season of 2009-2010.
All that is contained within the recent memory of a 21 year old – I am sure those of a certain vintage will be able to dredge up other, more uncomfortable memories.
But that is in the past, and this is a season that continues to prove fans of Gillingham, and of their rivals in League One, wrong.
Will Away Form Halt Gillingham’s Promotion Push?
Gillingham currently lie in second place of League One, five points adrift of Burton but eleven points clear of 7th-placed Southend.While crucial home games lie in what against Walsall, Coventry and Millwall, Gillingham’s away form will need to improve if the most thrilling of promotion triumphs is to be achieved.
The home record speaks for itself. It is the best in the league with twelve victories, three draws and just the single loss against Burton.
Yet the away record is just the thirteenth best in the league with just one win in every three; which must get better. Three of the next four games on paper look extremely winnable while crucial games against Southend, Burton and Sheffield United lie in wait. Gillingham fans will be checking trains, buses and automobiles to reach Oldham, Fleetwood and Scunthorpe over the next couple of weeks. A couple of wins are vital to keep Gillingham ahead of the chasing pack and to continue exerting pressure on Burton, who have been exemplary all season.
The Gillingham attack has goals in it, that is known. Rory Donnelly, Dominic Samuel, Bradley Dack and now George Williams, will all score goals and threaten any side in the division. However it is the defensive side of affairs that has frequently let Justin Edinburgh’s young side down.
The settled back four of the past month or so is now being disturbed. Ryan Jackson and Bradley Garmston have both picked up injuries as of late, and Deji Oshilaja should be returning to the club in the very near future to challenge Max Ehmer, who has failed to impress this season.
Adam Chicksen and Aaron Morris will provide a certain solidity even if it is at the cost of the explosive pace down the flanks, which could be a blessing in disguise away from home. It could, possibly, necessitate a change in formation or approach with Brennan Dickenson and Jermaine McGlashan options to provide that width and pace which could be lacking either at wing back should Edinburgh choose to go for a back three when Oshilaja returns or as part of a traditional midfield four. The depth in the squad may well be tested, which will be a trial of the summer’s recruitment, but the team and fitness levels look in rude spirit to top any challenge that comes their way.
Another aspect that may be beneficial in the final push of the season is the camaraderie that player after player, the latest being Morris and Josh Wright, have praised. It is evident in the pre-game warm-up, in the celebrations, on social media, in the results and in the way Gillingham are winning their games.
The feel-good factor of this season has not been seen in a long time.
The nails may be emaciated, but it’s not going to get any better in the near future. Tension, disaster and triumph are sure to all rear their ugly head at some point before now and May. But would you have it any other way? For Gillingham fan’s it’s all part of the experience.