Insight into Doncaster Rovers' next opponents as familiar problems leave Gillingham fighting for survival

A relegation lifeline is the prize on offer when Doncaster Rovers meet Gillingham this weekend.

By Paul Goodwin
Friday, 11th March 2022, 10:04 am
Gillingham boss Neil Harris. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Gillingham boss Neil Harris. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ahead of Saturday's bottom four battle at the Eco-Power Stadium, we spoke to KentOnline sports journalist Luke Cawdell for the lowdown on the Gills.

Gillingham finished 10th in League One last season. What's gone wrong this term?

It’s been a melting pot of issues really, starting in the summer with a Covid outbreak, meaning the club had to down tools midway through their pre-season preparations.

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They were playing catch-up when the season began and from then on a catalogue of injury problems have hit them hard.

The loss in the summer of key men Jordan Graham and Connor Ogilvie didn’t help either. Graham was the architect of many of their best attacking play the year before and hasn’t been suitably replaced while Ogivie had become a solid man at the back.

Former boss Steve Evans was outspoken in his frustration at his lack of resources and never had a settled squad to choose from, turning to youth players to make up the numbers. Neil Harris’ arrival has helped turn results around but time is running out.

What was your verdict on Steve Evans and the decision to sack him in January?

He certainly gave it his all while in charge of the Gills but the frustration was there for all to see. He felt he didn’t have the tools to succeed. The manager was making comments post-match that were being contradicted by the chairman and once the results started to get alarmingly worse it only seemed to be heading one way.

What impact has Neil Harris had and what type of football has he got the Gills playing?

He has come in with a positive attitude and looked to make that rub off on the players.

Number one focus was tightening up the defensive side of things. Prior to his arrival they had conceded seven against Oxford and it could have been more.

He’s opted for a wing-back formation that he admits he had never regular used before as a manager. It had worked up until Saturday when there were gaps at the back that hadn’t been seen so much since his arrival.

Harris has developed a good rapport with the fans almost instantly, helped by some good early home results. Many supporters doubted the club would have the clout to bring in someone of Harris’ stature to manage the side and were impressed with the appointment.

What are Gillingham's strengths and weaknesses on the pitch?

Up until Saturday under Harris they were looking a lot more solid defensively, helped by impressive QPR loan man Conor Masterson.

Ben Thompson’s arrival on transfer deadline day was a bit of a coup, bringing some class to the centre of the park and making up for the loss of their captain Kyle Dempsey who departed for Bolton.

You only have to have a look at the ‘goals for’ column in the table to see where Gillingham’s big problems have been. They have the joint worst goal scoring record in the division and just haven’t been able to create enough this term.

Who are the players to watch out for on Saturday?

As mentioned, former Millwall man Thompson has impressed, playing as an attacking midfielder. Masterson is a centre half who doesn’t mind getting stuck in at the other end of the pitch. Striker Vadaine Oliver usually dominates in the air and will be looking to take his goal tally into double figures.