Meet Gillingham: No win since October, but a new Norwich face up front

Charlton Athletic players warming up before the Sky Bet League One match at Priestfield Stadium, Gil

Ipswich Town travel to Gillingham's Priestfield Stadium this weekend - Credit: PA

Ipswich Town travel to relegation-threatened Gillingham for their first game of 2022 this afternoon. Mark Heath takes a look at the Gills...

Covid in the camp

Before we get to Gillingham's season so far, it's worth remembering that this clash was originally meant to have been played on Boxing Day.

The Gills, however, were hit by a wave of Covid which at one point saw them left with just seven outfield players, forcing them to postpone three games, including the match with Town.

They returned to action with a creditable 0-0 draw at seventh-placed MK Dons on New Year's Day, with boss Steve Evans saying the Covid issues, together with a spate of injuries to key players, have started to clear up.

Gillingham manger Steve Evans during the Sky Bet League One match at Hillsborough, Sheffield. Pictur

Steve Evans has battled Covid and injury issues at Gillingham - Credit: PA

"We will have no issues with these players back, we will be fine," he explained.

"We have made a good start (to 2022) but it is like building a house, we need to get the base right, we will work hard on the training ground in the week, to take us into Ipswich.

"We would have beaten a lot of teams with that performance (at MK Dons). They are a really good side. We need to keep focused. We came into 2022 and I addressed the group and I said ‘this is the start of what we are all about."

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He added: "It has been the hardest six to eight weeks ever, with players getting injured game after game, not small injuries, six, eight, 10 weeks, consistently for seven or eight weeks.

“I have always said you have to find a way to come back in the next day and get motivated and be positive with the group because we have got what we have got every time we play."

Story so far

Even putting their Covid and injury issues aside, the Gills are having a difficult season.

They sit 22nd in League One, four points from safety. That draw at MK Dons snapped a run of five straight losses, while they haven't won in the league since Tuesday, October 19.

That was a 1-0 win over rock-bottom Doncaster.

Evans is under no illusions as to where his side are and the challenge they face.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans applauds the fans before the Sky Bet League One match at Priestfield

Steve Evans knows Gillingham are in a relegation battle - Credit: PA

“We are in a battle but we have a rationale of why," he said. "Ten days ago we had eight players missing who Gills fans would have put in their starting eleven, it is an incredible number. There is no team in the league that have had to endure that.

“We are still fighting, we are still battling. We need to win some matches.”

He added: "We are normally stronger in the second part of the season, we will be stronger providing we have injuries cleared up and providing we can do one or two bits in January and we will win matches.

“The hope is everyone can get through 2022 as safely as they can and nobody gets that call about their loved ones. It is about wishing everyone health and happiness outside of football and inside it, let’s win some games.”

Norwich City V West Ham U18s FA Youth Cup. Tom Dickson-Peters. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Tom Dickson-Peters could face Ipswich Town on Saturday after joining Gillingham on loan from Norwich - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

New face

Evans says Gillingham need to make signings in January if they are to stay up, and they've already started - adding a promising young forward from a familiar foe.

And 19-year-old Norwich City prospect Tom Dickson-Peters, a youngster who's bagged 18 goals for the Canaries' U23 side this season, could make his debut against Town today.

Evans said: "The young man had a number of clubs he could have joined, such is his talent, but I got a call late afternoon yesterday to say he wanted to come to Gillingham.

"It obviously helps Norwich City favour us as his destination when you consider the development that the likes of Chris Wood, Jack Marriott and Ivan Toney made working with Paul (Raynor, assistant manager) and myself. 

“Tom is the Premier League 2’s leading goalscorer with 18 goals in league and cup action. 

"I have watched his progress since the start of the season and it’s an exciting journey he is on. He comes here with no pressure other than he needs to continue to work hard at developing his game. 

“He is a lovely kid who wants to continue scoring goals and we will do everything to help him.” 

Gillingham's Vadaine Oliver (left) and Wigan Athletic's George Johnston battle for the ball during t

Striker Vadaine Oliver is Gillingham's leading scorer this season, and is back after an injury break - Credit: PA

One to watch

Striker Vadaine Oliver was one of the big injury victims which Evans was lamenting.

He made his return at MK Dons, having last played - and scored - at Sheffield Wednesday on November 13.

The 30-year-old leads Gillingham with seven goals so far this season, having played 22 games.

And his scoring record at the Gills in general is decent - 27 goals in 71 appearances.

The Gills will be hoping he can trouble Town today.

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