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Friday, 13 March 2015

The Inside Line: Bristol City v Gillingham (14/03/2015)

A long overdue return to Ashton Gate for Bristol City this weekend sees them host Gillingham – yes, yet again! – although given the recent run of results on the road, perhaps we’d be just as well off playing away once more.

Ahead of our FIFTH match of the season against Kent's number one side , Stu Radnedge caught up with Gills fan Rob Baker https://twitter.com/RobBaker292 for a fresh look at our weekend opponents.

“It may well be a cliché, but "a season of two halves" is the perfect description of our 2014/15 campaign. Up until the New Year, Gillingham were barely keeping themselves above water; relegation was a real possibility and the football being played was boring, defensive, negative and not successful (including 2 defeats to Bristol City).

On New Year's Eve the previous manager, Peter Taylor was sacked after a bust-up with the chairman and our fortunes changed. The four members coaching staff were all appointed equal co-caretaker managers and, despite losing two more (plus another to Bristol City!) our season was different. 

The "gang of 4" changed our system to four at the back, playing Bradley Dack in his best position behind the strikers, encouraging a more positive gameplan, and signing a new striker (while releasing a club legend in Danny Kedwell). Five games undefeated (including a draw this time vs Bristol City) meant Gillingham rocketed up the table. 

We had been searching for a manager for a relegation scrap - we now needed one for a playoff push. Newport County's Justin Edinburgh was appointed and kept the run going, with another couple of wins and a draw, before defeat finally occurred at the end of February. 

A 3-0 away win at rivals Swindon did Edinburgh's reputation no harm while a hard fought 1-1 draw vs Doncaster has seen us lose once since 10th January. I now firmly expect us to finish in midtable; it is so tight that we could easily end up 18th/19th or even just outside the playoffs. My hope for the rest of the season is that we beat our best finish since Gillingham were relegated from the Championship in 2005 and finish 13th or higher.

Throughout the season, it has been very obvious of John Egan's talents. The defender has been a star signing, with his tackling, heading, superb positioning and excellent distribution. Signed from Sunderland in the summer, Egan enjoys playing the ball out of defence along the floor, or coming forward himself (resulted in a long range goal earlier in the season). With his defensive partner Max Ehmer allowing the 22-year-old Egan to play on his natural right side he has shone and Gillingham will be lucky to hold on to him through the summer.

Another player Gillingham will be eager to keep is youth product Bradley Dack. He has been on the fringes for the first team for a few seasons now, often playing out wide rather than centrally. However, since the four-man managerial team took over, Dack has been played behind the strikers, in a "number 10 " role and has flourished. His preferred position from his youth team days, where he was a frequent scorer, Dack seems to relish playing in this position for the seniors. Capable of finding a pass, willing to have a shot (and score as he did vs Bristol in the JPT 1st leg), and also contribute to pressing high up the pitch, the 21-year-old is in good form and will undoubtedly attract attention from bigger clubs.

Despite this being the fifth meeting of the two clubs, I feel that Saturday's game will be a lot closer than the others. Bristol City may well practically have the title wrapped up, but Gillingham have more confidence that in previous meetings and the JPT draw at Ashton Gate showed that City aren't invincible. With my confident hat on, I feel that another score-draw may be on the cards.”

Thanks to Stu and to Rob.

It’s within our grasp now.

The Exiled Robin

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