With the FA Cup first round weekend having come and gone, it is a case of back to business for sides in EFL League One. Focus returns to picking up points and vital wins as the season grows older.
And for two opponents on Saturday, those points could be the difference between staying up, or relegation to EFL League Two.
Third tier stalwarts Gillingham host new comers Lincoln City in a game that both will believe they can win. Which could result in an open contest where caution is thrown to the wind in search of victory.
Story behind the game
Gillingham boss Steve Evans is somewhat of an expert at this level, having gained promotion from it before. However his current task is to keep his side in the league, with the Gills sat five points above the relegation zone. Although, they will be encouraged by their midweek win over Tottenham Hotspurs' U21 team in the EFL Trophy. Meanwhile opponents Lincoln, who sit below them on goal difference, will also be looking to take a good trophy result into the league. Michael Appleton's side overcame Rotherham United 3-0 in an impressive performance, which they hope will encourage a boost in their worrying league form.
These sides were last in the same league in 2010/11, where Gillingham just missed out on a play-off place in League Two, whilst Lincoln were relegated to Non-League football. In terms of head-to-head that season, both sides came away with one victory each. The Imps won 1-0 at Priestfields, whilst Gillingham won the reverse comfortably at Sincil Bank, which ended 4-0. The Dorset side will therefore be looking for their first home victory over their Lincolnshire opponents this century, having lost the last two.
Both teams know that a result here will pull them away from the dangers of the relegation zone, whilst defeat means they will be right amongst it, so the stakes are high.
Evans has said that youngster Matty Willock is close to a return. The Manchester United loanee has had a full week of training on the grass, but is unlikely to play a part, with it being too soon for him.
Lee Frecklington and Ben Coker could feature after they made their returns from injury in the week. There is also a chance that Michael Bostwick could play, with his return to training. Ellis Chapman will definitely be given a start, with Appleton keen to give him a chance.
(4-4-2) Bonham, Fuller, Ehmer, Ogilvie, O'Connor, Byrne, Jones, O'Keefe, Lee, Hanlan, Mandron.
(4-2-3-1) Vickers, Eardley, Connelly, Shackell, Toffolo, Chapman, O'Connor, Andrade, Payne, Hesketh, Walker.
Stuart O'Keefe v Ellis Chapman
A regular within the Gillingham team is central midfielder Stuart O'Keefe, who joined from Cardiff City in the summer. He has spent the last few years out on loan, but has finally settled down permanently, so will be hoping to prove this is where he belongs. Coming up against him in the midfield battle will be 18-year-old Ellis Chapman, who has risen through the youth ranks at Lincoln. He spent last season on loan at Chesterfield, but has been playing more regularly for his parent club this season, and will be looking to take his chance on Saturday.
Barry Fuller v Jake Hesketh
Going from youth to experience, one of Gillingham's most senior payers is 35-year-old right-back Barry Fuller. Fuller spent four year with the Gills from 2008-12, before returning in 2018, where he has been a key member of the starting XI ever since. He will be hoping that he can nullify Lincoln's attacking threat down their left-wing, in the form of Southampton loanee Jake Hesketh. The 23-year-old seems to have finally nailed down a starting place ahead of team-mate Jorge Grant, so will be hoping to prove to his manager that he deserves to be there.
What the managers have said
Steve Evans has emphasised to the club's media the importance of this time of the season. He said:
“We are getting to crunch time now, mid-November. The lads are fighting so hard.”
“Lincoln are a good side, they are full of good players. I know Frecklington and Akinde. They will be tough opponents.”
“We needs some results to back up performances. The boys know that, it's time to win some games.”
In the other camp, Michael Appleton has told BBC Radio Lincolnshire that he believes that the results will come, as his side continue to perform well. He said:
“If I'm being honest, I think we've had it for a while, we just get punished a little bit for small mistakes.”
“I've heard the phrase 'not seeing games out', but for me it's not that, it's more getting that second goal.”
“Going back to a couple of weeks ago at Wimbledon, there was a lot said about conceding as late as we did, and rightly so. But I did say eventually, we would be the team that scores in the 93rd minute.”