As we close in on the business end of the season across the EFL, teams up and down the country are scrambling to find their form in order to achieve their goals.
In EFL League One, despite the time of season, it is looking tight both near the top and bottom of the table.
For the sides facing one another on Saturday, the outlook is very different. Home side Lincoln City want to rediscover their form to secure their league status. Whilst visitors Gillingham will have hopes of breaking into the play-off places.
Story behind the game
Lincoln boss Michael Appleton will be hoping his side can end their winless run this weekend, having picked up just one point from their last 18 on offer. Scoring has been the issue during that run, however last weekend saw them suffer from defensive issues instead, losing 4-3 at fellow strugglers Accrington Stanley. Whereas Gillingham are on a much more positive run, with Steve Evans' side having avoided defeat in 14 straight league games, which dates back to November. However Lincoln will take encouragement in that half of those 14 games have been draws, so will have hope that they can get something from the game.
Gillingham came out on top when these sides met at Priestfields in November, with Lincoln's Appleton describing the 1-0 defeat as a game where they simply didn't turn up. Prior to this season, Saturday's opponents have only been in the same league as one another twice this century. In the 08/09 and 10/11 seasons, they met on four occasions, with Lincoln winning three to Gillingham's one. But City fans will recall the last time they welcomed the Gills to Sincil Bank, where they lost 4-0 the month before their relegation to the National League. So they will be aiming to fare far better this time around.
A victory on Saturday for the Imps would be crucial, giving them a first win in over a month to ease any lingering relegation fears. Meanwhile, Gillingham know that a win could propel them to the brink of the play-off places.
Appleton may start returning centre-back Michael Bostwick after his late substitute cameo last weekend. However, Joe Morrell is serving the final game of his two-match suspension, so will be unavailable.
In the other camp, Evans is hopeful that he will have his whole squad available to him on Saturday. Although defender Alfie Jones and midfielder Stuart O'Keefe need to come through training, so will have to wait and see.
(4-4-2) Vickers, Eardley, Bostwick, Shackell, Edun, Anderson, Bridcutt, Grant, Scully, Hopper, John-Jules.
(4-3-3) Bonham, Fuller, Ehmer, Tucker, Ogilvie, O'Connor, Willock, Roberts, Hanlan, Akinde, Mandron.
Michael Bostwick v John Akinde
No nonsense defender Michael Bostwick has been an integral part of the Lincoln team ever since his arrival in the summer of 2017. He has been a big miss for his side since his injury at the start of the year, but could make a proper return against Gillingham. He will likely face a player he knows very well in the form of dangerman John Akinde, who left City during the January transfer window. Akinde was a key figure in their promotion from EFL League Two, and will be hoping to prove himself on his return to the club.
Liam Bridcutt v Matty Willock
Since his arrival at Lincoln on deadline day last month, central midfielder Liam Bridcutt has proved to be a smart piece of business. He has ran the midfield, showing his leadership skills and former Premier League experience. He scored his first goal for the club in their last home game against MK Dons, and will be hoping that he can continue to goal-scoring front in the future. On Saturday he will do battle against a midfielder with far less career experience, in the form of Manchester United loanee Matty Willock. The brother of Arsenal midfielder Joe struggled with injury troubles during the early stages of his loan spell, but he has finally began to find his feet in the team. So he will be looking to prove that he is up to the task against someone with experience such as Bridcutt.
What the managers have said
Lincoln manager Appleton spoke to local journalists about the game, hoping that the team can rectify the mistakes they made in the reverse fixture. He said:
“I feel that we owe them (the fans) one, hopefully the players do. They'll be the ones that have to take the game on.
“The actual team on Saturday will be quite different to the team that started at Gillingham. So it's always difficult to replicate.
“All I would say is that, as frustrated as we have been of late, losing the five games, we've been pretty competitive and certainly deserving of a lot more points than we've picked up.”
Gillingham boss Evans told the club's media that he is expecting a challenge on Saturday, having quite a vast knowledge of Lincoln. He said:
“Lincoln have good characters in their group and a manager who is very knowledgeable. It will be a tough test.
“We took a while to find a style of play, but we have worked so hard on the training ground, we have done lots of video analysis, but credit must go to the players.
“Standards and preparing to play on a matchday is not negotiable. Players are leading by example.”