Gillingham will host Sunderland on Saturday in EFL League One action attempting to avoid a fifth defeat in a row.
After a positive start to the season, Steve Evans’ side have slipped to 16th in the table and are in freefall. Sunderland, meanwhile, are seventh, and haven’t won in two.
Here’s our preview of the game.
Gillingham are suffering from numerous injuries right now. Jacob Mellis’ season is over after he was confirmed in the week to have picked up a cartilage injury, whilst Stuart O’Keefe is also out for the campaign with a broken leg.
Ryan Jackson is a doubt after he went off against Ipswich on Tuesday, whilst Tom O’Connor has been ruled out for two weeks.
Goalkeeper Jack Bonham also went off injured against Ipswich, and has been ruled out with concussion. Gillingham completed the emergency loan signing of QPR ‘keeper Joe Lumley on Friday, and he will start between the sticks.
Kyle Dempsey and Vadaine Oliver aren’t fully fit, but they are expected to feature. The Gills will, however, welcome back Connor Ogilvie from suspension and potentially Declan Drysdale, who missed the Ipswich game to attend a funeral in a tier three area. He has since returned a negative COVID-19 test and is good to go again.
For Sunderland, Luke O’Nien is available for selection after serving a ban and recovering from an ankle injury.
Jordan Willis will face assessment on an ongoing patella tendinitis problem, with Dion Sanderson fit again following a knock in midweek.
Gillingham (potential 4-4-2): Lumley, McKenzie, Tucker, Medley, Ogilvie - Graham, Eccles, Dempsey, MacDonald – Samuel, Oliver.
Sunderland (possible 3-4-3): Burge – Sanderson, Wright, Flanagan – McLaughlin, Power, Dobson, Hume – Maguire, Wyke, Gooch.
Gillingham have now lost four games in a row. Since beating Oxford United 3-1 on October 10, Steve Evans’ side have lost 2-0 to MK Dons, Portsmouth and Fleetwood Town, and 1-0 to Ipswich Town; the latter on Tuesday night.
Steve Evans has a huge task on his hands as not only have his side lost four games in a row but they have done so without scoring. Another loss against Sunderland, and the Gills really will be in a downward spiral.
Sunderland too started the season well but have slipped outside the play-off places in League One after failing to win any of their last two games.
After a 3-1 defeat against Portsmouth, Phil Parkinson’s side drew 2-2 with Rochdale in midweek. Early season favourites for promotion, the Black Cats will be hoping to get back on track at Priestfield on Saturday.
Ones to watch
Despite the Gills struggling in front of goal recently, Jordan Graham remains the one to watch for the hosts. The winger has four league goals and one assist to his name so far this season, and most of the Gills’ play goes through him.
He has created several opportunities for his teammates lately – he played John Akinde through one-on-one and teed up Alex MacDonald to hit the bar, both against Ipswich – but he has had no reward for his efforts.
Expect plenty of crosses into the box from him, and, if Gillingham do score, he is bound to be involved.
Despite spitting opinion amongst Sunderland fans, Charlie Wyke is the Black Cats’ talisman at the minute.
Man 𝙞𝙣 𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢... 🎯— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) October 30, 2020
Charlie Wyke previews tomorrow's @SkyBetLeagueOne encounter at Gillingham 🗞️👇
The forward has netted in his last two games and is the man chosen to lead the line at the minute. He will fancy his chances on Saturday against an inexperienced Gillingham defence that has struggled to keep goals out this season, so don’t be surprised if he is on the scoresheet again at Priestfield.
The teams are yet to meet this season, but the last meeting between the two sides – Gillingham’s final match before last season was curtailed – was drawn 2-2 at the Stadium of Light after former Sunderland forward Mikael Mandron netted a last-minute equaliser for Gillingham.
In fact, the two teams met four times last season, with Gillingham winning two meetings and there also being two draws.
In total, the teams have crossed paths 14 times in their histories, with Sunderland winning seven games to Gillingham’s three. There have also been four draws between the two.
How to watch
The game has not been selected for TV coverage in the UK, but an iFollow pass can be purchased for £10 via either club’s website to stream the game live.
Gillingham season ticket holders can watch for free via a code that should be received from the club.
What the managers have said
Gillingham boss Steve Evans was full of praise in regards to Sunderland when speaking to the press on Friday morning.
He said: “Sunderland are better this year. Parky [Phil Parkinson] has had the opportunity now to implement his style completely. They are a good, experienced management team. I see them in the top two at the end of the season.
“We are underdogs because it is Sunderland Football Club. Every time the team coach turns up, they are favourites. If they do not get promoted it is not great – they could be playing in the Premier League.
“I took time to watch full re-runs. We know pretty much what the team will be, and the shape will be the same as they have been playing because they have been playing well. They are a terrific side full of good players.”
Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson was wary of Gillingham during his press conference, but admitted he expects his side to get a result.
He said: “We know what to expect from Gillingham. They will be similar to last season in the way they play.
“Steve Evans has recruited some decent players and they started well before having an indifferent spell.
“We are creating clear-cut chances. We have had some gilt-edged opportunities. I am confident we have got the strikers that will chip in with the goals.”