Gillingham chairman Paul Scally delivers his latest set of programme notes.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and welcome back to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for our third home game in 10 days, this time against AFC Wimbledon.
I'd like to extend a warm welcome to everybody associated with tonight's visitors – their supporters, playing squad, management team and directors – and as ever I wish them a safe and pleasant evening at the home of football in Kent.
I'm sure no Gills fan needs reminding that the last time the Dons visited ME7 back in April 2013, we famously secured the League Two title. That remains one of the club's greatest achievements and is an occasion very few of you will forget in a hurry. I know I certainly won't.
Yet while there's no trophy at stake come full-time this evening, I hope that the fantastic atmosphere and positive outcome from that day's game will both be replicated come 9.30pm tonight.
Following Saturday's result against Coventry City, everybody at the club is extremely determined to secure all three points this evening. As disappointing as the final score was, I was pleased that we did not go down without a fight in the second half. Trailing 2-0, it would have been easy for the players to start shirking challenges, to not win their battles and to throw in the towel, but our display after the break certainly merited at least a point.
Ady, his coaching team and – perhaps most importantly – the players all know the importance of keeping clean sheets, as we cannot afford to continuously give teams leads in games. It is important to remember that in the last 12 months we have kept just seven, which confirms that this is not a new problem.
We looked on course to keep one seven days ago against Chesterfield, in which the players delivered one of their best performances of the season. On another day, the scoreline would have been more like Gillingham 4 Chesterfield 0, as we dominated the game from start to finish. For whatever reason, we're not getting the breaks we deserve right now, but if the players continue to work hard I have little doubt their luck will change. If we produce the same level of performance in coming matches as we did last Tuesday, I also believe the club will quickly rise up the table.
While results in recent weeks may not have been what we were all hoping for, I continue to see vast improvements in our pre-match preparation and performances. Ady, Jamie, Steve, Neil, alongside the club's long-standing goalkeeper coach Ian Pledger, continue to show great diligence in their work. Information and detail are at the heart of what they are doing, and the structure and thinking behind their methods is refreshing.
Let it not be forgotten that, prior to Saturday's game, we were undefeated in five matches. That suggests that the work on the training ground is paying off; high-flying Bradford City and Sheffield United were unable to break us down, confirming that we have plenty of fight and resilience within the first team.
There has also been a notable reduction in the number of injuries sustained in matches and during training, which means that our squad is extremely strong at a key point in the season. Nobody can doubt the level of ability in the dressing room, and once that first win is achieved, I am extremely confident that more will quickly follow it. On that note, we are hopeful that loan striker Joe Quigley will be available for selection in the not-too-distant future, as he completes his impressive recovery from a nasty ACL injury sustained in our victory over Bury at the start of the season.
Therefore I ask fans to continue their great support of everybody in the dugout and on the pitch, particularly in these next handful of games, as the battle to move up the table intensifies.
On that note, I am delighted to welcome Gary Hemens back to the club as our first-team physiotherapist. Gary needs little introduction, having previously served under Martin Allen and Peter Taylor, and is extremely competent at what he does. He is highly-rated in his field and his return completes an incredibly strong backroom team at the club. Again, having good, honest people in and around the playing squad will help us in our fight to move up the Sky Bet League One table.
Owing to the date of this rescheduled fixture, tonight is the first of back-to-back home games against local opposition. Southend United visit the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off), and I hope as many of you can come and support the players in that match, too. The away following for both our 3-1 victories across the river at the start of the season was incredible, and your backing will be equally as important come the weekend, as a large away contingent is expected to make the journey over the Dartford Crossing.
That game is followed by two away fixtures against Swindon Town (February 28, 7.45pm KO) and Bury (March 4, 3pm KO), both of whom sit below us in the table at present. Having attracted one of our best away followings of the season at Coventry on Saturday, I have no doubt that your fantastic support will continue to encourage the players at these two important matches.
Let's all be the 12th man tonight and ensure we get behind the players for the whole game.
Up the Gills!
Paul D P Scally