It’s been a miserable start to the season for Gillingham fans, who have watched their side struggle in League One, collecting just seven points from a possible 33. A drop to the EFL‘s fourth tier is looking extremely likely for the Kent club as a chronic lack of potency in the final third appears to be preventing them from climbing the table.
There has been plenty of upheaval at the Priestfield in recent seasons, with Justin Edinburgh replaced by Ady Pennock in the dugout. However, it didn’t work out for the former Forest Green boss, who left the club on September 25.
It was no surprise to see the 46-year-old depart after presiding over just a single victory this season, leaving with a disappointing 18.75% win percentage from his nine months in charge. Pennock didn’t immediately endear himself to fans when stripping the popular Josh Wright of his captaincy.
The 27-year-old subsequently left the club after falling out with the head coach and many supporters felt they should have done more to maintain the services of last season’s top goalscorer. Bradley Dack and Cody McDonald also left the Priestfield during the summer, leaving Pennock with very little experience in the squad.
Who will take over the Priestfield hot seat?
Peter Taylor takes temporary charge of the club and is a steady hand for now. He oversaw the narrow 1-0 defeat to Blackburn on September 30 and praised the players’ application but once again they failed to hit the target.
Taylor admitted that he doesn’t believe he will be in charge for long, but added that chairman Paul Scally will need time to “make the right decision”. Mansfield manager Steve Evans (pictured) has been heavily linked, while other names linked with the vacancy include current Cambridge boss Shaun Derry, Chris Powell, Martin Allen and former favourite Andy Hessenthaler.
The latter took the club to their highest position in the Football League but has recently been appointed as assistant manager at Eastleigh. He boasted a 38% win percentage during his first spell with the club.
Are there any signs of improvement?
Taylor has helped Gillingham tighten up at the back, with the club keeping two clean sheets in their last four matches. Just one momentary lapse in concentration allowed former Gill Dominic Samuel to net for Blackburn at Ewood Park on September 30 as Taylor’s men drew yet another blank.
They’ve conceded just 15 times all season, which is fewer than Northampton, Bury, Plymouth, Oldham, Walsall and even fourth-placed Peterborough, who have shipped 17 in just 11 games.
As of October 2, Gillingham are picked as 1/5 favourites for the drop on some betting sites, but they are competent in defence and with a little more cutting edge, craft and guile in the final third, it may be possible to lift themselves out of the bottom four. They’ve already shown their ability to grind out results with the 1-0 success against Charlton with fans praising the players’ desire and determination.
More quality is badly needed in the striking department and whilst there are a number of free agents still searching for employers, the club should start to put the wheels in motion ahead of the January transfer window.
Where are the goals going to come from?
Tom Eaves is the club’s top scorer with four goals so far. He netted the winner against Charlton and has scored 66% of the team’s goals so far this campaign. The former Bolton and Yeovil striker is a competent finisher and has plundered a goal every 160 minutes for the Kent outfit. He has been forced to miss the last couple of games through suspension after receiving his marching orders during the 3-0 defeat to Rochdale during Ady Pennock’s final game in charge.
The club cannot afford to lean on just one player for goals this season and with the side having failed to find the net in seven of the first eleven games, reinforcements are required. They also recruited Liam Nash from Maldon and Tiptree this summer but it’s always difficult for strikers to make the immediate step up especially in struggling sides.
Once a permanent successor to Ady Pennock is appointed, they must find a way to solve Gillingham’s goalscoring woes. Plymouth are propping up the table at the beginning of October and appear in disarray, whilst there are a number of struggling sides such as AFC Wimbledon and Doncaster who can be caught.
A proven goalscorer at this level is required and some experience is desperately needed. The average age of the squad is just 25 and there are just three players who are in their thirties, including third-choice goalkeeper Stuart Nelson and versatile winger Lee Martin.
Peter Taylor can steady the ship for now but his replacement must hit the ground running and it is essential that they unlock the club’s shyness in front of goal if they are to preserve their League One status.