Published: 15:00, 12 January 2018
Scott Wagstaff is back in the Gills starting line-up following his return from injury.
He replaces recently departed Sean Clare, who has returned to Sheffield Wednesday following his loan spell.
Clare came off the bench as a late substitute for Wednesday in their goalless draw with Sheffield United on Friday night.
Wagstaff's inclusion is the only change to the starting XI for the Gills, whose last outing was at Charlton on New Year's Day, where they won 2-1.
Former Gills man Billy Knott is named on the bench for Rochdale after his recent signing from Lincoln City.
Gillingham: Holy, Garmston, O’Neill, Zakuani, Ehmer, Hessenthaler, Byrne, Martin, Wagstaff, Parker, Eaves.
Subs: Nelson, Lacey, Ogilvie, Nugent, Oldaker, List, Wilkinson.
Rochdale: Lillis, Ntlhe, Kitching, Daniels, Bunney, McNulty, Cannon, Done, Camps, Andrew, Henderson.
Subs: Moore, Rafferty, McGahey, Rathbone, Inman, Adshead, Knott.
Gillingham return to Priestfield full of confidence after their historic away victory on New Year’s Day at Charlton.
They face a down-on-their-luck Rochdale side, who are looking to bounce back after a string of disappointing league results.
Steve Lovell will be expecting his Gillingham side to be fit and fresh after a two week respite, as their intended game at Shrewsbury was postponed due to the Shrews’ FA Cup match against West Ham being on the same weekend.
Preview written by Robert Anderson;
Gills are in a fine run of form and unbeaten in five games, picking up 11 points out of a possible 15. However, five of Lovell’s six league wins have come away from home, so fans will be hoping the side can step up and secure the three points in their own back yard.
Dale and the Gills have had a vibrant history in recent years, most notable being the League 2 play-off semi-final encounter in 2009.
Gillingham won over the two legs, with all the goals coming at Priestfield. Striker Simeon Jackson fired home each side of half time, sending Gillingham into the final, in which they then secured promotion back to League 1.
Head to Head;
Gills wins – 14
Draws – 16
Rochdale wins – 15
Recent League Form;
Gillingham: Charlton Athletic W 2-1 (a), AFC Wimbledon D 2-2 (h) Oxford United D 1-1 (h), Fleetwood W 2-0 (a), Bristol Rovers W 4-1 (h), Plymouth Argyle L 1-2 (a).
Rochdale: Blackpool L 1-2 (h), Doncaster L 0-2 (a), Blackburn L 2-0 (a), Walsall D 1-1 (h), Oxford United D 0-0 (h), Bradford L 3-4 (a)
Last meeting at Priestfield Stadium;
At the time of Rochdale’s last visit to Priestfield, they had won their last three matches in all competitions, including back-to-back 4-0 victories.
Rochdale were the better side in a goalless first half. They looked dangerous out wide and put plenty of inviting balls into the Gillingham box, but struggled to challenge keeper Stuart Nelson.
This didn’t faze Gillingham, however, as striker Frank Nouble’s deflected strike gave Gills a lead early in the second half. Mounting pressure came from Dale into the closing moments – with Gillingham nerves growing with the clean sheet in sight.
But, Gills managed to go on the counter attack and late goals from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Mark Byrne wrapped up the win comfortably.
Man in the middle – Lee Swabey
Games refereed this season: 8 (yellows 29, reds 1)
Swabey has officiated three games so far in Gillingham fixtures. While in two of the three games, a Gillingham player has been sent off by the official.
The official has regularly taken charge of League One and League Two matches but is still to have refereed a Premier League or Championship fixture.
His last Gillingham game was the fixture against Oxford at Priestfield in January 2017, in which Deji Oshilaja was dismissed for two bookable offences, and Justin Edinburgh ended his tenure as manager of the Gills.
Assistants: Kevin Howick and Stuart Butler. Fourth official: Leigh Crowhurst
One to watch – Ian Henderson
Rochdale’s 32 year old captain, Ian Henderson, has been a prolific player for them since signing on a free from Colchester in the summer of 2013. He has recently signed a new deal with Dale, keeping him there until 2020. Henderson has stated he wishes to see out the rest of his career with the football club.
Henderson was involved in both goals - scoring one himself - during a 2-0 victory over Cheltenham in 2014 which saw Rochdale promoted to League One. He then went on to score 22 goals in the 2014-15 season.
He’s troubled Gillingham in recent meetings, scoring during the previous two encounters which were conclusive 4-1 and 3-0 victories for Rochdale.
Henderson has scored 10 goals in 29 appearances so far this season, and will be looking to trouble the Gills defence in his latest visit to Priestfield Stadium.
From the opposition camp;
Dale were pushing for the play-offs last season, missing out only narrowly, so fans may have been hoping for a similar battle this season, which unfortunately isn’t the case for them.
Results haven’t been going Rochdale’s way, leaving them without a league win in six games. They’ve won only four of their league fixtures so far this season, putting them second from bottom in the table and six points from safety. However, Dale may possess some confidence going into the game, after getting back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Doncaster in the FA Cup third round.
It’s not been the best season so far for Keith Hill’s men, but the manager recently celebrated 500 league games as a Manager, 429 league matches at Dale, with the other 71 coming during his time at Barnsley.
Gills – Last time out in the league;
Gillingham claimed a win at Charlton for the first time in their history on New Year’s Day.
Charlton boss Karl Robinson has said his defenders were “weak” in the face of Gills striker Tom Eaves. He was back in the starting XI for the Gills and the six foot five inch front man made an impressive impact from the start.
Eaves could’ve put the Gills ahead after just three minutes, taking down a fantastic ball from Byrne, but his close-range effort was impressively saved by keeper Ben Amos.
But, he went on to hold off the Charlton defence and provide a cross which Josh Parker finished, for an 11 minute lead. Eaves then got on the end of a Luke O’Neill cross to double the advantage in the first half.
Large amounts of pressure from the home side in the second half resulted in Joe Aribo pulling a goal back, but, the hosts were unable to get back on level terms. The Gills walked away with all three points and a memorable victory at the Valley, the first in 16 attempts.
What dealings do you think Gills should make during the transfer window?
Sean Clare has currently departed Gillingham as his half-season loan deal expired from Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
But the Gills are keen for him to extend his stay at Priestfield, with Lovell making it a priority deal as he looks to strengthen in the January transfer window.
Is it worth selling shot-stopper Tomas Holy to allow extra funds to invest in the rest of the team?
Former Sparta Prague stopper Holy has attracted a large amount of attention after some impressive displays in goal for the Gills.
Steve Lovell isn’t surprised the 6ft 9in keeper has been getting scouting attention from clubs like Crystal Palace.
But, he’s also stated he wants everyone in the side to stay put: “We need everyone who has done the work to get us to this point to now continue with us. We want everyone to stay.”
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