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Perpetuini and Onuora back in Gills line-up

MARK PATTERSON makes way for David Perpetuini in Gillingham's side to face Stockport tonight at Priestfield.

Despite his best efforts in the 2-0 win at Preston on January 19, when several national papers voted him Gillingham's best player, Patterson's fears that Perpetuini would earn an instant recall after injury were realised when player-manager Andy Hessenthaler announced the team.

Midfield Ty Gooden, who also returned to the team at Preston after a long injury-enforced absence, is excluded to make way for the return of striker Iffy Onuora as Hessenthaler reverts to a 4-3-3 formation after starting with a 4-4-2 at Deepdale.

Transfer-listed Patterson, who believed he had done enough to keep his place, said: "On a personal note I could not have done any better at Preston.

"I accept that David was playing very well until he was injured at Crystal Palace where he was probably our best player. To be fair he was the first to commiserate when tonight's team was announced.

"The manager told me it was one of the toughest decisions he has had to make but that doesn't ease my disappointment."

Patterson will join Hessenthaler among tonight's substitutes but now looks certain to be heading out of Priestfield after being made available on a free transfer, even though he has a year of his contract remaining.

There was speculation last week linking him with a move to Bristol City in a deal that could see striker Peter Beadle's return to Priestfield. Beadle, 29, has just returned from long-term injury and is an old friend of Hessenthaler's from their days at Watford.

Torquay manager Roy McFarland, who was with Patterson at Derby, is also known to be interested.

Hessenthaler, meanwhile, was today concentrating on focussing his players on the task of overcoming bottom club Stockport, whose defeat tonight many fans are treating as a mere formality.

Last season Gillingham slipped on a similar banana skin when relegated Queens Park Rangers arrived at Priestfield on February 20, without an away success all season, and left with a 1-0 win _ their one and only of the season.

Skipper Paul Smith today sounded a warning when he said: "There are no easy games in this Division and until it becomes mathematically impossible for Stockport to avoid the drop they will keep fighting.

"They took a point at Coventry in their last game and I'm sure Carlton Palmer will be keen to build on that."

Victory tonight will give Gillingham a second home and away win double after notching their first at Preston. Three points will also move the club to within five points of the 50 Hessenthaler has targeted to guarantee the club's survival in Division 1 for a third season.

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