Published: 06:00, 26 March 2021
| Updated: 07:07, 26 March 2021
Steve Evans will be putting friendship aside this weekend as he looks to topple the league leaders on their own turf.
Hull City are managed by Grant McCann - a man Gillingham boss Evans gets on with well - and the two sides lock horns at the KC Stadium this Saturday.
The Gills are in good form, with just one defeat in seven, but they’ll need to be at their best to get something out of a game against a Hull team who are looking well placed to make an immediate return to the Championship.
Evans said: “I have a lot of admiration for Grant McCann, we are friends away from the pitch. We won’t be friends for 90 minutes but afterwards we will have a beer.
“We understand the challenge of going to Hull, (a club with a) Championship budget, Championship players, Championship manager I think, he is a brilliant manager. I applaud him, I like him and I have known him for a while.
“They will start big odds-on favourites and we will start big outsiders but that won’t be the first time for this group of players.
“We understand the difficulty we have going to Hull. Hopefully we will be organised, we’ll do a lot of work on the training ground and try and combat some of their strengths because they won here on the opening day and Grant McCann could have lit three cigars going out of the stadium. We need to be a different problem for them this week.
"All around the country, outside of Gillingham, they think it's a home banker. I have said to the players, we can go there and play with no fear, but we have to play intelligent football, If we go there and we fear then we will get nothing from the game.
"What they are is an outstanding talented group, Championship players all over the squad and a young man in Grant McCann who I think will manage at the top end of the Championship if not higher, he has all the gifts to do that.
"I am friends with Grant at a distance, certainly not this week, but the challenge on Saturday is a big one. This is without a doubt the biggest test of the season.
"It is a huge ask for the boys but are they capable? Absolutely. We have people like O'Keefe and Dempsey who will give us everything, we have the magician Graham on one side and we have either, or both of Vadaine Oliver and John Akinde.
"Olly Lee is a huge player and so much brighter after a little break, which he needed. He was carrying a little groin injury and that is gone now. We have real good options."
Evans will be glad the KCOM Stadium will be empty this weekend, the hosts bereft of a vocal backing. The Gills boss doesn't have to look far though to find one of their fans.
He said: "My daughter is about to marry a Hull season ticket holder, in July. My daughter turning up might depend on how that result goes on Saturday!"
Evans says both Alex MacDonald and Robbie Cundy have picked up knocks. They will be tested on Friday ahead of the trip to Hull.
Returning striker Dominic Samuel is expected to travel, having played 70 minutes and scored in a midweek friendly. It's unsure yet whether he will be named in the squad.
Evans said: "If Dominic trains properly [on Friday] then he will certainly be in the 18 and I will be looking behind me [to the bench] saying I have a goalscorer if I need him. He said he was feeling so good and he will be desperate to get on the pitch at Hull."