Published: 06:00, 15 January 2021
Gillingham are up against surprise package Accrington Stanley this weekend and manager Steve Evans rates them among the best in League 1.
Stanley sit sixth in the table, with games in hand over all of those teams above them, and would take over at the top if they won them all. Only a month ago they clinched a 2-0 win at Priestfield.
“For me, they are one of the best sides in the league,” said Gills boss Evans, whose own side have lost five of their last six outings in the league.
“I watched them against Charlton (in their last league game on January 8) and they won by two. It could have been four or five, very comfortable, as easy a win as you will see at The Valley for an away side.
“I thought they were very impressive when they won at our place.
"They have good players. John Coleman (the Accrington manager) has been there for seven or eight years and he has put together what I think is his best team. I am sure he would agree with that. His players are picking themselves.
“We will have to have a game plan to try and go and get something from the game.”
Stanley were in midweek action, losing 4-0 to Lincoln City in the EFL Trophy. They had made 10 changes to their league side for the match and those rested players are expected to return to face the Gills.
Gillingham have lost a handful of loan players in recent days but Southampton duo Callum Slattery and Tyreke Johnson have bolstered their ranks. It should ensure they have an 18-man squad for the trip.
Jacob Mellis and Stuart O’Keefe could be involved after coming back early from injury.
O’Keefe was a surprise name on the bench last weekend. He broke a leg in mid-September and was expected to be out for the season.
Evans said: “That was really a reward for Stuart, for how hard the kid worked. We were going to be light on the bench, he is an experienced player, he really wants to get the shirt on again and to be out there.
“He is training well, he is well ahead of schedule but in an ideal world he wouldn’t be in the squad for three weeks. We are probably going to have to put both (O'Keefe and Mellis) in the squad and both might even have to go onto the pitch. Maybe 45 minutes of Stuart O’Keefe might be better than 90 minutes of someone else.”
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