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Preview: Gillingham take on Charlton Athletic at Priestfield on Saturday

Gillingham’s run against the League 1 big guns continues at the weekend when they host a Charlton team with ‘an embarrassment of riches’.

The Gills have faced most of the top teams already this season, with Peterborough and Lincoln (that match was postponed) the only ones in the top eight that they haven’t met.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans ready to take on in-form Charlton this weekend
Gillingham manager Steve Evans ready to take on in-form Charlton this weekend

Charlton are sitting fourth and have won their last six league games, going along nicely under the management of Lee Bowyer, despite the power struggle over ownership of the club which is rumbling on.

The Gills will soon have a run of games against sides more accustomed to life in the lower-tiers but firstly Steve Evans’ men must take on high-flying Charlton. The Gills haven’t taken any points or even scored against any of the leading sides so far this season.

Evans said: “If we can get the three points against Charlton then it really makes the run up to Christmas interesting from our point of view.

“There is not one team in the league who has had the opposition that we have had in the last month or so.

“Lee Bowyer has put a wonderful squad together, he has had difficult times (they were relegated from the Championship last season) but it isn’t so difficult with a £10m budget than the one at Gillingham. What we have to do is to find a way to win a game of football and that is what we will try and get ready for.

“I looked at the last home game when Charlton beat Fleetwood and I have always said, ‘look at the bench and that will give you an idea of the starting XI.’ We have worked with Marcus Maddison (he came off the bench in the Addicks’ 3-2 win over Fleetwood) who is absolutely magical, and what Lee Bowyer has got is an embarrassment of riches but so do Sunderland, so do Ipswich, Fleetwood and Portsmouth. We played Sunderland recently and they had £79k worth of weekly wages on the bench! We are thinking, ‘really’?

“From that point of view we remain humble. We will have 17-18 players trying to compete with what is another club who were recently in the Premier League. We will do our best to make sure we try and keep the three points at Priestfield.

“We are then looking forward to the run up to Christmas. The games will all be tough, but we are capable of getting some points, for sure.

“Once we get through the spell of playing all the top boys, which you think is going to be the top seven or eight come the end of the season, then you look at the next run of games and that is what I would know as League 1. You don’t associate Ipswich Town in League 1, Portsmouth, Charlton, but they are.”

Gillingham’s results haven’t gone well against those big boys but against the likes of Ipswich, Portsmouth and Fleetwood, they were unlucky to have emerged without anything to show for their efforts.

It means the Gills head into the weekend sitting 16th in the table.

Evans is confident he will get more out of his team in the second half of the season and that improving on last season’s 10th place finish remains a possibility.

He said: “In terms of results it has been frustrating and it has been mixed. There is no doubting for me that there are games we have deserved to lose and others we have deserved to win, or at least get a point.

“I think we are seven or eight points off where we should generally be, that’s through looking at the good and bad side, so it is a little frustrating but it is a new group, a young group, the youngest for many years at Gills.

“We have really been hurt with injuries, to key players and from that point of view it has been hard to take at times, when you lose Mark Byrne at the end of last season, then Stuart O’Keefe and Kyle Dempsey and even Jack Bonham has had a spell out.

“It has been really difficult but the group, I think, has dealt with it tremendously and sometimes we have not been able to fill the bench because we have got reduced numbers. But we have been able to keep the camp positive and on an even keel to make sure they are all focussed on why we haven’t won a game, or why it hasn’t gone right for us, and to make it right for the next one.”

Gillingham will be playing without fans inside Priestfield again on Saturday, a match which would usually attract a bumper crowd.

A Premier League bailout appears close, after a meeting between all of the clubs last week, some of whom are reportedly struggling to pay their players’ wages. The EFL said positive discussions had taken place.

Evans said: “I don’t get involved in the finances but I think it is good news for every club in League 1 and 2. I think there are words attributed to different chairman saying that seven or eight clubs in Leagues 1 and 2 won’t be paying their November wages. I know for a fact we are not one of them.

“I know our chairman looks after us a bit better than that. Then again, we don’t pay out for £8-10m budgets. But, any help is welcome. You can’t give hundred of millions to the arts and not protect the heart and soul of every community that has a Football League club. That didn’t sit right.”

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