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Kyle Dempsey, Scott Robertson and Matty Willock are all closing in on a return for Gillingham

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Competition for places at Gillingham is set to hot up in the coming weeks.

Boss Steve Evans is expecting the treatment room to start clearing with the likes of Kyle Dempsey, Matty Willock and Scott Robertson all coming back to fight for their shirt.

Kyle Dempsey rolled his ankle in the first league game against Hull City Picture: Barry Goodwin
Kyle Dempsey rolled his ankle in the first league game against Hull City Picture: Barry Goodwin

Dempsey picked up an ankle injury in the first league game but the captain has made a quicker than expected recovery.

Robertson was rested at the weekend while Willock has overcome a hamstring injury. All three could be challenging for a place in the team when the Gills face Oxford United at home next Saturday.

Evans said: “We are getting players back and we need that. We need the competition and nothing makes players better, nothing. Not me shouting, not Paul Ryanor (the assistant manager) in their face, or his coaching, nothing.

“If you are Tom O’Connor and all of a sudden you see Robertson fit and you see Dempsey fit and Eccles available and you see Declan come on. You see MacDonald not getting onto the pitch, you think ‘I have got to up my game here,’ especially with the younger element of players.

“The older players will think, ‘oh well, I’ve got a pay day’, but I have stopped that at Gillingham. Maybe when I go the chairman will open the door for another manager to go back to the days when we sign 32-33-year-olds, and there is always the exception I have to say, but we don’t want too many of them do we?

“I want a team that is useful, that is bright, that is hungry. Those boys in our dressing room are really strong characters for being so young and they were still disappointed that we have drawn the game (on Saturday). It is a great standard to have.”

The return of those players will lessen the need for new recruits ahead of the transfer deadlines coming up.

Evans admits he’s unlikely to now bring in his target from the Scottish Premier League, ahead of Monday’s transfer deadline, but there will still be time for domestic additions, as that window doesn’t shut until the 16th.

Speaking about his latest target, Evans said: “The boy I was really keen on, the chairman sanctioned it, but we can’t do it in time for Monday. They have got a boy on the treatment table so they won’t let him out.

“But in terms of the English and the EFL system we have got until the 16th to add one more, or whatever we feel is appropriate.”

Getting Dempsey back so early will be a bonus but he won’t be thrown in until he’s 100% ready.

“He has a chance (for next Saturday),” Evans said. “We expect him to be training in the week. If he needs another week or two we will take our time.

“He is a top, top player for this level and we miss him. We have such a small squad and everyone who was on duty was there on Saturday. Henry Woods was the only one we could have added to the bench. The rest were in the treatment room.

“Hopefully Robertson and Dempsey will make a wonderful difference to us.

“We missed Robertson to a degree on Saturday, second half. He has that vision and ability to pass it early, he can pick a pass and open up a closed defence. Dempsey has that all day in his locker, you are going to miss them.”

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