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Gillingham take on Oxford United at Priestfield in League 1; Vadaine Oliver set to return for Gills

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Caretaker boss Steve Lovell is preparing the Gillingham players for another huge game as the club’s hunt for a new manager continues.

Speculation on Thursday suggested that one-time leading candidate Marc Bircham had decided it’s not for him, days after Bromley boss Andy Woodman ruled himself out. It’s thought former Millwall manager Neil Harris could fancy it after showing interest - he's the new bookies favourite - but might not be so keen on League 2 football, should the Gills be relegated.

Steve Lovell set to be in charge of the Gills again this weekend Picture: KPI
Steve Lovell set to be in charge of the Gills again this weekend Picture: KPI

Lovell, on the other hand, would take the job in a heartbeat and he’s been working with the players again in the lead up to their home match with promotion chasing Oxford United.

The Gills head into the match without a win from their last 13 league outings - 16 in all competitions - and start the weekend second bottom, nine points adrift of safety.

“I concentrate on the future, not on the past,” said Lovell, who still believes they can produce a great escape.

They picked up a point at home on Tuesday night against Shrewsbury Town. Gills were the better team but were unable to make it count in a goalless draw.

“It is a point in the right direction,” said Lovell. “We gained ground on the team fifth from bottom so come the end of the season that point might be so important.

“Saturday is a massive game against Oxford and Tuesday (at home again) will be even bigger against Crewe.

“If we can get seven points out of three games now I would have taken that.

“It's nice that we are at home and the fans were excellent on Tuesday. We need everyone to be positive, there is no other way."

Lovell is working on a day-to-day basis since taking charge and has had three games to get to know the players.

“I want them to express themselves,” said the interim boss, who is attempting to change the way they play. “We need to be a bit more forward thinking.”

Weekend opponents Oxford are sixth in the table but have lost their last two away games without scoring.

Gillingham should have leading scorer Vadaine Oliver back available this weekend. The striker was absent on Tuesday as his wife gave birth to a son.

Fellow striker John Akinde has played his last game for the club after joining Colchester United.

Midfielder Ben Reeves is missing with ankle ligament damage, a blow for Lovell having brought him back in from the cold. Reeves had been looking good under the caretaker boss.

“He could be out for another three weeks,” Lovell said.

“He’s a great miss for us, because since I have been here he has been excellent and we missed that little bit of quality (on Tuesday).”

Lovell also said Mustapha Carayol missed the midweek game through injury.

The caretaker boss added: “This is a tough situation but a win would give everyone a boost.”

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