A few English League One promotion contenders are choking as the competition gets serious and one of them is Gillingham, which has lost its star player for an extended period of time just when it could ill afford to be without him.
Bradley Dack is set to miss as many as the next six weeks of English League One action and the consensus among fans of teams in England’s third tier is that the 22-year-old former Charlton academy member makes the Gills tick from his spot in their midfield. Dack has scored 13 of Gillingham’s 60 English League One goals and he has been responsible for setting up a large chunk of the others. And Dack is not Gillingham’s only absentee for its English League One game at Scunthorpe on Saturday, with key defender John Egan and club captain Doug Loft also unavailable to Gills manager Justin Edinburgh. The former Tottenham left back is trying to sound positive about Gillingham’s English League One prospects but one gets the feeling that he is faking it.
It would be easy to forgive Edinburgh for being glum about Gillingham right now. Gillingham has lost three consecutive English League One matches, going down to three sides that are ranked below 14th-placed Scunthorpe on the ladder. And Gillingham’s English League One promotion challenge has been built on its home form rather than its away performances. Gillingham is English League One’s top-ranked home team thanks to its 12-3-2 MEMS Priestfield Stadium record but the Gills are ranked 17th on the road courtesy of their 5-4-8 away numbers. Just two English League One sides have let in more away goals than Gillingham and, without Dack to either create or score goals at the other end of the pitch, they could be in for a difficult 90 minutes versus Scunthorpe.
Recently Scunthorpe appointed Nick Daws as its boss until the end of the season after he had led the Iron to four English League One wins on the bounce in his first four games in temporary charge. According to some key English League One data charts, Scunthorpe has the potential to be much higher positioned than 14th on the ladder. For example, Scunthorpe is ranked fifth for attempts on target per match compared to Gillingham being 13th on the same measure. It would appear that Scunthorpe was underperforming when Mark Robins was its boss and that Daws has got the Iron playing somewhere closer to their true level. Scunthorpe is only six points off the English League One play-off spots and it has a game or two in hand over many of its divisional rivals.
Such is Scunthorpe’s improvement under Daws and Gillingham’s problems with both injuries to key players and transporting its form from home to away that one is willing to pick the Iron at odds of +350 with Paddy Power to win by more than one goal at Glanford Park. Scunthorpe cannot continue to rank among one of English League One’s top teams for attempts on target and not turn the corner in the scoring stakes eventually. There are grounds for thinking that Saturday could be the day that Scunthorpe helps itself to several goals and covers a one-goal spread at big odds.
Scunthorpe -1 to beat Gillingham
Saturday 5th March, 15:00 GMT
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