Gillingham v Burton Albion preview
Gillingham v Burton Albion preview

Steve Lovell will be hoping his return to Priestfield will see an upturn in Gillingham’s fortunes when they entertain Burton Albion on Saturday.

The League One clash, the first after Steve Evans departed following last weekend’s home 4-0 reverse against Ipswich Town, is a massive game in the future of Gillingham Football Club and possibly even Steve Lovell.

Lovell has made no secret of the fact that he’d love to be reinstated as Gillingham manager, less than three years after he was unceremoniously sacked by chairman Paul Scally.

Under Lovell, Gillingham skirted with the League One relegation zone, but did enough in his two seasons at the helm to retain their status. This time round, Lovell comes back to Priestfield with the club sitting 23rd in the league and staring relegation straight in the face.

Some seven points from safety and behind AFC Wimbledon in 20th place, also having played two games more, Gillingham have just 22 games left in their season and they depserately need wins and fast.

Saturday’s game presents a real opportunity for Gillingham and Lovell will be hoping the club get that new manager effect, although he is currently only guaranteed to be in charge for this weekend.

Win and Paul Scally’s head may be turned by what Lovell can offer Gillingham. Someone that knows the club, loves the club and is full of enthusiasm, but is that ever enough?

Lose on Saturday and the doubters will be proved right and there will be more questions as to what direction Gillingham are headed.

The Gills go into the game without the services of goalkeeper Jamie Cumming after he was recalled by Chelsea only to be sent straight back out on loan to Milton Keynes Dons.

Gillingham have brought Watford keeper Pontus Dahlberg in to replace him, but he’s spent the first half of the season on loan at Doncaster Rovers – the only club to be below The Gills in the league!

Lovell has promised a different brand of football than that seen under Evans in recent weeks and Gills fans that do actually go to Priestfield are expected to see a more attacking looking line up.

Speaking ahead of the game, Lovell promised fans will see changes in the way the club play and how he is up for staying longer given the chance:

“I’m not promising the world to anyone but we have a good chance of beating Burton – I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think it, and everybody will be up for it. It’ll be a good occasion and better if we get a result.”

“I’m not rushed, I take it a step at a time and the first step is getting the players to buy into the way I want to play and there’s been a very positive response to that, but it’ll only be proven if they put on a performance on Saturday.”

“I’ll be playing a different way to how the other manager played. You have to recognise what players you have and then choose a system rather than the other way around. There are two systems we can play without changing personnel.”

“I’ve done a lot of shape this week on how we should be defensively when Burton get the ball and going forward too. But for me it’s more about defensively – it will be interesting to see how much the boys have learnt.”

“I love this football club and always have done. I am a supporter and I want success for the club and hopefully that is rubbing off on the players. One thing I will say for Saturday is that everyone will be out there giving everything for me and the supporters.”

“I don’t know how long I will be here. I haven’t discussed it with the chairman at all. He has asked me to do a job and my job is to organise the team for Saturday to play Burton. What happens after that is down to him. I’d like to stay longer.”

The interim manager could hand starts for Danny Lloyd, Olly Lee and Tom Dickson-Peters with Lovell likely to revert to a more traditional 4-4-2, albeit a diamond in midfield may make up that four.

One man seemingly out of contention is striker John Akinde with the out of favour front man likely to have played his last game for the club, although Lovell will be hoping he can get more out of the forward than Evans ever did,

Another man definitely missing on Saturday is midfielder Dan Phillips with the on loan Watford man having been in a rich vein of form in recent weeks, but his sending off against Ipswich Town means he will miss this weekend.

However, Lovell has moved fast to add to his squad by bringing on loan striker Charlie Kelman back to the club.

Kelman fell out of favour under former manager Steve Evans and returned to Loftus Road, but the QPR striker is back at Priestfield and could feature in Saturday’s game subject to clearance.

Whether there are many in Priestfield to see Lovell’s return is open to debate. Many Gillingham fans have been put off due to the relationship with chairman Paul Scally in recent months, whilst the thought of a relegation battle doesn’t fill many with joy.