Oxford United v Gillingham preview
Oxford United v Gillingham preview

Manager Steve Evans expects to take the same squad to Oxford United on Saturday that rescued a point against Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night.

Sitting just above the League One relegation zone, Gillingham go into the game knowing a defeat at the Kassam Stadium could see them drop into the bottom four and heap more pressure on the under fire hierarchy at Priestfield.

Certain sections of the fanbase have been very critical of Chairman Paul Scally in recent weeks, with others directing their ire at the management duo of Evans and Paul Raynor.

Wherever the heat is directed, one thing is for certain, Gillingham have a threadbare squad that’s stretched to the limit, but showed the quality within in the second half of the game against the Addicks in midweek.

Danny Lloyd came off the bench at half time at Priestfield in the week and turned the game, so seems likely to be handed a starting berth against Oxford United.

With Stuart O’Keefe available for selection once again following his one match ban after being sent off against Milton Keynes Dons, Evans must decide whether to reinstate him straight back into the eleven, or keep faith with those that claimed a point against Charlton.

The back four looked more solid on Tuesday night than it’s done so for large parts of the season, but that’s not saying much seeing as Gillingham have looked vulnerable at the back for most of the campaign.

Goalkeeper Jamie Cumming looks to be an inspired loan signing and without him, Gillingham could easily have lost against Charlton.

Going forward, the service delivered to in form striker Vadaine Oliver still appears to be a problem with a lack of width still in an issue for Gillingham manager Steve Evans to resolve.

On loan QPR striker Charlie Kelman is still finding his feet with the Kent club and was taken off at half time in the week to be replaced by Gerald Sithole who looked lively at times.

Once again Evans seems set to be without four key players going into the Oxford game with Ryan Jackson, John Akinde, Daniel Phillips and Mustapha Carayol all expected to be missing once again.

Despite the quartet not set to travel, Evans is hopeful his squad can put on a performance and pick up a result against Oxford United:

“The mood in the camp is great; there is a bit of frustration but we have top characters who keep the dressing room going. It’s now about taking chances when they come.”

“Individual bad defending cost us at Oxford last year. We need to produce a good performance. It’s likely to be the same squad on Saturday that we had on Tuesday.”

“I haven’t been able to field my best XI so far this season due to injuries. We went to Shrewsbury, paid the price for a poor second half. We should have been three up at Burton. I have huge respect for Oxford; they have a manager who knows the level well.”

“Oxford are a top six side and capable of getting in the top two. They are full of good players. It will be a tough afternoon.”

Last season saw Gillingham lose 3-2 at the Kassam, ending their play-off hopes.

This time round, defeat could start to pile more pressure on and Gillingham drop into the bottom four. How things have changed in such a short space of time.

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