Meet the opposition: Gillingham

22nd January 2019
First team

As Swansea City get set to welcome Gillingham to the Liberty Stadium for their FA Cup fourth-round tie on Saturday, we take a closer look at the men from the Priestfield Stadium.

What’s their story?

The Gills had been in the second tier from 2000, when Peter Taylor guided them to play-off success, but their five-year stay in the division ended in 2005 at the end of the season where the competition was rebranded as the Championship.

They have been in League One or League Two ever since, spending three seasons in the latter between 2010 and 2013, when they finished top of the league under the guidance of Martin Allen.

Their best finish since their return to League One was ninth in 2015-16, while they battled relegation in each of the two previous campaigns.

They currently lie 18th in the table.

How’s their form?

A bit up and down. The Gills sit just one point above the relegation zone in League One but have won two of their last five league matches, although they lost the other three.

They strung together a run of three wins as recently as the start of December. However, only three League One teams have conceded more goals than the Gills this season, with this weekend’s visitors having let in 48 in their 28 league matches.

The highlight of their campaign came in the third round of the FA Cup where they pulled off an upset by knocking Cardiff out of the competition, with a late goal from 21-year-old Elliott List securing a 1-0 victory.

Who’s the boss?

Steve Lovell. A former Wales international and lifelong Swansea City fan, Lovell made two appearances for his hometown club during a loan spell in 1987 and will be relishing his side’s visit to SA1.

Lovell joined the Swans’ on loan from Millwall, and scored on his debut in a 2-2 draw against Burnley at the Vetch Field.

Lovell’s short stint back in South Wales was followed up with an extended spell at Gillingham, for whom he scored 104 goals in 275 games in all competitions - a record which leaves him fourth in the club’s all-time top scorers' list.

Following retirement he has had stints at the helm of non-league sides Hastings United, Sittingbourne and Ashford Town as well as having a brief spell as assistant manager of Bromley.

Prior to his time at Bromley he had served as co-caretaker manager at Priestfield and - after returning to the club as a coach in January 2017- Lovell was given the top job the following November in the wake of the departure of Adrian Pennock.

Who are the key men?

Striker Tom Eaves is Gillingham’s top goal scorer this season with an impressive 15 to his name in all competitions, while Antigua and Barbuda international Josh Parker has contributed four goals this campaign.

At the back the Gills have a Congo international in their ranks in defender and captain Gabriel Zakuani, while his defensive partner Luke O’Neill has been ever-present since his return from injury in October.

List, the hero of that win against Cardiff, has two goals in his last three appearances in midfield while Callum Reilly has also shown himself a goal threat from the middle of the park.