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Match Previews

PREVIEW | Gillingham vs Wrexham

Another long trip south for Parky and the lads.

23 February 2024

Match Previews

PREVIEW | Gillingham vs Wrexham

Another long trip south for Parky and the lads.

23 February 2024

Crunch games come thick and fast at this time of the season, as each of these sides will attest. Both Wrexham and Gillingham are chasing promotion, and following tough midweek draws against sides with similar ambitions, will offer each other another stiff test of their credentials.


It was hard to know how to feel on the final whistle on Tuesday: pride in a dominant display at the home of one of the division's strongest teams was tempered by bewilderment at how we'd somehow only come away with a point, and indeed could have lost but for the excellent Arthus Okonkwo pulling off a remarkable 97th minute save.

As time has passed it's possible to eliminate the immediate emotion from the equation and see just what a good result it was. The Dons were in fine form at home, but we penned them into their own half for long periods and were constantly threatening.


In terms of availability at Priestfield, the good news was that the knock Ryan Barnett took on Saturday didn't prevent hm from being in the squad, and his terrific late cameo propels him into contention for a start on Saturday. The bad news was the red card Will Boyle suffered, which means the successful defensive trio of the last 3 games won't be reuniting against The Gills. 



A couple of recent results illustrate why The Gills need to be treated with the utmost respect. In midweek they delivered a rock-solid performance in a goalless draw with league leaders Stockport County, and two weeks ago they emerged from Meadow Lane with three points after a fine 3-1 win against Notts County.

Gillingham’s result against The Hatters was even more admirable given the turmoil of their build-up to the game. Injuries left them down to the bare bones, with injuries to Dom Jefferies, Jorge Hurtado, Josh Andrews and George Lapslie compounded when striker Oli Hawkins reported sick.

Manager Stephen Clemence brought Joe Gbode back from his loan at Aveley And although he wasn’t needed, as Hawkins was ultimately able to make himself available. However, The Gills’ resources were seriously denuded, with Jayden Clarke making his first start since mid-December and captain Shaun Williams named in the squad  despite last appearing in the league in October.

Clemence explained to Kent Online: “We brought Joe Gbode back from his loan move because we really thought Oli wasn’t going to be right.

“We are down to having all of our senior professionals involved and if we lose anyone else we will be looking to use B Team players.

“We’ve had a number of injuries recently. I am not here to make excuses, I think when an injury happens it is an opportunity for somebody else, but Hawks has been ill since after the game at the weekend and on Monday I didn’t think he would even be on the bench.

“Oli declared that he wanted to have a go, he didn’t think he was ready to start the game because he hadn’t eaten much and he had the shivers and the shakes, but fair play to him for coming in and giving us 35 minutes.

“We have had that and we also lost Jorge Hurtado (knee) and George Lapslie has a slight hamstring and we have lost Dom Jefferies (thigh) and these are all players that if they are not starters then they are very close to starting a game and in my thoughts every weekend.”

Things looked like they would get even worse when goalkeeper Jake Turner was injured, but Clemence was relieved to see him complete the game.

“I thought he took some crosses when he was under pressure and obviously he had a big whack in the hip when he came and took one.

“There was a doubt that he might have to come off but he kept a clean sheet and he will be pleased with that.

“He’s had a number of clean sheets this season and so fair play to him. Like everyone in the team there are areas in Jake’s game that he needs to improve on, but that’s everybody, fair play to him for keeping a clean sheet against the league leaders.”

“It was a very difficult game. They are the top scorers in the division and we knew we would have to be spot-on defensively. They tested us at times but I don’t think they threatened us too much, one or two shots and they hit the post with a wide free-kick, which was probably actually a cross but it’s hit the post, so defensively we were really sound.

“The boys had to work hard for their clean sheet against very good players in this division and so I am really proud of the boys for their efforts….we didn’t create enough ourselves, I thought we were much better in the second half than the first, and we take the point and move on.

“That’s a good point, the point at home to Swindon last week when you get done in the 94th minute is a bad point but that’s a good one, we just have to move onto the next game now.

“We are showing that we can compete against most teams in the division and we will continue to try and do that. A clean sheet against the team who has scored the most in the division is always good and if you keep clean sheets you give yourself a chance."

-Stephen Clemence

“We would have liked to have played more and worked some patterns a bit better at times but I have to say Stockport shut us out well as well and it was difficult to get through them. I thought it was two teams who shut each other out quite well. They do move the ball around quite well and we had to work hard and be disciplined in our shape.

“We could have passed the ball better, there are a lot of improvements that we can make in that area, but sometimes you have to respect the opposition and I think it’s a good point.”

Wrexham are used to using Ben Tozer’s long throw, of course, but we might get a taste of our own medicine at Priestfield as Shad Ogie peppered the County defence with threatening thunderbolts from the touch line.

“The long throw is a bit of a weapon for us and we would be foolish not to use it," Clemence explained, “We are going to try and make the most of it. It is not something I am used to working with in the past, I have to be honest, but I am trying to find ways to win football matches with the group of players we have at the football club and that is a weapon we have to keep on using....we had a couple of chances but it just fell in their favour, on another day who knows, it could have dropped in our favour.

“We just load up the box and try and get first and second contacts and go from there...we try and aim for the back post with a flick on from the front post and then be on your toes and gamble and see how it goes from there!”



We’ve only played Gillingham twice this century, winning at home both times, but a trip to Kent has tended to be challenging for us before the turn of the millennium. We conceded 9 goals in our last two games at Priestfield, and let in 4 or more in 3 of our last 5 games there.

The last time we kept a clean sheet at Gillingham was 10 games ago, in April 1978, and in our last 13 games there, stretching back to 1974, we’ve won one, drawn three and lost the rest.

However, when you step back and look at the big picture, we’ve actually got a surprisingly good record at Gillingham. Overall, we’ve won 5, drawn 4 and lost 7 there, after getting off to a terrific start.

We won our first 3 games at Gillingham, and registered our biggest win there at the first attempt in March 1961. We’d faced them for the first time in the league two and a half weeks earlier, drawing a rearranged match 0-0 at The Racecourse, but it was a very different story when we travelled to Kent.


The game was played at Stonebridge Road in Gravesend, Ebbsfleet’s current ground, as Gillingham were banned by the FA from using Priestfield, due to crowd trouble. They were surely longing for home comforts as Wyn Davies and Mickey Metcalf put us 2 up before the half hour. A peculiar second half own goal by the tremendously-named Terry Friday wrapped up a 3-0 win, as a Davies shot was cleared off the line, hit Friday squarely in the back and flew into the net!

The following season we scored 3 in our first match at Priestfield to virtually assure promotion to Division 3 for the first time. It was the second part of an Easter double header against The Gills, and three days earlier we’d beaten them 3-0 at home. This would prove to be a more difficult affair, as Gillingham took a first half lead through a spectacular long distance strike.

However, Wrexham struck straight back from the kick-off, with Brian Whitehouse equalising, and we took a 37th lead when a weak shot by Tommy Anderson dribbled through the goalkeeper’s legs.


We dominated the second half, but conceded a goal on the break to allow The Gills to pull level. However, Whitehouse responded swiftly again to clinch a 3-2 win.

Billy Ashcroft, scourge of Gillingham.

Our third win on the spin at Priestfield was achieved in November 1970. Billy Ashcroft gave us a 6th minute lead and although the Gills equalised, Ashcroft struck again in the 85th minute to secure the points. 

Ashcroft is our 3rd highest scorer in this fixture with 3 goals. Equal top are Karl Connolly and Jon Bowden, one ahead of Ashcroft. Bowden's goals came at the start of the 1990s, with two coming from penalties, while Connolly also scored one from the spot and struck the winner in our most recent win at Priestfield. It was a tumultuous affair, with the Gillingham fans stoked up after 20 minutes when Steve Morris celebrated his opening goal rather enthusiastically at the home end! The Gills equalised after half an hour, but Connolly scored the winner with 16 minutes left.

Our most recent game at Priestfield, in contrast, was catastrophic. We started badly and fell behind, but found some momentum as the half came to a close. Craig Faulconbridge missed a penalty, but made amends when he hit the net in the final minute of the half. That was as good as it got though, as The Gills immediately went up the other end and regained the lead, and in the second half we fell apart as Bob Taylor helped himself to a hat trick in our heaviest defeat in this fixture.


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Ollie Palmer's 575th career appearance.

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