It’s the division’s clash of the day as top take on second at the Priestfield Stadium. Here’s our brief guide to Vale’s table-topping opponents.
The man in charge
Martin Allen (pictured during a previous visit to Vale Park) tends to divide opinion among lower league fans. Some see him as a supreme motivator, a ‘Mr Fix-It’ to be parachuted in and revive clubs, whilst others see him as a self-publicising irritant. He’s had his ups (cup giantkillings at Brentford) and downs (a well-publicised nightclub incident while at Cheltenham). However, there’s no doubt he’s been a huge initial success at Gillingham where he has overseen their rise to the top of the table.
Last time we met
Vale suffered their first home defeat of the league season after Gillingham eased to a comfortable 2-0 victory. Vale’s defence struggled with Gills loanee Robbie Findley’s pace as the debutant ran them ragged. The away side’s goals came from veteran Deon Burton and Chris Whelpdale.
Vale manager Micky Adams received his playing break after he was released by boyhood idols Sheffield United. During a four year stay in Kent, Adams made 92 league appearances and subsequently secured a move to top-flight club Coventry for £85,000.
Other players to appear for both clubs include: defenders Tony Butler, Gary West and Brian McGlinchey (pictured); midfielders Simon Osborn and Jeff Johnson plus strikers Gary Mulligan and Peter Beadle.
It’s close. Vale have 13 wins and Gillingham have recorded 14. There have been 15 draws. Vale last won at the Priestfield Stadium back in 2007 thanks to a goal from Callum Willock and a Simon King own-goal.
The last time the two sides met, Vale had named the same starting eleven for nine games in a row. How times have changed!
John McCombe is definitely out through injury, but otherwise, following a busy January transfer window, Micky Adams has options across the park. OVF would not be surprised to see Lee Hughes start despite Ben Williamson (pictured) scoring against Plymouth last week, while we also wouldn’t be surprised to see Darren Purse named in the Vale back four.
Martin Allen’s side will also be a full-strength. The Gills have named the same starting XI for the last two games, but Allen has said he may make changes for this fixture. One change could be a full debut for midfielder Steven Gregory who has been signed following his release by Bournemouth.
“We now have good options and can use different styles. We’ve got a real mixture there, particularly in terms of front play. We can mix it at any given moment against any given team.”
– Micky Adams
“We don’t want Port Vale coming to our ground and taking top spot, so we’ll be fighting tooth and nail. We will be organised and prepared.”
– Adam Barrett