First meets second as the Vale travel to Kent for an intriguing top of the table clash with Gillingham this Saturday. Martin Allen`s side currently sit top of League Two, and while Saturday`s result will not provide a definitive answer to who is most likely to gain promotion, the Valiants can strike a significant blow should they come away with the win. Gillingham comprehensively outplayed, and tactically out-thought, Vale in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season. Back then, the respective sides occupied the top two positions and little has changed since.
Interestingly, Gillingham, much like Vale, have struggled more at home. Whether this is tactical or due to a higher degree of expectation and pressure is unclear. The Gills have secured impressive recent away wins at promotion rivals Rotherham United and Southend United in recent weeks. However, remarkably, they have only won one League game at the Priestfield since the 20th October.
After a torrid couple of years, things are looking a lot brighter at Vale Park of late. The club have been active in the January transfer market, bringing in Chris Birchall, Darren Purse and Lee Hughes, with more likely to follow. It leaves Micky Adams with a selection headache after Vale`s 4-0 win over Plymouth Argyle last weekend. Several of the regular starters were rested for that game and the new signings will all be eager to start. While the signing of Hughes looks set to divide supporters, there can be little doubt as to the goal threat he possesses, something that Martin Allen recognised, attempting to hijack the deal and sign Hughes himself. Allen also favours the use of his squad, so it will be an interesting match up come Saturday afternoon.
Gillingham manager Martin Allen has urged his players to remain calm ahead of what is their biggest game of the season. “We don`t talk about this being the biggest game of the season; we just try and do exactly the same every week. We`re not going to spend seven hours on our training pitch doing this and that; we want it to be steady throughout the season.
“We haven`t treated it any differently, we haven`t trained any differently. Friday will be normal, Saturday will be normal but then of course we know it`s not normal, it will be an amazing Saturday afternoon at three o`clock when we start.
Meanwhile, Micky Adams told the Vale Official Site that he was keeping his cards close to his chest regarding team selection.
“We will consider all of our options. We have options and that is the important thing and we have got a real mixture there in terms of front play.
“We can mix it at any given moment against any given team and we will go with the front lads that we think on any given day can cause the opposition problems and Lee gives us another option.
Gillingham Team News:
Despite having no injury or suspension worries, Allen has hinted that he will make changes to his side despite winning back to back away matches. New signing Steven Gregory and striker Danny Kedwell could return in a bid to improve the Gills stuttering home form.
Possible Team: Nelson, Fish, Martin, Legge, Barrett, Frampton, Payne, Whelpdale, Weston, Kedwell, Burton
Player to watch: Chris Whelpdale
The former Peterborough midfielder impressed earlier in the season when scoring at Vale Park in Gillingham`s 2-0 win and has been an instrumental component of Gillingham`s success this year. Whelpdale will pose a threat along with fellow wide-man Myles Weston.
Port Vale Team News:
Adams faces some tricky selection issues after Vale`s 4-0 win over Plymouth. The Vale boss made six changes for that game and with new signings Darren Purse and Lee Hughes also pushing for a place in the side. Purse looks set to make his Vale debut, though Hughes may have to wait after Ben Williamson linked up well with Tom Pope last week. Adams may opt to change his system, however, to combat the threat from the league leaders.
Possible Team: Neal, Duffy, Chilvers, Purse, Yates, Myrie-Williams, Loft, Morsy, Vincent, Pope, Williamson.
Player to watch: Jennison Myrie-Williams
The mercurial Vale winger returned to form in some style last weekend after a slump in form over recent times. With his wing mate Ashley Vincent struggling for form; it was pleasing to see the former Bristol City player return to the kind of powerful and exciting play he produced for much of the first half of the season. Adams will be looking for more of the same as Vale will seek to use his pace on the counter attack.
Match Facts & Stats
Last five games:
Bristol Rovers 0-2 Gillingham
Southend United 0-1 Gillingham
Gillingham 0-1 Barnet
Gillingham 2-2 Fleetwood Town
Rotherham United 1-2 Gillingham
Port Vale 4-0 Plymouth Argyle
Port Vale 0-2 Fleetwood Town
Dagenham & Redbridge 2-3 Port Vale
Cheltenham Town 1-1 Port Vale
Port Vale 0-2 Chesterfield
John Farries and Guy Stretton
Fourth Official Carl Fitch
A tight and competitive affair to be settled by a winner from substitute Lee Hughes.
Bradford City (h) 19/02/2013 3.00pm