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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Match Preview - Crewe vs. Gillingham

Crewe Alexandra
vs. Gillingham
Saturday February 12, 15:00, Gresty Road

It's a contest between two teams with an eye on the top seven in League Two this weekend as Gillingham make the long trip up to Cheshire to take on Crewe Alexandra.

While the hosts have been in and around the play off positions for the majority of the campaign though, the Gills have risen into contention after a disastrous start to the season.

Tuesday evening's win against Rotherham left them in a season-high of 6th in the standings - as they begin to justify their tag as one of the pre-season favourites for promotion to League One.

However, back in November, with a third of the season played, the Kent outfit were in 22nd - outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone.

Much of their woes stemmed up from an horrific away record where a run of more than 30 games without winning away finally ending with a 1-0 success at Oxford.

Since then, Andy Hessenthaler's side have also tasted victory at the struggling trio of Barnet, Macclesfield, and Stockport.

Defeats on the road have been suffered at the hands of Northampton, Bradford, Wycombe, and extraordinary 5-4 and 7-4 losses to Bury and Accrington respectively.

Key performers for Gillingham this term have been on-loan Norwich striker, Cody McDonald, who has bagged 15 goals for himself, and fellow forward Bayo Akinfenwa always provides a handful for opposition defences.

Veteran Dario Gradi is hoping to guide his Crewe team into the play offs

Opponents Crewe come into the match lying just outside the play off positions in 8th, however they do possess games in hand over teams above them in the top seven.

They come into the match off the back of successive away defeats, however, including a 6-2 thumping at Northampton before being beaten by high flying Rotherham 3-1 last weekend.

Better news has come in the shape of their recent home form though. The Alex have won their last four home games, seeing off Bradford, Port Vale, Wycombe, and Northampton.

Other victories at Gresty Road have come against Aldershot, Bury, and an incredible 7-0 thumping of Barnet. However, three sides - Hereford, Shrewsbury, and Rotherham have all defeated them on home soil.

Veteran boss Dario Gradi will have to do without the services of top scorer Clayton Donaldson though, whose 16 goals have been vital to Crewe's challenge.

In his absence, they will look to Shaun Miller, a product from Alex's famed youth academy, to add to his tally of 13 goals this term.

It's important to recognise that this Gillingham side is an altogether more difficult proposition on the road than earlier on in the campaign.

However, they have struggled to win at some of the better sides so, given Crewe's decent home form, this one could well end all square.

Nobes' Prediction: Crewe Alexandra 1
Gillingham 1

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