Alex Neil faces some tough decisions ahead of what is essentially a seven game mini league from which we simply have to secure a play off place.
Here’s how I think he’ll line the team up today.
Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson
Patterson’s made the (theoretical) number one shirt his own – and while much of the talk after Lincoln was of the chances we missed, his excellent save late on shouldn’t be overlooked – it ultimately gained us a point.
Defence: Carl Winchester, Bailey Wright, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin
I read comments from an experienced manager recently – I think it was Sam Allardyce – that when you have to get a result he would always choose his experienced players. The ones who’ve been there and done it. Judging Alex Neil’s team selections so far, I’d say he’s of the same thinking, so for that reason I’d not be surprised if we see Danny Batth back in the team today. After an excellent debut he had a nightmare at Bolton and we’ve barely seen him since, but his track record suggests he’s an excellent player at this level. Alongside him, Bailey Wright will surely start, with Winchester and Cirkin lining up as full backs in a back four.
Midfield: Corry Evans, Luke O’Nien, Alex Pritchard
Going with the experienced train of thought, I think we’ll see Corry Evans and Luke O’Nien lining up together in the middle of the park, with Alex Pritchard returning in the more advanced role. Evans has come in for a lot of – quite justified – criticism this season, but Neil seems to like him and, in fairness, he had a good game at Lincoln. I’m not sure he’s suited to playing at home when we need to break teams down, but as Neil’s shown he’s a pragmatic manager, so I think we’ll see the skipper in the starting XI. It’s mighty unfair on Dan Neil and the excellent Jay Matete – however I suspect their energy and progressive passing could prove pivotal in the second half.
Forwards: Jack Clarke, Ross Stewart, Patrick Roberts
I thought Patrick Roberts was superb last time out, and Jack Clarke is a real talent at this level, too. With both stepping up to full match fitness, they could be crucial for us over the coming weeks. Ross Stewart will be buoyed by his international call up, and frustrated by his lack of involvement in equal measure. He’ll have something to prove to Steve Clarke, and hopefully the Gills bear the brunt of his frustration.