Gillingham v Bury: battle of the caretakers

Lovell tear you apart – bbc.co.uk

Steve Lovell and Ryan Lowe are two former strikers who enjoyed successful goalscoring periods at their respective clubs – so far, they are also well-respected in their new managerial roles.

Lovell is further down the line in terms of results, having overseen four victories in six in all competitions. Much of that may be down to his fresh approach, which is so different to the mind-set of his predecessors.

As an ex-centre-back, Adrian Pennock tried to build a solid side that he himself would have wanted to play in, but the result was an isolated attack and a fearful midfield. By contrast, Lovell has set about building a side that he would have wanted to play in – one that commits men forward and is brave in possession.

It would have been difficult to imagine them having the confidence to score three away from home under Pennock, as they did at Rotherham, thanks to a Josh Parker brace and a well-worked Tom Eaves header. Eaves had been ploughing a lone furrow until Lovell’s arrival, but we did see in his hat-trick against Southend back in August, a glimpse of what he can do when he gets the right service. Now, he has scored three in his last 325 minutes of football and is on seven goals for the campaign.

Without Eaves, Scott Wagstaff and various youngsters led the Gills to a crazy 7-5 EFL Trophy win over Reading. It was a similar experience, if not so bizarre, for Bury fans when their team played Stoke Under-21s in the same competition and won 3-1. A lack of midfield physicality was an issue earlier in the campaign, after Stephen Dawson’s injury, but if Neil Danns and Rohan Ince are rewarded for their performances in midweek, they will offer those qualities in abundance.

Striker Nicky Ajose scored and turned in a man-of-the-match performance. The Charlton loanee has struggled with the Shakers thus far but Lowe – once a nippy poacher who made League One level his own – might see a little bit of his old self in Ajose. The slicker style of football the Liverpudlian favours doesn’t necessitate a target man like Michael Smith, so the Manchester United academy graduate could profit.

Phil Edwards, who was named captain in the FA Cup 1st Round Draw at Woking, has already said that the interim boss has been a breathe of fresh air. These  teams are playing with more confidence than they were before the caretaker gaffers came in – while both remain in the relegation zone, this doesn’t have the feel of a crisis clash.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-2