Two of the division’s in-form sides do battle at the KCOM Stadium tomorrow as Hull City welcome play-off hopefuls Gillingham.
Four wins from six – including an impressive 3-0 victory at Lincoln – have lifted Steve Evans’ Gills from 15th to ninth and to within two points of the play-offs, although they have played more games than their top-six rivals.
The Tigers have accumulated 16 points over the same period but Head Coach Grant McCann has warned his table-topping side must be on their guard.
“I watched them against Lincoln and they should have won five or six,” said McCann. “That’s not an exaggeration – they were excellent.
“They should have got in the top six last season. If the season hadn’t been stopped, I’d have fancied them to get into the top six.
“They’ve got a manager who knows how to do it. It’ll be a tough game. They’ve got a centre forward in form (Vadaine Oliver), a wide player who has crossed more balls than anyone else in the division by about a hundred in Jordan Graham.
“We know we’re in for a tough game and we know what to expect from them.
“We’ll approach it by making sure we get our own house in order, that we perform the way we want to perform, and the game plan we’ve set this week, we go and deliver it.”
Asked about Gillingham’s playing style, McCann responded: “Everyone has got their own style and Gillingham’s style certainly suits the players they’ve recruited.
“You recruit to a certain style and Gillingham have done that. It’s the way they’ve gone about things this season.
“A lot of people will think they go direct but when they get into your half, they play.
“They’ve got good footballers, people like Kyle Dempsey and Alex MacDonald, people who have been about the division. Both full-backs are good – Connor Ogilvie and Ryan Jackson – they’ll want to get forward.
“It’s going to be a good game. We’ve got a big pitch, we want to try to get the ball down and move it quick. We want to try to hurt them but we know we’ll have to match the physicality of them first and foremost.”
Oliver is enjoying a hot streak in front of goal, with eight in his last seven appearances, and McCann knows his defenders will have to be on their game.
“Him and John Akinde are a handful,” he said. “They’re physically strong, both of them are mobile for big guys.
“It’s going to be a test for us. We’ve got to be man enough to stand up to it and deal with it.”
Across from McCann in the away dugout will be Evans, one of the most experienced managers in League One.
The 58-year-old has won six career promotions and the Tigers chief has a great deal of respect for his Gillingham counterpart.
“His teams are always effective and hard to play against,” McCann commented. “He’s been effective wherever he’s been. He’s had promotions all over the place on his CV. He knows how to get it done.”