Millwall can reach summit by overcoming Gillingham hoodoo

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Jon Culley
Thursday 03 October 2013 03:59
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Despite a programme reduced to only two matches, the First Division could have a new leader this afternoon, perhaps even a different name in second place as well.

Millwall, unbeaten in five matches, will jump from eighth to top with a win at Gillingham, while Stoke City, currently 10th, will move up at least to third spot if they can overcome Burnley at the Britannia Stadium. Victory by a five-goal margin would dislodge second-placed Reading.

Given that they escaped relegation on the final day of last season, Stoke's current status is quite a contrast. Their single-goal defeat at Preston last weekend was the first of a season that began with consecutive wins over Derby, Wimbledon and Rochdale.

The defender Kris Commons could make his first league start for almost a year this afternoon if Wayne Thomas fails a late fitness test on a groin injury, which could see Clive Clarke replace Thomas in the centre of defence, with Commons, who has been out since damaging knee ligaments in September last year, coming in at left-back.

The Burnley manager, Stan Ternent, is likely to include three new loan signings in the defender Andy Todd, borrowed from Blackburn, plus the midfielder Gareth Farrelly and the striker Delroy Facey, both from Bolton.

Millwall will fancy their chances at the Priestfield Stadium but must overcome something of a hoodoo, having failed to beat Gillingham in any of their last eight meetings.

Paul Finnity, the administrator at Notts County, reassured supporters that the Second Division match against Luton at Meadow Lane might not necessarily be the last for the world's oldest professional club.

Notts County, who have been in administration for a record 446 days, were thought to have lost their survival fight when the former chairman Derek Pavis, who is coordinating the battle to keep the club alive, announced the apparent collapse of the latest takeover bid.

However, Finnity said "misunderstandings and misinterpretations" lay behind Pavis's statement, adding that negotiations with the former Leicester directors Roy Parker and Bob Wilson had produced "a formula to succeed". However, the manager, Billy Dearden, whose side has won only one point so far, has only 13 fit players for the visit of Luton.

The leaders, Port Vale, whose progress earned Brian Horton the Second Division Manager of the Month Award, go to Stockport. Despite having slipped to third from bottom, their manager, Carlton Palmer, said: "We'll win the game because we are the better team."

Yeovil Town, needing to avert a crisis after three straight defeats, face the Third Division leaders Swansea without their leading scorer Kevin Gall, who is on duty for Wales Under-21s.

First division team news

Gillingham v Millwall

Danny Spiller (knee) is the latest injury concern for Gillingham. The player-manager, Andy Hessenthaler, stands by to replace him. Mark Saunders, who has missed two matches with a shin injury, and Nayron Nosworthy (knee) should both be back in contention.

Millwall are unlikely to make any changes from the side which drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace. The Belgium international Bob Peeters is pushing for a starting berth and David Livermore (knee) and Paul Robinson (shin) are both in the squad, but Joe Dolan (knee) is yet to return to full training.

Stoke v Burnley

The Stoke City defender Kris Commons could make his first league start for almost a year, if Wayne Thomas fails a late fitness test on a groin injury. Clive Clarke would replace Thomas with Commons stepping in at left-back.

New loan signings Andy Todd, Delroy Facey and Gareth Farrelly come into Burnley's first-team squad. Todd should start after joining from Blackburn on Wednesday while the midfielder Farrelly and the striker Facey also look set for places after signing from Bolton on one-month deals. The striker Ian Moore remains a doubt with a niggling hip injury.

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