Fourteen games remaining, 58 points on the board, third place in the table.
With February almost done and March fast approaching, us Gills fans would have accepted this position if offered it back in August wouldn’t we?
Of course we would.
After having to endure the first half of the 2014-15 season, and with it Peter Taylor’s final few months in charge, this current campaign has been a breath of fresh air.
But as with any sport, when a team starts to give even the smallest hint of becoming successful, aspirations and hopes of supporters change.
Did expectations raise too much after the blunting of the Blades?
The proverbial goalposts start to move.
That is precisely what has happened with Justin Edinburgh’s charges this term.
After such a blistering start pto the campaign, hopes started to rise.
Those that maybe hoped for an improvement on last season’s 12th place started to think of the top eight, and those who perhaps thought the top eight was attainable dared to dream of the Play-Offs.
By the time 2015 was turning into 2016 some fans – myself included – were genuinely starting to believe that automatic promotion could perhaps be achieved.
Based on that, it is understandable to see why so many were so disappointed after yet another away lead was chucked away this past Saturday at lowly Oldham, a side who hadn’t won at home since last August.
Plenty of you may have seen my tweets regarding what I perceive to be a massive over reaction amongst some of our fans; those claiming our season was over, the players were not even trying, and that we were no better off now than under past gaffers such as the aforementioned Peter Taylor and also Mark Stimson.
We aren’t that bad, not by a long stretch.
However, nobody can hide from the fact that at the moment our away form is starting to become a bit of a concern.
So let’s break things down and see just how different the Gills’ form and results are when playing away from the MEMS Preistfield.
Saturday’s reverse in Lancashire, having lead, meant that we have now given away 17 points from leading positions on the road this season.
Four times we have been in front – at Port Vale, Peterborough, Shrewsbury and Doncaster – and managed to only draw.
On the face of it that is by no means a disaster based on the old adage of if you win at home and pick up points away then you will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
Walsall away, the start of the unravelling on the road?
However, when you then chuck in three further fixtures – Walsall, Wigan and now Oldham – where Edinburgh’s men have lead and somehow contrived to lose, then alarm bells will perhaps be ringing.
On top of that we have actually scored twice in four of these away games – at Walsall, Shrewsbury, Doncaster and Wigan – yet only managed to collect two points from 12 from those fixtures.
NEEDING TO LEARN QUICKER
Justin keeps talking about the squad being a young group who are having to learn on the job and who will suffer setbacks from time to time, which again is fine.
But are they actually learning though?
Chucking away leads – especially from two goals in front – once, maybe twice, can be seen as unlucky, but when it starts to become a regular occurrence then questions have to be asked?
Kers & Justin: Not yet found an answer, but frantically searching.
As yet, it seems as though Edinburgh, David Kerslake and his players don’t quite have the answer, which is why it is such a concern at such a crucial time of the campaign.
In fact, when broken down, the away form has actually declined the longer the campaign has gone on, which again is a massive worry as the season enters its final straight.
Of the 19 points (40%) won on the road from a possible 48 available, we actually accrued 11 of those from the first seven fixtures, or from 21 points up for grabs.
That is 52% of all away points won, and they were all earned by the end of October.
Therefore, it means that since the win at Crewe on October 17th 2015, the Gills have only picked up a further eight points (30%) from 27 available, or more simply put we have won only twice in nine games, suffering five defeats.
Swindon on Boxing Day was the last time Gills won on the road.
And yep, you guessed it, we lead in three of those five reversals, twice by two goals to nil.
This is a massive contrast to our form at home, where we have dropped only two points from a winning position, and that was in the home fixture versus Oldham where we lead 1-0 and 2-1 before coming back to draw 3-3.
That draw was in fact only two in a total of just nine points we’ve let slip at what is now becoming fortress Priestfield, with only Oldham, Southend, Burton – where we played for an hour with 10 men – and Swindon leaving Kent with anything.
Simply put, the direct comparison between our home form and away form is now quite startling.
Home – 39 points (81%) won from a possible 48.
Away – 19 points (40%) won from a possible 48.
Team spirit: The Gills will need plenty of this during the run in.
WHAT IS THE CURE?
The biggest thing for Justin, David and the rest of the staff is now to try and get to the bottom of the issue as soon as possible, because despite everyone stating ‘we will learn‘ after these setbacks they sadly keep happening?
So is it an issue with formation on the road? Do we need to sacrifice a striker and become more compact in midfield?
Is Justin too rigid in his approach, religiously sticking to the midfield diamond to accommodate a front two?
Or has it now happened so much that it is now a mental issue, and playing away is becoming a problem for the players?
None of us will know for sure, because we only talk about it with our mates at games or amongst ourselves on social media, but you can bet your bottom dollar that everyone is trying their damn hardest behind the scenes and on the training pitch to put it right as soon as possible.
Despite these extremely frustrating set backs on the road, we have to surely keep believing because we are in a cracking position still.
Those of the ‘glass half empty‘ persona will point to the fact that if our home form comes unstuck then promotion is out of the question, but if you are like me and swing towards the ‘glass half full‘ attitude to things, then what happens if we do sort our travel sickness out?
Football is a game of fine lines, of the very smallest margins between success and failure.
As it stands we are probably right on the line and aren’t quite sure which side of it we will end up.
But then success is all relative, so compared to last season it’s already been a success surely?
As I have already stated, everyone at the club is surely doing all they can to rectify the issues on the road, so surely – especially after the season they have given us so far – the least we owe them is to to try and keep believing and try and cheer them over the finish line, whether that be via automatic promotion or the Play-Offs.
A concern? Yes. Time to give up? No way!
UP THE GILLS!!