LOFT: IT’S NOT ALL BRAD NEWS, GILLS!

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Paddy von Behr

LEAGUE One side Gilling­ham may have lost their pony­tailed tal­is­man, but cap­tain Doug Loft knows just the man to step into his shoes.

Bradley Dack has been a rev­e­la­tion at Pri­est­field this sea­son, grad­u­at­ing from promis­ing young­ster to man­ager Justin Ed­in­burgh’s ace in the pack – his flow­ing locks the scourge of de­fences across League One.

The spear­head of a di­a­mond mid­field, the 22-year-old has honed his eye for goal, match­ing last sea­son’s tally by Novem­ber and mov­ing onto 15 for the cam­paign with the win­ner against in-form Barns­ley last month.

That is why last week’s news – that Dack, who was the sub­ject of a £2m of­fer from Bris­tol City in Jan­uary, will miss six weeks with a ham­string in­jury – came as such a ham­mer blow for the Gills.

Abil­ity

For Loft, how­ever, the re­place­ment is ready in wait­ing in the shape of Ge­orge Wil­liams, the 20-year-old Welsh in­ter­na­tional who joined from Cham­pi­onship Ful­ham last month with a point to prove.

“Af­ter about three train­ing ses­sions with the club I looked at Dackie and said ‘he is go­ing to be some player’,” said Loft, who joined Gills in the sum­mer of 2014. “He hasn’t let me down.

“Bradley’s abil­ity is fright­en­ing and he just needed to play in a sys­tem that suits him – and the di­a­mond is just that.You just need to build a team around him.

“You can’t re­place him like-for­like but we signed Ge­orge on loan from Ful­ham and he is a great player.

“He looks like he will be a great ad­di­tion. In train­ing he looks bril­liant and once he is fully fit, he will be a great player for us. He can cre­ate and score.”

That is not the Gills’ only in­jury prob­lem of late, how­ever, with in­stru­men­tal cen­tre-back John Egan (knee) out un­til mid-April with a train­ing-ground in­jury and longterm ab­sen­tee Cody McDon­ald (metatarsal) still side­lined.

Loft him­self suf­fered a scare when a heavy tackle from Old­ham’s Matt Palmer left him on crutches last month but the skip­per re­turned last week­end to fea­ture in the goal­less draw at Scun­thorpe.

“We have got good strength in depth in our squad,” he said. “We signed Adam El-Abd and I have played with him be­fore – he will bring great ex­pe­ri­ence to the squad. He is a good tack­ler and a good or­gan­iser in de­fence.

“My an­kle is still a lit­tle bit big but I was up for play­ing last week­end. It was quite a bad tackle and I thought I had bro­ken it, it was that painful, but I’m quite a quick healer any­way.”

Ex­am­ple

That draw left Gilling­ham five points be­hind se­cond-placed Wi­gan head­ing into the week­end, while top-spot Bur­ton’s 2-0 mid­week de­feat at Brad­ford1 pre­vented them from eas­ing even fur­ther clear.

And Loft, who helped Port Vale to pro­mo­tion from League Two in 2013, ad­mits it is all to play for in the race to the Cham­pi­onship.

“We have got quite a young squad and there are only a few of us who have been pro­moted be­fore,” he added.

“It is up to us to lead by ex­am­ple – guys like Josh Wright, Stu­art Nelson and Adam El-Abd.

“Bur­ton lost on Tues­day night, so that is good for us. Any team that can put a run of two or three wins to­gether can catch them and be up there. It is a long sea­son and I still think it’s wide open.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

POINT­ING THE WAY: Gilling­ham’s Doug Loft be­lieves Ge­orge Wil­liams, in­set left, can help make up for Bradley Dack’s, right, ab­sence

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