Michael Nelson makes his Valley Parade bow as a City defender tomorrow – and he’ll feel right at home with Gillingham’s strikeforce.
The uncompromising centre half was a former team-mate of both Deon Burton and Cody McDonald, so he knows exactly what kind of afternoon to expect.
Nelson said: “Deon was a young pro at Portsmouth when I was there on the YTS and I had quite a lot to do with him. It was back in the day when you used to clean boots and do jobs round the ground and the pros would give you quite a bit of stick.
“I was at Norwich with Cody. He went on loan in the second season to Gillingham and did very well, managing to get his move to Coventry.
“It’s a club he’s enjoyed while he’s been there and I’m not surprised he’s back. Hopefully he won’t enjoy it tomorrow.”
Nelson, who made his debut at Fleetwood, has had to wait a month for his first home game since leaving Kilmarnock for £30,000 – and City have not appeared at Valley Parade since reaching Wembley.
They are not back again until after the final and Phil Parkinson hopes that will make for a special occasion and a performance to match.
Parkinson said: “It’s a great chance for the lads to get a good send-off from the supporters and we want to put on a really good display to earn that.
“Gillingham are the away specialists. I know Martin Allen well from working with him at Reading and I expect a very hard, traditional League Two game.
“I’m not surprised they are up there but it’s a great challenge for us. They’ve only lost one away from home all season and we’ve got to make sure we are right on it.”
Second-placed Gillingham have collected 30 points on their travels but home form has let them down. Monday’s defeat to Wycombe was their third at Priestfield since Christmas, a wobble that has cost them the long-time lead of the division.
But they are a different animal on the road and Parkinson, who was at the game with Steve Parkin, admitted: “We’re not fooled by that performance. We’re going to have to be at our best.”
Nahki Wells is fine but Rory McArdle went for a scan on his injured ankle yesterday. The Northern Ireland defender was quietly optimistic that the problem was easing.
And James Meredith has undergone blood tests to check if his body is recovering properly from the recent bout of glandular fever.
Parkinson said: “He’s been confined to his apartment and hardly got out of bed for a month because he’s been so ill. It’s a breath of fresh air for him to be back in with the lads.”
Andrew Davies continues his recovery and yesterday came through his third day of training. Parkinson is thrilled to see him back but cautious on his chances of making the Capital One Cup final.
He said: “Davo is very fit because he has worked so hard on his rehab’ with Matt Barrass, our physio, and Chris Royston.
“The dedication he’s shown has helped him progress quicker but we’ve also got to be realistic. We’ll take it step by step with him.”