FORMER York City defender Tony Barras has told his old club to beware Gillingham’s double-pronged attacking threat almost 14 years on from suffering at the hands of one of the Kent club’s most potent strikeforces.
Carl Asaba and Rob Taylor were leading the Gills’ forward line the last time tomorrow’s League Two opponents met back in January 1999.
Both ended up on the scoresheet in a 3-1 victory for their side back then and went on to plunder 44 goals between them – Asaba getting 23 and Taylor 21 – as the Priestfield Stadium side came within a penalty shoot-out Wembley defeat of promotion to the Championship at the end of the season, with Manchester City going up instead.
This term, however, Martin Allen’s Gillingham side look likely to bypass the play-off route in their quest to climb a division.
They have opened up a five-point gap at the top and, like their 1999 predecessors, have a front two that hunt goals as a pair.
Veteran former £1 million striker Deon Burton (nine) and ex-Grays and AFC Wimbledon hit-man Danny Kedwell (11) have been a big factor behind the Gills’ rise to the top of the League Two standings.
Barras, who now runs a plastering business, was harassed into mistakes for both Asaba and Taylor’s goals on that last winter afternoon meeting between the two clubs, but has tips for Gary Mills’ team on how to contend with a side containing two out-and-out marksmen.
He said: “Those two weren’t particularly quick but it was always a physical challenge and you could not give them any room around the box.
“You need more protection from the midfield when you are up against two goalscorers.
“They need to get in front of them and you need the full-backs to tuck in a lot more as well.”
After Asaba and Taylor had put Gillingham in the ascendancy during the 1998/1999 contest in Kent, Rodney Rowe replied for the Minstermen just past the hour.
But Guy Butters fired in from 15 yards on 82 minutes to put the outcome beyond any doubt.
The defeat represented the third match in a 12-game run without a win that would see the Minstermen tumble down the table before being relegated to League Two after dropping into the bottom four for the first time on the final day of the campaign.
Barras never played for City again, moving on to Walsall the following season and he reckons the gulf in ability between the two teams now might not be as pronounced as it was in 1999, saying: “I think the gap’s probably narrower now.
“York have done well to get back in the League and, while Gillingham are doing well, I don’t think there will be much difference between the two sides as long as York defend well as a team and deal with their goal threat.”
Barras, meanwhile, continues to play Sunday morning football and five-a-side three times a night having been a regular for New Mills in the Northern League until earlier this year at the age of 41.
How it was back then
City (v Gillingham on January 16, 1999): Mimms, McMillan, Jones, Barras, Hall, Connelly (Garratt), Tinkler, Jordan, Himsworth, Cresswell, Rowe.
Number one UK selling single at the time: Praise You (Fatboy Slim).
It also happened on this day: Robbie Fowler and Dwight Yorke both score top-flight hat-tricks as Liverpool beat Southampton 7-1 and Manchester United win 6-2 at Leicester.