How former Portsmouth trio and ex-Sunderland, Millwall & Ipswich men are helping Gillingham survive League Two drop

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A trio of former Pompey players have united to help Gillingham’s League Two survival hopes.

Oli Hawkins, Shaun Williams and Aiden O’Brien have played vital roles since their arrival at the Priestfield Stadium, helping lift the Gills out of the dropzone.

Indeed, the Blues’ EFL Trophy final hero Hawkins netted an 87th-minute winner to seal three points against Grimsby on Tuesday evening.

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The result has seen Neil Harris’ men climb out of the bottom two for the first time since November as their recent revolution continues.

That’s after a run of four wins in their last six contests in League Two, with their only dropped points coming against play-off hopefuls Swindon and Mansfield.

The new era with the Kent outfit continues following US businessman Brad Galinson’s takeover in December.

With new money at Harris’ disposal, the head coach would make 11 signings in January, including the impressive captures of Tom Nichols and Tim Dieng.

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And the spending didn’t stop there, with Hawkins completing a permanent move from Mansfield, while O’Brien, who made a shock deadline-day switch from Shrewsbury.

Former Pompey striker Oli Hawkins netted a later winner for Gillingham on Tuesday evening.Former Pompey striker Oli Hawkins netted a later winner for Gillingham on Tuesday evening.
Former Pompey striker Oli Hawkins netted a later winner for Gillingham on Tuesday evening.

The pair joined former Blues midfielder Williams in the south east, after he joined on a free transfer from Fratton Park in the summer.

Since his drop to the League Two side, the former Millwall man has appeared 33 times for the Gills and has netted on one occasion.

Ex-Pompey boss Kenny Jackett also arrived at Gillingham in January as head of recruitment, along with Andy Hessenthaler.

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One of Jackett’s first moves in his new role saw him link-up with former striker Hawkins, completing a switch for an undisclosed fee from Mansfield.

His late winner on Tuesday evening represented the 30-year-old’s first goal for his new outfit, adding to his five league goals this term.

The striker was partnered alongside O’Brien in attack, who made his third outing for the Gills when he came off the bench in the second half.

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After his exit from Pompey in the summer, the forward has struggled with injuries - featuring 11 times for both Salop and Gillingham in all competitions this term.

Their valuable experience has seen Gillingham rise from rock bottom in League Two up to 21st in the table – just a point above the relegation zone.