TONY Mowbray insists he never doubted Bradley Dack’s ability ahead of the playmaker’s return to Gillingham this afternoon.

The 24-year-old will make his 200th career league appearance at his old stomping ground bidding to ensure Rovers remain top of League One.

He made the move to East Lancashire in the summer for £750,000 and, after a slow start hindered by injury, has become the club’s talisman in their promotion push.

He has hit new heights in 2018 with six goals, taking his tally for the season to 15, and five assists meaning that no other player in the top four divisions has been involved in as many goals as the Rovers creator.

Dack has established himself as a fan favourite on the terraces and boss Mowbray told the Lancashire Telegraph he knew his star man would come good.

Asked if Dack’s form had surprised him, the Rovers boss said: “I don’t think so. We signed him because he is an emotional player who gets wrapped up in the football match.

“He isn’t just a tippy-tappy number 10 who scores a few goals and plays a few nice passes. I think he tackles, he uses his body, he gets back, he helps the team, he runs wide, he runs beyond, he wins 50-50s, I think supporters can only love what he brings to the game in his physical contribution as well as his tactical and technical contribution.

“I had no fears that Bradley was going to be a good player, particularly at this level.

“The test for Bradley is if we can get out of this league then can he reproduce what he does in this division in the division higher.”

Dack will be the centre of attention on the south coast today as he returns to Priestfield for the first time since leaving for Rovers in the summer.

He made more than 150 appearances for the Gills in a five-year stay at the club which saw him win promotion from League Two in 2013 and be named the League One Player of the Year in 2016 in an unsuccessful promotion push.

He was the subject of attention from Championship clubs 18 months ago but Gillingham kept hold of him for another season until Mowbray swooped in the summer.

And the Rovers boss is backing Dack to thrive on this afternoon’s occasion.

“I am not sure how Bradley Dack is perceived (at Gillingham) and I am not sure if the perception of the supporters when he left to come here is a negative or a positive.

“If it is a negative then Bradley will deal with it and if it is a positive he has to remember that he still has to work hard and score some goals.”

Dack has been man marked in recent weeks and Gillingham could employ a similar tactic to try and shackle their former favourite.

Mowbray admits that he has had conversations with his attacker about coping with increased attention from the opposition and believes Dack is beginning to adapt his game.

“Bradley is learning that part of the game,” added Mowbray.

“I think over the last few months we are finding a lot of teams are actually changing their formation and sitting a midfield player on Bradley Dack and trying to nullify him.

“It is something he has to learn about and develop his spatial awareness and how he can best help the team when he has got a man following him about the pitch.

“Ideally if Bradley is getting marked then he is taking someone away from a dangerous area and someone else is coming into that space, filling in and giving them problems.

“That is all things that we have worked on and looked at and let’s see what the weekend brings.”