By Gerry PrewettAfter a week off because of the International break Bristol Rovers are back into League action when they entertain a Gillingham team who have had a mixed start to their campaign this season.
Having finished in 9th spot last season, just outside the Play-Offs their current League position of 14th is disappointing. Their season fizzled out during April as they picked up just 3 points from 7 games and then lost out to Millwall on the final day of the season at Priestfield.
Gillingham's early season form was good, starting off with an away win at Thameside rivals Southend but they were brought down to earth with a 5-0 thumping at Scunthorpe. The Kent team’s progress was given a set-back on Saturday when they went down 2-1 at home to bottom of the table Oldham.
The Gill’s Cody McDonald was on the mark after just 10 minutes when he rose to an inswinging corner by Bradley Dack and headed home, as he was left in unmarked at the back post, past Connor Ripley. Apart from another McDonald header the Gills allowed the Latics to get back into the game as half-time approached.
Oldham started to create chances and then on 65 minutes Freddie Ladapo, who came on as a substitute five minutes before, held off his marker and hammered a shot from 12 yards past Stuart Nelson.
The Gills thought they should have been given a penalty with 20 minutes left as Hessenthaler’s powerful effort was blocked by Clarke, flying in with his hands raised, but referee Kevin Johnson was unimpressed. With time running out Oldham scored the winning goal. Former Liverpool payer Ryan Flynn pounced on a loose ball following a deflected Paul Green shot and slotted into an empty net.
Gill’s boss Justin Edinburgh was disappointed both at the decisions and his team’s performance, “Oldham were the better side in the second half and probably deserved their win, but we had some real big decisions go against us. Both the goals should have been disallowed.”
“The first goal is a foul on Chris Herd. He got a clear barge in the back. For the second one a player was obstructing Stuart Nelson in an offside position. They might have won by a couple more goals but we are talking about key decisions, those two and the penalty decision. They were key.”
“The penalty is blatant. The referee has tried to say the ball has taken a deflection, that’s why it didn’t count as a handball, but anyone there could see it clear. The ball didn’t change direction, it takes a nick but it is quite clearly a handball.”
Looking back over the history of meetings between the Gas and the Gills there has been a total of 102 games, with Rovers having the better record with 45 victories to the Gills 38. They majority of Rovers success has come in the West of England with 32 victories, 10 draws and just 8 defeats.
The very first meeting took place at Priestfield on 29 Jan 1921 in the old Division Three with the home team winning the match 1-0 followed by a 2-0 reverse in the return fixture at Eastville a week later
Rovers last point against the Gills was secured at the Mem was on Good Friday 2012 when the teams fought out a 2-2 draw, Rovers last victory was on 21 November 2009. The Gas won that game 2-1 with Chris Lines giving the home team a 17th minute lead side-footing home from 10 yards. Andy Barcham equalised on 40 minutes when he reached the edge of the area unchallenged and lashed the ball into the top corner of the net. A Jeff Hughes penalty on 81 minutes secured all three points for Rovers.
Generally games between the Gas and the Gills are not high scoring with the average score over those 102 games being, 1.5 to Rovers and 1.3 to Gillingham. There have been some exceptions!
On 23 August 1995 Rovers ran out 4-2 winners over the Gills in a League Cup encounter at Twerton Park. A Stewart hat-trick and a goal from Miller completed Rovers score with Bailey and Fortune-West scoring for the Kent team , after the game had been tied 1-1 at half-time.
Back on 19 October 1968 Rovers ran riot beating the Gills by 5-1 at Eastville. You have to go back to 12 April 1952 to find a bigger victory, 5-0.
In the last game between the clubs the Kent team ran out 2-0 winners on 5 January 2013 at the Mem. Chris Whelpdale opened the scoring for the leaders after just 3 minutes. Following some good play down the left, Whelpdale picked up the ball just outside the area, and fired home past Steve Mildenhall, into the top right hand corner of the net. Two minutes before the break Gillingham extended their lead. Whelpdale headed the ball into the box and Deon Burton turned Garry Kenneth and slotted the ball home from close range.
Boss Edinburgh responded this week to questions about being under pressure, “Since I have been here I have never had anything other than support from the Football club, the supporters and the players. They continue to do that and I don’t feel any pressure at all.”
“If I get the squad fit and all personnel available for selection then we will be looking up rather than down, that’s for sure. As the weeks go by I have no doubts we will become stronger. The positive from the Oldham game is that we had players back from injury in the starting line-up. We had no injuries and players have got through some minutes. It increases competition for places.”
As the transfer window closed the Gills managed to secure former Villa midfielder Chris Herd until the end of the season and striker Frank Nouble on a short-term deal. 27 year old Herd was a free agent after turning down the opportunity to return to the West Coast of his native Australia and call Perth Glory’s NIB Stadium home
Nouble, two years younger spent last season at Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian. Edinburgh noted that, "In Frank, we've signed a strong, powerful and determined striker. Chris's versatility will be a big boost for us.”