The lowdown on the Gas' upcoming opposition, Gillingham...
After claiming their first away points of the season at Lincoln on Saturday in a battling performance, Bristol Rovers will be facing a Steve Evans lead Gillingham team, who will also be looking to build on a win at the weekend. The Gills are two points and two positions below Rovers but have played one game less.
Rovers defensive solidity on Saturday was something that would have please Graham Coughlin. Despite a Lincoln corner count of 13, shots 11, the important statistic was goals 0 and that was largely because the Imps had just 1 shot on target. If that resilience can be carried forward on Tuesday, there is every chance that Rovers can take all 3 points.
The Kent team have had a fairly mixed set of results so far, opening with a creditable draw at Doncaster before going down 2-1 at home to Burton. They then let a 2-0 lead against Blackpool at Priestfield slip to draw 2-2 and then went down 1-0 to Coventry at St Andrews. A 5-0 thrashing of the under-siege Bolton followed before they once again threw away a 2-0 lead in drawing 2-2 at Tranmere before overcoming table topping Wycombe 2-0 on Saturday.
Alex Jakubiak and Jack Bonham will both be welcomed back to the Mem on Tuesday night. Jakubiak has started the season sensationally with 4 goals and one assist. He didn’t manage to get on the pitch on Saturday due to illness but took a place on the bench.
In the first half Wycombe’s Alex Samuel came closest to opening the scoring when he just missed the target after good work from Nick Freeman on the flank. Freeman then went close himself only to see a shot tipped over by Bonham.
Gillingham started much the brighter after the restart and were ahead thanks to Bournemouth loanee Mikael Ndjoli on 59 minutes. Substitute Brandon Hanlan made an immediate impact when he went on a solo run down the left and teed it up for Ndjoli to stab home inside the box.
The Gills were well on top and fifteen minutes later they doubled their lead when Olly Lee drew a foul from Giles Phillips in the Wycombe box. Ndjoli stepped up to score his and the Gills' second of the day to consign Gareth Ainsworth's side to a first league defeat since April.
Gills defender Barry Fuller speaking after the game said, “We played against the league leaders and if you don’t stand up to them it could be a long 90 minutes, but we won a lot of battles. Everyone to a man was a credit to this football club because we battled hard against a strong team."
“We dug in because the first hour of that game was tight and bit ugly but we carried on working hard and in the end we scored two great goals that got us the win and now we can hopefully build upon that moving forward, with Bristol Rovers away on Tuesday evening,"
Looking back over the history of meetings between the Gas and the Gills there has been a total of 108 games, with Rovers just having the better record with 47 victories to the Gills 41. They majority of Rovers success has come in the West of England with 32 of those victories, 11 draws and just 9 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, with a goal by George Needham followed by a 2-0 Rovers’ victory in the return fixture at Eastville a week later with Sid Leigh scoring twice for the Pirates.
Back on 19 October 1968 Rovers ran riot under the Eastville lights beating the Gills by 5-1 with goals by Ray Mabbutt (2), Ray Graydon, Harold Jarman and Johnny Brown with Gordon Riddick scoring the Gills consolation. Carl Gilbert, who was later to play for Rovers, was in the away team’s line-up that night. You have to go back to 12 April 1952 to find a bigger victory, 5-0.
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.
On 21 November 2009 the Gas took all three points with a 2-1 home victory, Chris Lines gave 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 the points for Rovers. In the away game Gills won 1-0 through a last-minute goal from Simeon Jackson.
On 15 October 2016 Rovers repeated the score-line but in a different way! Gillingham had taken a 62nd minute lead when Rovers failed to defend a long throw from the right and Josh Wright popped up unmarked at the far post to fire low past Kelle Roos.
Chris Lines grabbed an 82nd minute equaliser, exchanging passes with Matty Taylor and breaking through the middle before coolly shooting past Jonathan Bond. Then substitute Ellis Harrison volleyed a 90th-minute winner meeting a left-wing cross from fellow replacement Cristian Montano at the far post and hammering a right-footed shot in off goalkeeper Bond from the corner of the six-yard box. That was Rovers last home victory over the Gills.
The 2017/18 game was the last home game of the season and Rovers thought they had it won when Dom Telford netted in the 86th minute, but the Mem was silenced when substitute Elliot List equalised right on full-time.
Last season the Gills went back to the Medway with all 3 points after a 2-1 victory. The visitors took an eighth-minute lead when, with Rovers appealing for offside earlier in the move, Elliott List was allowed space to move forward and fire home with a low 20-yard drive.
Callum Reilly doubled the advantage after 59 minutes, moving on to a pass from Tom Eaves and drilling a shot from 25 yards that beat Rovers' substitute goalkeeper Adam Smith. Reilly turned villain on 70 minutes when he dived into a challenge on Sercombe in the middle of the pitch and earned himself a straight red card.
Liam Sercombe reduced the arrears with a sweet free-kick from 30 yards in the 87th minute and came close to an equaliser during eight minutes of stoppage time, volleying against a post.
News from Priestfield is that the Gills players were told to stay away from the club on Sunday in a bid to beat a bug. Eight first team players were hit by a virus before the weekend and it meant boss Steve Evans was unable to name his team to face Wycombe on Saturday until two hours before kick-off. Chairman Paul Scally ordered a deep clean of the dressing room area and boss Evans was hoping to have all of his squad available when everyone returned to work on Monday.
“Most of the virus is gone,” said Evans, after Saturday’s win, “The medical staff have said it is on the way out now, but the Chairman has been brilliant and told some people to get it properly disinfected. We normally always have the boys in on Sunday. We are in, the coaching staff, but on medical advice the players will stay away and report back again Monday.”
“The doctors believe that it’s a 24-36 hour bug. If it is, by Monday we should have all of our squad available to us. We will probably need to freshen the team up on Tuesday anyway because it’s a long trip and we will probably need some fresh legs because they have had to work incredibly hard to win.”
Evans was without Regan Charles-Cook because of illness and Alex Jakubiak was named on the bench to make up the numbers, too unwell to play. Olly Lee played, but was under the weather.
Commenting on the Rovers fixture Evans said, “Bristol Rovers have a very good Manager in Graham Coughlan and he has helped build a very good team. Any team that can go away to Lincoln City and win fairly comfortably deserves the highest level of respect from any team at any level in English football.”
“It’s tough to go to both Bristol teams, City and Rovers, they have fervent fans like we have, that will get behind them. Barring Burton at home and a half at Tranmere and Coventry, we have played very well and competed. We will need to do that at Bristol Rovers, but we have enough ability in the locker to get something.”
Barry Fuller supported his Boss’ assertion, “Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night is a difficult place to go. We always seem to play them away on a Tuesday night, do we ever play them on a Saturday!? We are looking to go there and build upon Saturday's win though."