By Gerry Prewett.
Looking back over the history of meetings between the Gas and the Gills there has been a total of 109 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, 12 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 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 62ndminute 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 winnermeeting 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 86thminute, but the Mem was silenced when substitute Elliot List equalised right on full-time.
In 2018/19 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 Liam Sercombe in the middle of the pitch and earned himself a straight red card. 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.
In last season’s 17 September fixture the spoi;s were shared in a 1-1 draw. The Gas took a 38th-minute lead when Tyler Smith was allowed to run unchallenged into the Gills' box and sidestepped Connor Ogilvie before lashing a low drive past Jack Bonham from 15 yards.
Gillingham were rewarded for late pressure when impressive substitute Mark Marshall crossed deep from the right and, although Anssi Jaakola parried Ogilvie's volley, Thomas O'Connor was on hand to net the rebound from six yards.