Gillingham are having a miserable season so far following relegation from League One in April.
In their first year in League Two since 2013, they have won only two of their first 16 league games to sit just one point and three places above the relegation zone.
They are also by far the lowest scorers in all four divisions, with only six goals from their 16 league matches.
Both their victories have come at Priestfield Stadium and each finished 1-0 – against Rochdale in their opening home game and Sutton at the start of October. They have drawn four of their other six home matches.
Away from home, however, they have picked up three draws but been beaten in their other five fixtures.
Their only other successes have come in cup ties.
They won 2-0 at AFC Wimbledon in round one of the Carabao Cup before beating Exeter 6-5 on penalties after a goalless draw to set up Tuesday’s tie.
Andy they saw off Brighton’s under-21s 3-2 in the Papa John’s Trophy group stage, and edged out Colchester on penalties after a 1-1 draw in another tie.
However, they face a home FA Cup first round replay against AFC Fylde of National League North next Tuesday after a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
The Gills had a five-season spell in the second tier (now Championship), with a highest finish of 11th, but following relegation in 2005 they have spent their time between the two lower divisions.
Relegation last season ended a nine-year stay in League One, during which they never finished higher than ninth.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Neil Harris took charge of Gillingham at the end of January, replacing Steve Evans who left earlier in the month.
It is his third managerial job, following spells in charge of Millwall and Cardiff.
He took charge of the Lions in the summer of 2015, after two stints as caretaker boss, and took them to two successive League One play-off finals – winning promotion in the second one by beating Bradford.
He eventually resigned as manager in October 2019 and at the time was the longest-serving boss in the Championship and the fifth overall in the country behind Wycombe’s Gareth Ainsworth, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, Sean Dyche of Burnley and Accrington’s John Coleman.
The following month, he took over at Cardiff and that season led them to the Championship play-offs, where they lost to Fulham in the semi-finals. However, midway through the following season – in January 2021 – he was sacked.
Harris is Millwall’s all-time record goalscorer – finding the net 138 times for the club in two spells as a player lasting 10 years in total.
He also played for Nottingham Forest and finished his career at Southend, while he had loan spells at Cardiff and Gillingham.
GILLINGHAM IN THE LEAGUE CUP
Gillingham have rarely made much progress in the League Cup, with two fourth round appearances the furthest they have gone.
The first time was in the competition’s fourth season of 1963/64 – a campaign in which they won the Fourth Division title – when they beat both Bristol clubs and Bury, all at home, before going out 3-1 at top flight Leicester.
The other occasion was in 1996/97 as a Division Two (now League One) side, when they knocked out Swansea and Barnsley before winning 1-0 in a replay at Premier League Coventry. However, in round four, Division One (now Championship) Ipswich ended their hopes of a first quarter-final spot.
This will be the first time they have met us in the competition.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Gillingham have been regular opponents for us over the years, although we have not met them since 2013/14.
We played each other for 13 seasons in a row having both joined the Football League together in 1920, and then met on and off in the 1950s, 60s and 70s before meeting in 11 consecutive seasons after our promotion to Division Three (now League One) in 1978.
More fixtures followed sporadically in the 1990s and 2000s, before our most recent meetings in League One nine seasons ago.
The game at Priestfield in August 2013 was our third of the season and looked set to be our first defeat after Adebayo Akinfenwa put the Gills ahead in the 40th minute. But substitute Farid El Alagui saved us in the fifth minute of stoppage time when he scored past ex-Bees goalkeeper Stuart Nelson to earn us a point.
The Griffin Park return was played on a Friday night and shown live on Sky.
Jonathan Douglas opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, before in the 70th minute Marcello Trotta took his first penalty for us since the Doncaster miss at the end of the previous season. At the same Ealing Road end, he held his nerve to double our lead from the spot, and although Cody McDonald quickly pulled one back, we held on for our ninth consecutive home win to return to the top of the table – two points ahead of Leyton Orient – ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.
Here are some highlights of a few other meetings.
On the last day of the 1965/66 season, the already-relegated Bees hosted Gillingham and lost 2-0.
We had another televised meeting with the Gills in the FA Cup first round in 1991/92 – and fans at Griffin Park and around the country were far from disappointed as the match ended in a 3-3 draw.
Dean Holdsworth gave us an early two-goal lead, but Alan Walker pulled one back before the break when his header deflected in off ex-Gills defender Billy Manuel.
Gary Blissett restored our two-goal advantage early in the second half but a second from Walker and a goal from Neil Smith earned the visitors a replay, which we won 3-1.
Early in 1997/98 we had yet another midweek home game against Gillingham, this time on a Tuesday night in Division Two (now League One) and goals late in the game from Marcus Bent and then Robert Taylor, from the penalty spot, gave us a 2-0 win.
The spot-kick came after a foul by Brian Statham, who had only joined the Gills from us less than a fortnight earlier, and who was shown a straight red card for his challenge.
He was one of six ex-Bees in Gillingham’s matchday squad, with Barry Ashby, Paul Smith, Simon Ratcliffe and Dennis Bailey all starting and Steve Butler on the bench.
The final action is from a Saturday home game against Gillingham in League One in October 2006. It was a dramatic affair with Bees goalkeeper Clark Masters sent off in the 23rd minute and with no goalkeeper on our bench, defender John Mousinho came on and went in goal for the rest of the match.
His first task was to pick the ball out of the net from Michael Flynn’s penalty, awarded after the foul which got Masters sent off, but in an amazing end to the half, Matt Heywood and Callum Willock struck to give us a 2-1 lead.
However, Flynn equalised in the 74th minute and the match finished 2-2 to stretch our winless run in the league to nine games.
BBC Radio Kent Sport commentator Matt Cole looks at Gillingham’s campaign, analyses the job done by manager Neil Harris and looks at the club’s long-term prospects.
Q – How would you sum up Gillingham’s season so far?
A – Disappointing for fans and manager alike. Although Neil Harris had prepared the supporters that their budget wouldn’t be in the top 10 of the division, most expected them to be making a better fist of League Two than they are.
Understandably many fans expected at least a push for the play-offs, but not many had foreseen a fight against dropping into the National League.
Q – Although Neil Harris couldn’t save the side from relegation last season, what impact has he had since his arrival?
A – There was a deal of optimism when he took over, closing a 10-point gap on safety in League One with a team that looked demoralised and well short of quality when he replaced Steve Evans in January. Only goal difference saw them relegated in the end.
He’s attempted to build for the long-term, talking about putting in structures and processes that’ll make the club more sustainable and successful in the future – hiring a head of recruitment, trying to build a link between the youth and first teams.
Unfortunately, results this season have dampened enthusiasm and although fans have been mostly patient there are some calls for him to go now.
Q – What is their style of play under Harris?
A – He’s tried to make them a less direct side, using pace on the flanks with experience and a bit of flair in midfield to provide the ammunition for the strikers.
Mostly, they look a solid side at the back with the combination of the experienced Max Ehmer and Ipswich loanee Elkan Baggott in the centre.
It was the defence that helped them to a five-game unbeaten run recently, but the elephant in the room is they just aren’t scoring enough goals. Just six in League Two so far and recently the manager has joined the fans in being openly critical of his forwards.
Q – How seriously do the Gills take cup competitions – do they make lots of changes or play their strongest team?
A – Neil Harris has certainly made it clear how much he loves the FA Cup, but also how much he and the fans will be relishing going to a Premier League club in the EFL Cup. I’d expect him to name the strongest side available. In truth Gills don’t have many options, they’re a small squad with some niggling injuries at the moment.
Q – The club has been back in the bottom two divisions since 2005 – long-term are there hopes they can get back to the Championship?
A – It’s the promised land for many fans, and after two creditable finishes in League One under Steve Evans (consecutive 10th places), last season’s relegation was a big blow.
However much they were outspent by other teams in the third tier there was always that hope that given the right manager and players it was possible, obviously it seems a long way away now.
Many fans also unhappy with chairman Paul Scally’s stewardship of the club, he’s now taken a step back from the day-to-day running of the club, and there are worries that the playing budget has been cut as he attempts to sell it. On the other hand some supporters are saying that new investment is the only way they’ll ever reach the heights of the Championship and want a change of ownership as soon as possible.
Q – How is ex-Bee Dom Jefferies doing and who are the other players to watch out for?
A – Jefferies has had a tough start with a series of injuries, has looked decent with good touch when he’s played but obviously he needs a consistent run in the side to show his full potential.
Defender Will Wright has a great right foot for crosses and set-pieces.
Wingers Jordan Green and Hakeeb Adelakun have quick feet and a penchant for attempting showreel skill-moves and shots.
If fit, experienced midfielders Ollie Lee and Ben Reeves have that bit of quality to find the right ball for the strikers.
In all though, no-one has really stood out for Gills this season, their performances have generally been uniformly unremarkable.
Q – Finally can you give me an expected Gills formation and line-up please?
A – Given their injuries atm something like:
Ehmer Baggott Law/Alexander
Green/Adelakun Kashket MacDonald
TICKET NEWS AND HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME IF YOU CAN’T BE THERE
Tickets are still available for the game and are on general sale.
If you can’t get to the Gtech Community Stadium for Tuesday’s 7.45pm kick-off, and want Brentford commentary, audio coverage is available via the new Buzz Box, currently on a free trial.
Coverage starts half an hour before kick-off and is advert-free, with Mark Burridge, who has Karleigh Osborne alongside him on Tuesday.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Gillingham fans coming to the Gtech Community Stadium for the first time, there are plenty of pub options pre and post-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
The pub areas are split into two zones. There is the area around Brentford’s old Griffin Park stadium. The pubs there are still very busy on match day frequented by Bees locals before heading down the road to the stadium at Kew Bridge which is only 15 minutes walk.
Then there is the area in and around the stadium in Kew Bridge.
It is possible, if you have a good early start, to savour a few pubs in and around Griffin Park and Brentford zone before heading off to the pubs in the Kew zone or even vice versa if you so fancy.
Pubs in Griffin Park/Brentford zone (still very lively but easier to get a pint)
When at Griffin Park, Brentford was well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. Three are still operating.
The Griffin is closest to the old away end and has always been very popular with both home and away fans and has its regulars who still make the journey down to the new stadium from there on matchday. The New Inn is on the other side which used to also be popular with away fans before the move. The Brook pub is the other option if you want to savour a pub in and around what is left of our old home. Worth a peep if you want to reminisce about old Brentford.
About five minutes’ walk away from the old ground are two pubs which are enormously popular. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is a “lively but comfortable” pub on matchday. Incredibly friendly and cosy, it has always been popular with a selection of away fans who fancied having a beer a few minutes further walk away from the ground without having to queue six persons deep. After the move to the new ground, The Globe has retained many of lot its regulars from the Griffin Park days and with screens throughout the pub and in its sheltered beer garden, it shows both Premier League and EFL football before and after each match.
Meanwhile around the corner, The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) is another incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs about one minute walk from The Globe. Again with a TV screen for live sports and a lovely beer garden, this is another pub frequented by “away fans in the know”.
The other pub worth checking out in the Griffin Park region is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, if you like your real ales.
There are plenty of other pubs in and around Brentford High Street including real ale pub Magpie and Crown (Brentford High Street) and the cosy Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) near the river.
For a Griffin Park area pub crawl before heading over to Kew we recommend the following: Take the Piccadilly line to Northfields station. Turn left and walk for 2 mins and you will come to The Plough (Northfields Ave). Then walk to The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & then The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before hitting The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) and then The Black Dog (2 mins from The Griffin). You can also try and do the other three pubs on the corner whilst down here if you fancy.
Then you can then either walk (15 minutes from The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog ) or take a train from Brentford station (which is five minutes walk away from both The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog) or a bus (237/267) to Kew Bridge.
Trains run at 24 and 54 minutes past the hour to Kew Bridge from Brentford and take two minutes.
Pubs in the Kew Bridge zone (very busy on match days)
Right next to Kew Bridge station, you will find the Express Tavern – an ale pub with a retro feel. The pub has been refurbished in readiness for the new football season and needless to say, is popular before the match due to its close proximity to the stadium.
Across the road by the river is One Over the Ait – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889.
Across Kew Bridge and the River Thames, there are two pubs on Kew Green – the Cricketers and the Greyhound – very close to the pier where Brentford fans have embarked on their away journeys by water to F*lham, Orient, Charlton, West Ham and even Southend.
North of the river along hoity-toity Strand on the Green, you will find The Steam Packet, in an old Cafe Rouge, and The Bell and Crown. A bit further down are The City Barge and the Bulls Head – two pubs side-by-side in which you would often see Ant and Dec hanging out.
There is also The Pilot which you can get to coming out of the BACK entrance of Gunnersbury station and we believe the old John Bull pub at the front of the station has been refurbed as The Gunnersbury but we have never been there so can’t give it a rating.
Transport to Brentford and Kew Bridge
The simplest on paper to get to Brentford FC from town is to get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) and then take the Overground train to Kew Bridge, which is right by the stadium. Brentford is one stop further on if you are on an ‘Original Griffin Park Pub’ mission.
With trains from Waterloo being only twice an hour (22 and 52) and taking 28 minutes, we normally recommend people jump on the tube from King’s Cross or Euston and head to Northfields or South Ealing on the Piccadilly Line as it is quicker (including the time getting across London and waiting at Waterloo) and trains are more frequent.
It is only 40 minutes max station by tube to station meaning you could be in a Brentford pub within an hour of embarking your train at Kings Cross, Euston or Liverpool Street.
The other station option is Gunnersbury. You can walk to the stadium from Gunnersbury tube station (District line) in 25 minutes or take a bus (H91, 237, 267, 110), but note that it is closed for entry for one hour after the match.
For the Brentford/Griffin Park pubs you can get the Piccadilly line tube to Northfields station from King’s Cross or Euston (35 minutes) then walk down to The Plough, The Globe, The Lord Nelson and The Griffin and other pubs from there.
The new stadium is around 25 minutes’ walk from South Ealing station – if you don’t fancy Gunnersbury – or you can get on the 65 bus from across the road which will drop you almost outside in 15 minutes.
You can also pick up the 65 bus from Ealing Broadway (district and central line) which will take you to the new stadium in 25 minutes.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.