Just a week to go until the league fixtures are released
The release of next season’s Football League fixtures are now just seven days away, with the Gills keen to learn their opponents for their first game back in League One.
However it is possible that the Gills could be drawn against the same side that they beat on the opening day of the 2012/13 season at MEMS Priestfield Stadium, with Bradford City having also been promoted via the play-offs.
On that occasion Gillingham ran out 3-1 winners thanks to goals from Danny Kedwell (2) and debutant Myles Weston, giving Martin Allen the best possible start in the league campaign.
Danny Kedwell scores a penalty against Bradford
The Gills record on the opening day in the past ten years is quite impressive with six wins, two draws and just two defeats to their name.
The first of those victories came in August 2002 when Guy Ipoua’s second half strike was enough to see off Wimbledon 1-0 at Selhurst Park.
A crowd of 2,476 were in attendance, but these were mainly Gillingham supporters as home fans decided to protest outside the stadium regarding a proposed relocation to Milton Keynes.
Andy Hessenthaler’s side went on to finish 11th in the Championship, the club’s highest ever league finish.
Twelve months later and the team were on the road again, this time to Bramall Lane to take on Neil Warnock’s Sheffield United.
The game failed to produce a goal, but taking a point from one of the promotion favourites on the opening day signalled a good start to the 03/04 campaign, although survival went down to the final game of the season away at Stoke where another 0-0 draw was enough to avoid the drop.
A hat-trick of opening day away games was completed when Ipswich Town hosted Gillingham at Portman Road in August 2004.
Despite a gutsy effort the visitors were beaten 2-1 having gone ahead following Paul Smith’s goal midway through the first half.
Paul Smith applauds the Gills fans
Richard Naylor and Dean Bowditch ensured all three points for George Burley’s side with the Gills suffering relegation on the final day after a 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest.
Life in League One began with a home game against Colchester United with Neale Cooper now in the manager’s hot seat.
The campaign began with a solid 2-1 win, Darren Byfield and Andrew Crofts grabbing the goals to clinch all three points.
Cooper’s number two Ronnie Jepson was the man in charge just a year later when Huddersfield travelled to Priestfield.
Gills again recorded a 2-1 victory with Matt Jarvis and Dean McDonald grabbing the goals.
Cheltenham Town then began a first day relationship with the Gills – the teams were to meet on the first day three times in the space of six seasons.
The first of which in 2007 when the Robins won 1-0 after Ian Cox and Steve Lomas were both sent off, the second was in 2010 when a Bayo Akinfenwa debut goal sealed a point in a 1-1 draw, and the same score line was recorded a year later when Lewis Montrose struck after 26 minutes to help guide the Gills to a 1-0 victory despite Luke Rooney being dismissed in the second half.
Lewis Montrose celebrates scoring against Cheltenham
A 1-1 draw at Bournemouth courtesy of a late Gary Mulligan equalizer sandwiched these games in 2008 with former England International Darren Anderton having scored the opener, prior to, what many will consider, the best opening day for the club in recent history.
Swindon visited Priestfield on the opening day of the 2009/10 season with Mark Stimson having guided the club back to League One, and the fans would be treated to something very special with a Simeon Jackson hat-trick and goals from Adam Miller and Mark Bentley sealing a memorable 5-0 win.
With the game being an early kick-off it meant the Gills were top of the table for a short while, and no doubt the supporters would welcome a similar performance as Martin Allen and his players look to create more history in League One.
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