Hartlepool of the National League held League One Gillingham to a goalless draw a little over a week ago at Prestfield in a game they could have won and will be hoping to cause a bit of an upset on Wednesday when they host the replay of the FA Cup tie against Steve Lovell’s side. Matthew Bate’s Hartlepool made a solid start to the season and were in contention for a play-off place even as at last month when they held leaders Leyton Orient to a 0-0 draw but that form has flown out of the window with 4 losses in the last 5 games. Those losses have pushed Hartlepool’s chances of making the play-off for a place in the Football League down the pipe and while they are only 6 points off 7th place, Matt Bate’s team will need a minor miracle to keep their dreams alive.
While Hartlepool have won only 1 of their last 8 games and conceded 11 goals in 4 straight losses in the league, the FA Cup tie has provided them some joy. Hartlepool defeated non league side Kidsgrove Athletic 1-0 in the 4th qualifying round and followed that victory with a 0-0 draw with Gillingham in the 1st round. Those clean sheets and the resilience shown against Leyton Orient should fill Hartlepool fans with confidence that the team has what it takes to get a good result and keep a clean sheet against tough opposition.
Football League Trophy games aside, Gillingham have taken only 2 wins out of their last 8 games across all competitions and are currently one point above the relegation zone in League One. The Gills had played 5 consecutive games at home in all competitions until last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Oxford United. Home form has fairly improved but away form has been poor with the Gills winning only 2 of the last 9 away games which include back-to-back losses in the last 2. However, they have scored at least 2 goals in 3 of their last 5 away fixtures.
Gillingham have failed to win in any of their last 6 visits to Hartlepool. They have drawn 2 and lost 4 of those fixtures. The last meeting between these teams before the 0-0 draw on Nov 10 was in a League One clash in 2010 which ended in a 1-1 draw. In the full head-to-head record, Gillingham have 15 wins in 35 while Hartlepool have 11.
Hartlepool will have defensive options available as they welcome Andrew Davies and Carl Magnay back to the squad after serving bans. Davies served the third game of a 3-match suspension after he received a red card at Wrexham. Magnay only served 1-game ban after collecting 5 yellow cards. Midfielder Luke Williams is still out. He is recovering from knee surgery.
Steve Lovell will check on the fitness of Callum Reilly after a groin injury caused him to miss last Saturday’s game at Oxford United. That aside, Gillingham have a fit squad but Lovell may opt for a few changes following last week’s loss at the Kassam Stadium.
Hartlepool are the underdogs in this game and have lost their last 2 at Victoria Park. Considering Gillingham are two leagues ahead of them in the league pyramid, you’d expect them to win this fairly easily. However, they will have to buck a trend that has seen them fail to win in 6 visits to Hartlepool. When both sides met earlier in the month, things were fairly even but home advantage may tip victory towards Hartlepool at Victoria Park.