We look ahead to the Southern Area Final second leg between Bristol City and Gillingham.Bristol City host Gillingham on Thursday in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern Area Final second leg, with the Robins leading 4-2 from the reverse encounter.
City take that two-goal lead to Ashton Gate thanks to in-form striker Matt Smith’s dominant display in the first leg, when he scored all four goals for his side.
A brace from Cody McDonald reduced the deficit for Gillingham, but they face an uphill task to turn the tie around against the joint-leaders of Sky Bet League1.
The first leg could have been mistaken for a goal of the month competition in itself, as both Smith and McDonald turned on the style in front of goal.
Robins' on-loan front man Smith netted two well-taken headers, as well as a delightful back-heel from six yards out, before crashing a half-volley past Gills stopper Stuart Nelson from the edge of the area.
McDonald’s strikes were of equal quality, beating Frank Fielding at his near-post with an effort from 18 yards, before manoeuvring past two City defenders to rifle into the roof of the net for his second.
Bristol City and Gillingham have already met three times this season; once in the league, in the Capital One Cup and in the first leg of their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Area Semi-Final. City have come out on top in every game so far.
LAST TIME OUT
Bristol City were involved in FA Cup action at the weekend, losing 1-0 to Premier League West Ham United despite a gallant display.
Gillingham, meanwhile, were in league action as they come out on top of a five-goal thriller with Oldham Athletic.
John Marquis’ quick-fire brace saw them into a 2-0 lead after 14 minutes, but the Latics hauled themselves level through strikes from Liam Kelly and Dominic Poleon. Back came the Gills, though, and Bradley Dack stole all three points midway through the second half.
CONTRASTING FORTUNES AT WEMBLEY
These two sides have both visited Wembley Stadium since its re-construction was completed in 2007, and they’ve endured contrasting fortunes on their visit to the national stadium.
Bristol City last played under the arch in 2008, when they took on Hull City in the Championship Play-Off Final.
Under the guidance of Gary Johnson, City, who had reached the Final after beating Crystal Palace over two legs in the semis, had almost double Hull’s efforts with 21 shots at goal, but ultimately came up short after Dean Windass' volleyed winner in the 38th minute.
Gillingham have also made one visit to the home of English football since its re-opening, when they reached the League 2 Play-Off Final in 2009.
Under the stewardship of Mark Stimson, the Gills enjoyed their day out, achieving promotion to League 1 by seeing off Shrewsbury Town thanks to a last-gasp header from Simeon Jackson.
Current Bristol City attacker Luke Freeman will play against his former side Gillingham again on Thursday, and his spell in Kent holds a rather significant feat.
In 2007, Freeman became the youngest ever player to appear for the club in both the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the league at the age of just 15. Despite still being at school, he also appeared in an FA Cup game against Barnet.
His young promise earned him a contract with Arsenal and, in between a loan spell at Yeovil Town, he joined Stevenage on a permanent basis in 2012, before being signed by Bristol City at the beginning of the current campaign.
The Sky Sports cameras will be at Ashton Gate to capture the action, and we'll be providing live updates from the game via the official Johnstone's Paint Trophy Twitter page - @JP_Trophy. Join in the conversation using #JPT.