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20 March 2021 Venue Priestfield Stadium Attendance

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Match Previews

PREVIEW | Gillingham vs Rovers

19 March 2021

Rovers travel to Gillingham on Saturday looking for a return to winning ways in Sky Bet League One.

Andy Butler’s side were beaten 3-0 at Oxford United in their last league outing. 

 

Gillingham’s recent form 

The Gills have lost just one of their past six league games stretching back to a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth on February 27. They followed that up with back-to-back home wins over MK Dons and Ipswich Town, before being beaten at Fleetwood. 

They got back to winning ways four days later with a 3-1 win at Swindon, before arguably their most impressive win of the season, a 3-0 victory at promotion chasing Lincoln City last time out. 

 

The man in charge 

Former Rotherham and Leeds United manager Steve Evans was appointed as the Gills’ new boss in May 2019, taking over from Steve Lovell. Since taking over, Evans has been in charge of 88 Gillingham matches, winning 34, drawing 24 and losing 30, giving him an overall win percentage of 38.6%.  

 

Ones to watch 

Jack Tucker 

After coming through the club’s youth system, Tucker made his debut in the 2017/18 campaign but it wasn’t until last season where he established himself as a first-team regular. He played 34 times prior to the season being curtailed, and has now made more than 75 appearances at the age of 21. 

Tucker has missed just three league games so far this season, and is an integral part of his side’s push for a top six place. 

 

Jordan Graham 

Initially a product of the Aston Villa academy, Graham joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on a permanent deal at the age of just 19. The attacking midfielder struggled with injuries during his five years at Molineux, and made just 14 first-team appearances, as well as spending time on loan with Ipswich Town and Oxford United.  

He signed for Gillingham on a permanent deal last summer, and has managed to play relatively injury free this season. The 26-year-old has scored 10 goals in 34 appearances for the Gills. 

 

Vadaine Oliver 

After coming through the system at Sheffield Wednesday, Oliver spent time with Lincoln City and Crewe Alexandra early in his career before a move to York City in 2015. Oliver scored 14 goals in 55 league games for the Minstermen, and has since played for Morecambe and Northampton Town, where he won promotion from Sky Bet League Two last season. 

He signed for Gillingham on a free transfer in the summer and is currently enjoying his best season in front of goal having scored 15 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions. 

 

Last time out 

Rovers ran out 2-1 winners when the two sides last met in Sky Bet League One in December. Reece James gave Rovers a first-half lead, before Kyle Dempsey levelled the scores six minutes after half-time. Brad Halliday struck the winner two minutes later with his first goal for the club to seal all three points at the Keepmoat Stadium.

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Match Reports

REPORT | Gillingham 2 Rovers 2

20 March 2021

Rovers came from two goals down to take a point at the Priestfield Stadium.

Goals from Jordan Graham and Vadaine Oliver inside five minutes gave Rovers a mountain to climb but a second mad period from the 19th minute to 23rd minute saw Tom Anderson and James Coppinger get Rovers back level.

After that, the match settled. Rovers probably boasted the best of the remainder of the first half, while Gillingham edged the second half with Joe Wright clearing the ball off his own goal line on two occasions. The home side didn’t have everything their own way though and Brad Halliday also had a chance cleared off the line by a defender after Jason Lokilo was bundled over in the box.

Butler made four changes from the side who suffered defeat in midweek with Reece James, Omar Bogle, and Josh Sims returning from injury while Branden Horton was handed his first league start after a successful twenty-minute cameo on Tuesday evening.

It was a disastrous start for Rovers who found themselves two goals behind within five minutes of kick-off. A lucky break in the middle of the park put Rovers’ defence on the back foot and Graham was one of three played in the six-yard box lining up to tap into an empty net and put the home side ahead.

Minutes later, Oliver – who was unmarked at the back post – volleyed in from point blank range after a smartly worked long-throw routine.

Rovers began to find their feet ten minutes in. Matt Smith’s through ball found the run of Fejiri Okenabirhie who pulled his shot wide of the far post while James Coppinger’s similar pass was well met by the run of Omar Bogle who rounded the keeper before being flagged offside.

Rovers’ skipper Anderson did get one back on the twentieth minute. It came after a period of pressure beginning with a free kick by Bogle (which was into the wall) and followed by a succession of corner. It was a fierce Coppinger delivery which found was met brilliantly by the skipper to get Rovers on the front foot.

Less than five minutes later, Rovers had equalised with the provider turning goal scorer as Coppinger latched onto a ricocheting ball in the box and finished well.

Rovers began to string much better passing together and – when they were able to play through the thirds – Smith in particular was helping to cause real problems with perfectly weighted through balls into the runs of Coppinger, Bogle and Okenabirhie which were centre meters from creating unmissable chances. Anderson had another chance from a corner – this time a

At the other end, the Gills continued to cause real issues with their directness with corners, crosses and long-throws asking plenty of questions of Rovers defensive unit.

The visitors ended the half in the ascendency with Coppinger’s runs in behind the defence leading to a number of half-chances. The best chance came in stoppage time when good football down the right between Reece James, Sims and Halliday worked the ball into the no.26 whose effort was lashed over the bar.

The second half got off to a slow start with niggling fouls and breaking up of the play preventing any team from really stamping much of an authority on the game. The Gills continued to use set-pieces to search for a goal but Rovers were able to deal with much of it – partly because of the energy of runners to ensure every potential corner was turned into a throw-in.

Rovers had a chance when Okenabirhie held off his man to run the ball to the by-line – his cut-back was smartly intercepted by Jack Bonham in the Gillingham goal before finding Bogle who was waiting for a tap in.

Gillingham penned Rovers back for ten minutes and while the balls into the box needed good defending – the only effort of note was a looping, skipping effort by Alex MacDonald which was cleared off the line by Joe Wright.

Rovers then had a chance of their own cleared off the line when Brad Halliday’s cross-cum-shot was cleared off the line to substitute Jason Lokilo who – after being bundled to the ground in the build up – managed to put in a cross from the floor which was headed narrowly over by Bogle.

Horton got into a good position, but it ended with a tame, right-footed shot which was collected by Bonham and Taylor Richards – who replaced Coppinger – also saw his right-footed effort blocked.

Wright put in another big block to deny Kyle Dempsey but neither side were able to get a winner in a match that continued to be played end-to-end all the way into the seventh minute of added time.

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