Rovers had to settle for a goalless draw on their return to Sky Bet League One against Gillingham.
Manager Darren Ferguson handed first League starts in Rovers’ shirts to summer signings Danny Andrew and Ben Whiteman. Niall Mason was also in the team after signing permanently in the close season, and new loan man Rodney Kongolo started on the bench for Rovers.
Rovers started the game brightly and immediately had the game’s first chance.
Good work down the middle from Whiteman saw him put Liam Mandeville through on goal.
Mandeville, who ended with six goals in pre-season, looped the ball over Thomas Horn in the Gills’ goal, but Luke O’Neill got back just in time to clear off the line and over for a corner.
It was the home side who had much of possession early on, with Whiteman, James Coppinger and Matty Blair all working well down the right, but neither were able to create much of an opening.
Mandeville was also causing a lot of problems for the visitors, and yet more good work from him earned Rovers a corner.
The resulting set piece saw Holy scrambling to get back and tip over Andrew’s corner from the right, with the left-back almost opening his Rovers’ account in stunning fashion.
Rovers’ best chance of the first half came as the game reached the half-hour mark, and it was one that should’ve put them in front.
Whiteman eased through the Gills’ midfield, then passed to Coppinger, who threaded the ball through to Blair.
Blair was one-on-one 12 yards from goal with Holy, but the Gillingham keeper stood up well and made a strong save to ensure the scores remained level.
Gillingham’s first chances of the game came shortly afterwards, however like the Blair effort moments before, two pieces of brilliance in the home goal prevented them from taking the lead.
First, Gills’ captain Lee Martin’s cross in was met well at the back post by Connor Ogilvie, but Ian Lawlor saved superbly and via the post, the ball went out for a corner.
From this, arguably the best chance of the game came, Martin’s set piece was headed back by Josh Parker and Gabriel Zakuani had the chance to put the Gills in front.
The former Posh man’s header from close range was spectacularly saved by the impressive Lawlor once more and the game remained goalless.
The final chance came from the home side once more though, again the trio of Whiteman, Coppinger and Blair all caused Gillingham difficulty, and Coppinger found Andrew in plenty of space 20 yards out from goal, but his first-time effort was again dealt with by Holy, who was keeping the away side in the game as the half drew to a close.
Rovers started the second half as quickly as they did the first, earning themselves a corner within the first two minutes.
Andrew’s ball in from the left was met by Andy Butler, but the centre back’s towering header was well stopped once again by Holy.
Mandeville had Rovers’ next chance, a ball was lofted over the top of the Gills’ defence and was latched on to by the young striker, but his strike on the bounce was narrowly over.
Gillingham then had the next effort, in what was becoming a lively encounter. Another corner saw Martin’s ball pick out Scott Wagstaff on the far side of the box, and his curler was stopped at the second attempt by Lawlor.
John Marquis looked to pick up from where he left off last season with the game’s next chance.
Last season’s top scorer created himself some space down the left before cutting inside. His curling effort from 25 yards had Holy rushing to stop it, but the ball went narrowly wide.
Marquis then had another effort just 60 seconds later, a free kick 20 yards out from Andrew was blocked by the Gillingham wall, but found its way through to the striker, however his shot was again saved by Holy who was being kept very busy in the visitors’ goal.
Holy would be left standing just moments later as Whiteman went closest next.
The on-loan midfielder picked up a bouncing ball and unleashed a dipping effort on goal, striking the top of the crossbar and going out for a goal kick.
Rovers then brought on new man Kongolo, adding more pace in to the attack, and his immediately tried to make an impact, charging down a Gillingham free kick and broke forward with Marquis, laying off to the striker, but his effort was tame and held once more by Holy.
One last chance in added time for Rovers saw Whiteman again go close, this time Mason passed the ball back to the young midfielder, but his curling effort from 25 yards out was headed over once more by O’Neill.
No goals scored but a promising start to life back in the third tier from Rovers who on another day would have comfortably picked up the three points.