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Gillingham 2 Rovers 1

15 February 2020

Battling Rovers fell to a frustrating defeat at Gillingham in a match which hinged on the sending off of Fejiri Okenabirhie.

Ben Sheaf had fired Rovers ahead with a stunning opening strike, curling the ball past Jack Bonham from distance for his first goal for the club.
But the game turned when Okenabirhie was shown a straight red after referee Josh Smith felt he had challenged Barry Fuller unfairly.
The Gills levelled just before the break when a corner somehow found its way in at the near post, and they sealed the three points when Cameron John’s attempted clearance only ended up with the ball in the back of Seny Dieng’s net.
Rovers boss Darren Moore made three changes, with John stepping in at left-back in the enforced absence of Reece James. Matty Blair and Jacob Ramsey also came into the starting XI, with them both playing in the three which supported the No.9 Okenabirhie 
Wind and rain from Storm Dennis made conditions difficult for both sides, but Rovers adapted well and took the lead in style after 12 minutes when Sheaf collected a short free-kick.
He had all the time in the world to decide what to do with the ball, and promptly stuck a left-footed effort past Bonham - and, unlike his effort at Southend back in October, there was no danger of the dubious goals panel taking this strike off him.
There was little fluidity to the game as the wind and rain dominated the match, with Dieng first called into action after 24 minutes when he confidently punched away a Tom O’Connor free-kick from the right.
A confident Sheaf could have put Rovers two goals ahead when he cut in from the left and curled a low effort towards the far post which Bonham did well to get down to and palm away.
The decisive moment came when Okenabirhie was challenging for a high ball with Fuller. He backed into the Gills man who, recognising an arm was up, went down clutching his face. The referee decided it merited a straight red card for the No.9.
The final 10 minutes or so of the first-half suddenly were all about getting to the interval in tact, but Rovers conceded when an O’Connor corner found its way in at the near post - apparently via a deflect off John.
There were no changes from either side at the break, and Rovers started the second period strongly with Tom Anderson smashing a volley off the inside of a post after a Whiteman free-kick
Blair had to be alert to clear a ball intended for Akinde, but Jordan Roberts’ dangerous cross from the left proved more of a handful as John attempted to clear it but could only send it past a helpless Dieng.
Rovers had to weather the literal and metaphorical storm, with John Akinde firing over, but as the match headed into time added on the visitors created enough chances to get back into the game.
Joe Wright had an effort blocked as he got onto the end of a deep free-kick which was flicked on by his defensive partner Anderson
Ramsey was an effective outlet for Rovers down the left, with a cross for substitute Devante Cole which he could not direct on target and a low ball for Sadlier which looked destined for goal were it not for a vital block.
And the home side had opportunities of their own, with Dieng stopping an effort from Jordan Graham before Roberts hit a post with the rebound.
Rovers had one final chance when they won a central free-kick just outside the area. Whiteman struck his effort well, but Bonham was well positioned to palm it over the bar.


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