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Gillingham 2 Bristol Rovers 0: John Akinde scores twice at Priestfield as returning striker Brandon Hanlan is denied by the woodwork

Gillingham striker John Akinde scored both goals against Bristol Rovers but was denied another from the penalty spot.

Bristol Rovers struck the woodwork twice in the opening 45 minutes, a half that ended with Gillingham midfielder Callum Slattery stretchered off injured, but Steve Evans’ side clinched the points thanks to Akinde’s double.

John Akinde scored one but missed the chance of another from the penalty spot
John Akinde scored one but missed the chance of another from the penalty spot

Gillingham made a couple of changes to their line-up with Vadaine Oliver missing out after a midweek knock and Alex MacDonald being preferred instead of Tom O’Connor. Those left out were on the bench.

Rovers went for an attacking line-up under interim boss Tommy Widdrington, a strike-force that included former Gillingham player Brandon Hanlan. Max Ehmer’s shoulder injury kept him out.

There were no shortage of crosses into the box for the Gills but Rovers’ defence stood strong. Olly Lee nodded a chance over and Alex MacDonald fizzed a low shot wide but the best chances fell to the visitors.

Luke McCormick struck the bar with an inswinging free-kick and when the ball went out for a throw, another chance followed, with Alfie Kilgour winning a header and watching as the ball dropped just wide of the far post.

Hanlan was lively up top against his former team, playing back at Priestfield for the first time, and he almost got in on goal after getting the better of Jack Tucker, only for the Gills defender to recover well with a great last-ditch challenge,

The woodwork then denied Hanlan as Rovers broke - referee James Oldham ignoring a blatant foul on Akinde by Luke Leahy - before George Williams fired a great chance wide after his run was picked out by McCormick.

Just before the break the Gills lost midfielder Slattery to a leg injury, stretchered off in stoppage-time.

Gills made a triple change at the break and also adjusted their formation with Oliver joining Akinde upfront in a 4-4-2 system.

Clear-cut chances were in short supply during the opening stages of the second half. Jonah Ayunga had a shot deflected over for Rovers and Daly fired into the arms of Bonham before the hour mark.

Gillingham took the lead on 67 minutes with their first shot on target, Tom O’Connor’s ball falling for Akinde after staying onside and a cool finish beat keeper Joe Day, finding the bottom corner.

Akinde had the chance to score a second six minutes later when he was pulled down in the box by Jack Baldwin but, after taking responsibility from the penalty spot, keeper Joe Day saved his casual-looking effort.

Defender Baldwin came close to an equaliser with a glancing header that went just wide while Ogilvie headed over at the other end with 10 minutes left.

Akinde did get a second on 90 minutes when he converted a cross from Dempsey and a similar move moments later nearly led to a goal for Oliver, whose shot went over the bar.

Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Cundy, Ogilvie, Slattery (McKenzie 46mins), MacDonald (O’Connor 46mins), Lee (Oliver 46mins), Dempsey, Graham (O’Keefe 90mins), Akinde. Subs not used: Bastien, Morton, Willock.

Bristol Rovers: Day, Williams (Rodman 83mins), Harries, Kilgour, Baldwin, Leahy, Grant, McCormick, Daly (Nicholson 73mins), Hanlan, Ayunga. Subs not used: Van Stappershoef, Hare, Tutonda, Upson, Hargreaves.

Referee: James Oldham.

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