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Gillingham 2 Doncaster Rovers 2: League 2 match report from Priestfield Stadium - Tim Dieng on target after Joe Ironside’s 20th of the season for the visitors

Gillingham put up a fight in the second half at Priestfield as a disappointing season ended with an impressive comeback.

First-half goals from Joe Ironside and Luke Molyneux put Rovers 2-0 but the visitors had goalkeeper Thimothee Lo-Tutala sent off for handball shortly after the restart. Tim Dieng scored from the subsequent free-kick and the Gills equalised from Conor Masterson’s header.

Dom Jefferies challenges for the ball in the first half at Priestfield Picture: @Julian_KPI
Dom Jefferies challenges for the ball in the first half at Priestfield Picture: @Julian_KPI

The Gills had hoped to end their 2023/24 season positively and the second half was much more like it after a disappointing opening 45 minutes.

Doncaster went into the match with 10 straight league wins behind them as they leapfrogged the Gills and a whole bunch of other teams into the top seven. The result was enough for them to clinch that play-off place.

Gillingham’s season had started with so much promise, with wins from their opening four games in League 2, but went into the final game having already missed out on meeting their minimum target of a top-seven finish themselves and a play-off challenge.

Doncaster's stunning end-of-season form meant they only needed to avoid defeat, or hope other results went their way.

There was a big following from South Yorkshire but the Gills fans turned out in their numbers too, despite the frustration of missing out on promotion.

There was a slight re-jig to the Gills team as Shad Ogie stepped in at left-back as a replacement for Max Clark. Head coach Stephen Clemence was determined to end a disappointing campaign on a high.

There was a frantic pace to the game early on as Tim Dieng and former Doncaster striker Josh Andrews had efforts saved by visiting keeper Timothee Lo-Tutala.

Molyneux had an effort from outside the box saved by Gills keeper Jake Turner but was to revisit the routine soon after as Doncaster went ahead.

Prior to that, there was fury from the Gills, leading to a booking for head coach Stephen Clemence. As Conor Mahoney took a corner, Andrews was pulled to the ground by defender Tom Anderson, but American referee Alex Chilowicz ordered the flag-kick to be retaken rather than pointing to the spot.

Gillingham's Connor Mahoney takes on Owen Bailey Picture: @Julian_KPI
Gillingham's Connor Mahoney takes on Owen Bailey Picture: @Julian_KPI

It was Mr Chilowicz’s first game in charge at Priestfield after moving to the EFL in December after officiating over 200 games in the MLS top-flight.

Doncaster’s opener came just five minutes after that controversy when Owen Bailey’s cross evaded the lunge of defender Max Ehmer - making his 400th appearance - and Ironside was there to dive in with a header from close range.

Seven minutes later and Doncaster had a second. A well-rehearsed short corner routine was played out to Molyneux, lurking in a familiar position outside the box, and with time on his side he expertly picked out the top corner.

Dieng back-heeled an effort wide for the Gills before the break as they went off with much to do in the second half if they wanted to send home a big home crowd happy.

A glancing header from Dieng went wide early in the second half and visiting keeper Thimothee Lo-Tutala saved well from Andrews.

Gillingham were rewarded for a positive start to the second half. Lo-Tutala was sent off after handling outside of the box as Jefferies chased a long ball forward and Dieng took full advantage by smashing in the free-kick past substitute keeper Louis Jones.

It was all-square with 62 minutes gone when Mahoney’s corner was met at the far post by Masterson and his ball across the face of goal ended up in the back of the net, with Doncaster’s Anderson possibly getting the final touch ahead of Gills striker Andrews.

If Gillingham felt they should have had a penalty in the first half, Doncaster were calling for one in the second, as James Maxwell’s mazy run ended as he went down following Andrews’ challenge. Mr Chilowicz once again said play on.

Gillingham went close to winning it from a stoppage-time corner with Doncaster fans celebrating securing a play-off place, with results coming in from elsewhere. For the Gills, it’s now time to build for a new challenge.

League 2 table

Gillingham: Turner, Hutton, Ogie, Masterson, Ehmer, Coleman (Walker 69mins), Dieng, Jefferies, Mahoney, J Williams (Gbode 87mins), Andrews. Subs not used: Morris, Clark, Lapslie, McKenzie, Clarke.

Doncaster: Lo-Tutala, Sterry, Maxwell, Anderson, Wood, Craig (Westbrooke 81mins), Rowe (Jones 55mins), Bailey, Molyneux (Broadbent 81mins), Adelakun (Owulu 65mins), Ironside. Subs not used: Nixon, Hurst, Water.

Referee: Alex Chilowicz

Attendance: 8,723 (1,676 away)

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