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Gillingham 1 Forest Green Rovers 1: League 2 match report and highlights from Priestfield as Oli Hawkins scores his first of the season but Callum Jones levels

Oli Hawkins scored his first goal of the season for Gillingham but their relegation-threatened visitors took a share of the points.

The opening half at Priestfield lacked excitement and it was a disallowed goal for Macauley Bonne that got the Gills going against Forest Green Rovers with an hour gone. Hawkins’ towering header put Gillingham in front but Callum Jones levelled as the visitors finished strongly.

Oli Hawkins scores for Gillingham before Forest Green Rovers fight back Picture: @Julian_KPI
Oli Hawkins scores for Gillingham before Forest Green Rovers fight back Picture: @Julian_KPI

Reaction: Nervy Gills disappoint head coach

Gillingham knew that a win would have been good enough to return to the play-off places but the strugglers denied them victory at Priestfield.

New signing Remeao Hutton started the match, replacing Robbie McKenzie as one of three changes to the team which started the previous week at Accrington. He got several early crosses in but couldn’t find the mark.

Macaulay Bonne had replaced Tom Nichols to play alongside Hawkins in attack while George Lapslie was chosen ahead of Tim Dieng in midfield.

With three straight wins behind them in the league, the Gills were well fancied to make it four against a side sitting bottom of the table, without a win since the end of October and having just sacked their head coach.

Interim boss Dan Connor – the goalkeeper coach – was chosen to try and inject some life into Rovers’ flagging fortunes but neither team managed to find their spark in the first 45 minutes.

The best the Gills could muster was a couple of headers wide from Hawkins and Bonne while a shot from Rovers’ Callum Jones failed to trouble keeper Jake Turner at the other end but was at least on target.

On a chilly day at Priestfield, it wasn’t the kind of game needed but in a fixture between the division’s two lowest scorers, it perhaps wasn’t surprising.

Gillingham's Connor Mahoney hs a shot blocked Picture: @Julian_KPI
Gillingham's Connor Mahoney hs a shot blocked Picture: @Julian_KPI

The bar was set pretty low for the second half.

Goalkeeper Turner denied Rovers’ Jones shortly after the restart as the midfielder looked to pick out the bottom corner from a free-kick.

Former Gills player Osadebe almost scored an opener for his old team after sliding onto a ball in from Mahoney that had been heading to the arms of the keeper.

Bonne had a goal denied with an hour gone, the linesman signaling offside after Dom Bernard’s defensive clearance had come off Lapslie and into the path of the Gills striker.

Despite the frustration it did spur the Gills into more life and Hawkins glanced a header wide from Hutton’s ball in before Shad Ogie pulled a cross across the face of goal. Nobody was there to finish.

The opening goal arrived during a prolonged period of pressure when Mahoney’s corner kick was met by Hawkins and he powered home the header.

Visiting keeper Luke Daniels saved from Ethan Coleman as the Gills looked to seal the points but Forest Green - who had barely threatened in the half - got back level when Kyle McAllister evaded Ogie’s sliding challenge out wide, picked out an unmarked Jones on the edge of the box, who then picked out the top corner.

Rovers had their tails up and peppered the Gills goal with Turner making a double save to deny Matty Stevens and substitute Fankaty Dabo, McAllister, who continued to find space from out wide, had a chance headed off the line by Ogie and Stevens also went close.

As the game looked wide open - in contrast to the first half stalemate - Scott Malone crashed a shot into the side netting.

The visitors looked the more likely to snatch the points at the end but the match finished one apiece. Ashley Nadesan went close to getting on the end of Ogie’s ball in during stoppage time but the flag was already up for offside anyway.

Stevens had the game’s last chance as he ran in on goal for Rovers but couldn’t find the finish.

Many fans vented their frustration at the final whistle on a day where the Gills just weren’t good enough, once again lacking in the final third.

Gillingham: Turner, Hutton, Malone, Masterson, Ogie, Ehmer, Coleman, Lapslie (J Williams 78mins), Mahoney, Hawkins, Bonne (Nadesan 78mins). Subs not used: Morris, Clark, McKenzie, Dieng, Nichols.

Forest Green: Daniels, Robson, Jones (Oyedele 84mins), Bernard, Inniss, Moore-Taylor, McCann, Osadebe (Bunker 90mins), McAllister, Stevens, Thompson (Dabo 80mins). Subs not used: Simkin, Johnson, Taylor, Omotoye.

Referee: Craig Hicks.

Attendance: 6,282 (145 away)

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