Published: 21:40, 27 November 2018
| Updated: 01:43, 28 November 2018
Gillingham ended a three-game losing streak in League 1 with a win over fellow strugglers Bristol Rovers.
Elliott List had given the Gills an early lead but Callum Reilly was red-carded shortly after doubling the lead for the visitors in the second half.
Liam Sercombe scored from an 87th minute free-kick to make for a tense finish but was denied an equaliser by the woodwork in the fifth minute of time added on.
Gills boss Steve Lovell made four changes to his starting line-up with Connor Ogilvie, Darren Oldaker, Josh Parker and Reilly all named as starters.
This was a battle between two teams desperate for some winning form. Rovers had lost their previous four in all competitions while the Gills were looking to end a run of three straight league defeats.
It was the Gills who got the upperhand early on, List striking low into the bottom corner from outside the box, after a good interchange with Parker. An initial ball forward from Reilly prompted calls for offside from the home crowd but the flag stayed down.
Gillingham looked a better side with Parker back in the side, linking play with his back to goal, winning headers and looking lively.
Despite the setback for the hosts, they looked for a quick reply, but Alex Rodman was out of luck. He headed one effort wide and followed up with a shot soon after that also went the wrong side of the post. Later in the half he curled another couple of shots wide.
Rovers threatened several times on the counter, twice from Gillingham corners, and had no problem creating chances but their finishing was off the mark. Connor Ogilvie blocked a shot from Kyle Bennett as the Gills went into the break ahead.
Ogilvie had moved to central defence following an earlier injury to captain Gabriel Zakuani.
The miss-firing Rodman was replaced by former Gills Stefan Payne at the break.
Rovers were forced into another substitution early into the second half when their goalkeeper Jack Bonham went down injured. He was replaced by back-up goalie Adam Smith.
Gills keeper Tomas Holy finally had a shot to save with 54 minutes gone, getting down low to deny Payne, although that could have been missing the target too.
The Gills had struggled for meaningful chances themselves, with shots from List and Reilly both blocked.
A tame shot from Rovers was held by Holy and the Gills went straight down the other end and doubled the lead, with their second shot on target of the night. Reilly picked his spot from 25 yards, out of reach of keeper Smith.
Bradley Garmston looked to give Rovers a helping hand, turning a cross towards his own net, but Holy made a great reaction block to keep it at 2-0.
Rovers had a lifeline with 20 left when a rash challenge from Reilly on Liam Sercombe earned him a straight red card. The home side put the pressure on and Holy had to help Sercombe’s rasping drive to clear the bar.
It was the turn of Gillingham to play on the break and Lovell was left seething on the touchline after Connor Ogilvie was taken down when in on goal. The referee waved play on.
Gillingham went five at the back in the latter stages.but the two-goal lead was halved with three minutes left when Sercombe bent home a free-kick from 25 yards.
It needed a fantastic one-handed save from Holy to deny Payne with a header a minute from time.
There were eight minutes of stoppage-time added and Sercombe came so close to an equaliser, striking the base of Holy’s upright while Ehmer made a great block in the dying seconds as the Gills hung on.
Gillingham: Holy, Fuller, Ogilvie, Ehmer, Zakuani (Garmston 15mins), Oldaker (Bingham 83mins), Reilly, Byrne, Parker, List (O’Neill 82mins), Eaves. Subs not used: Hadler, Mbo, Rees, Hanlan.
Bristol Rovers: Bonham (Smith 49mins), Lockyer, Martin, Craig, Sercombe, Nichols, Lines, Partington, Bennett, Sinclair (Matthews 69mins), Rodman. Subs not used: Leadbitter, Upson, Payne, Clarke, Reilly.
Attendance: 6,583 (192 away)
More by this authorLuke Cawdell