Published: 21:35, 12 March 2019
| Updated: 07:25, 13 March 2019
One bit of magic was enough for Bristol Rovers to take maximum points home from Gillingham on Tuesday night.
A cracking long-range effort from Jonson Clarke-Harris put Rovers ahead in the second half.
Gillingham were unable to find a way past a well-organised visiting defence as Clarke-Harris’ 57th minute stunner settled it.
Despite Gills’ recent good form, there were three changes to the starting line-up, all coming in midfield, with Darren Oldaker, Callum Reilly and Regan Charles-Cook all getting a recall.
Boss Steve Lovell felt some of his players were showing signs of fatigue in the 1-0 weekend win over Oxford and opted to mix it up.
Visitors Bristol Rovers started the evening sitting 19th in League 1 but boasted the best defensive record in the division away from home.
The Gills knew they would have their work cut out to break open Rovers’ back-line and so it proved. Half-time came without either team having a shot on target.
Callum Reilly had the best of the chances, firing wide under pressure from a defender after being picked out by Brandon Hanlan, who had shown good footwork in the box.
Rovers had a good spell midway through the half, with Tom Nichols dragging a shot wide and Jonson Clarke-Harris sending a shot in the same direction.
Max Ehmer fired wide from a corner, meeting Luke O’Neill’s flag-kick at the far post, but half-time came without either team able to show much cutting edge.
Neither keeper had been called into action during the first 45 minutes but that all changed shortly after the restart. Tomas Holy had to be alert to claim a header from Clarke-Harris and Jack Bonham likewise for the visitors, diving down to save a tame effort from Hanlan.
Liam Sercombe’s low shot wasn’t troubling Holy either but in a game that lacked quality, the opening goal was a bit special. Clarke-Harris got away from Oldaker and with the defenders closing in, he unleashed a 25 yard effort into the top corner. It was his sixth goal from Rovers’ last five league outings.
Gillingham were lacking that spark of their own and replaced Oldaker with Elliott List to try something different. The home side put the pressure on with 20 minutes left, substitute List helping to give them more going forward.
The hosts had a number of corners, and shouts for a penalty when Eaves went down under pressure, but couldn’t find a way through.
Gillingham: Holy, O'Neill, Fuller, Ogilvie, Ehmer, Oldaker (List 60mins), Byrne, Reilly, Charles-Cook (Lopes 83mins), Eaves, Hanlan. Subs not used: Hadler, Garmston, Parrett, Burke, Rees.
Bristol Rovers: Bonham, J Clarke, Lockyer, Craig, Kelly, Upson, O Clarke, Ogogo (Sinclair 37mins), Sercombe (Kilgour 90mins), Clarke-Harris, Nichols (Jakubiak 72mins). Subs not used: Smith, Osho, Lines, Reilly.
Attendance: 3,938 (176 away)
More by this authorLuke Cawdell