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20 February 2021 Venue Priestfield Stadium Attendance

Kick off 13:00 (UK)

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English Football League - League One

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Match Previews

Match Preview: Gillingham v Bristol Rovers

19 February 2021

We look ahead to this weekend's trip to Gillingham...

Rovers head to Kent on Saturday looking to carry forward the momentum generated by an impressive victory over promotion-chasing Portsmouth on Tuesday.

The Gas grabbed three goals in their midweek victory, with Jonah Ayunga scoring his first (and second) EFL goal with a superbly taken first-half brace.

Luke Leahy completed the scoring from the penalty spot in the second half, with the three points helping Rovers climb away from the bottom four.

Saturday’s trip to Gillingham is an early KO, with the encounter getting underway at 1pm.

Media Talk...

Interim Manager Tommy Widdrington spoke to the press on Thursday morning to offer his thoughts on the encounter.

On the agenda for the Director of Football was an update on the appointment process of a new Manager, the morale of the squad following Tuesday’s win over Portsmouth and Tommy’s prediction of what to expect from Saturday’s opponents.

Widdrington also gave an update on the fitness of captain Max Ehmer, ahead of the defender facing his former club this weekend.

Feature

Match Preview: Widdrington on Gillingham

Opposition View…

Steve Evans’ side suffered defeat midweek on home soil, losing out 3-1 to Peterborough. After the game, the Gills boss lamented the errors his side made that the Posh punished.

Ahead of Saturday’s fixture, Assistant manager Paul Raynor said, “We have done our homework (on Bristol Rovers)

"There is some real strength in their squad, we are wary of the qualities they've got."

Form Guide…

The Gills sit in 15th spot in the league standings, picking up 37 points from their 28 games this term. In their last 10 outings, Steve Evans’ side have picked up wins against Accrington, Crewe and Charlton.

This season, Gillingham have scored 36 goals, hitting the woodwork 11 times in total. On the defensive side, they have conceded 40 goals this term, with five clean sheets.

Jordan Graham leads the scoring charts for the Gills, with seven to his name for the season so far, quickly followed by the likes of Kyle Dempsey (6) and former Rovers player, John Akinde.

Referee Watch…

James Oldham is the man in the middle on Saturday. Oldham has officiated 21 games this term, giving out 52 yellow cards and 2 red cards. During the 2019/20 campaign, Oldham refereed Rovers twice, in both the home and away fixtures against Southend United.

Betting…

EFL sponsors Sky Bet have Rovers priced at 23/10 to take the three points on Saturday, with a 1-0 scoreline to Rovers offered at 9/1. Brandon Hanlan is matched at 2/1 to score at any time against his former club, with Jonah Ayunga backed at 14/5 in the same market.

To bet with Sky Bet please click HERE.

All odds are correct at the time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.

Last Meeting

The sides went head to head at the Mem back in December, with Gillingham registering a 2-0 win thanks to a brace from Vadaine Oliver. Oliver opened the scoring midway through the first half and then added his second goal with a little over 15 minutes remaining.

Previous Encounters

Both teams have been on the scoresheet in six of the last eight meetings between the sides. The encounter that will stick out in the memory of Rovers fans will be the Gas’ visit to Priestfield back in March 2019. A tight affair, with little splitting the two teams, it took a wonder strike in the second half from Jonson Clarke-Harris to secure the match-winning goal.

Feature

Match Highlights: Gillingham 0-1 Rovers

How to Watch

Saturday’s game will be available to watch live on iFollow. All the details can be found on the link below…

Feature

Watch Saturday's 1pm Kick-Off LIVE!

Around the Grounds

With the early KO on Saturday (1pm), Rovers’ trip to Gillingham is the curtain opener for the action in Sky Bet League One on Saturday. In the teams around Rovers in the league standings, Shrewsbury head to Accrington, while Rochdale host Plymouth Argyle. Wigan entertain high-flying Lincoln, while Doncaster make the trip across South Yorkshire to Doncaster. Swindon are at home to Crewe Alexandra, with AFC Wimbledon travelling to Peterborough United.

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Match Reports

Match Report: Gillingham 2-0 Bristol Rovers

20 February 2021

Rovers beaten on the road at Gillingham.

John Akinde’s second-half brace was the difference between the sides at Priestfield.

In the first-half, a Luke McCormick free-kick bounced back off the crossbar, as the midfielder once again showed his calibre at taking set-pieces.

Against his former side, Brandon Hanlan glanced the upright midway through the opening 45 minutes, as the forward was found with a superb through ball from Daly.

Rovers had further chances to open the scoring through both Brandon Hanlan and Alfie Kilgour, as the Gas had the better of the first-half opportunities, but the deadlock remained in place at the interval.

In an equal second-half showing, a John Akinde goal broke the stalemate, with the former Rovers forward scoring midway through the final 45 minutes.

Akinde then missed a penalty, with Rovers shaping a series of chances to rescue a point, but were unable to find the equalising goal.

Late on in stoppage time, Akinde added the security of a second goal for the home side with a close-range finish.

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Gasheads would have fond memories of the trip to Priestfield back in March 2019, where a long-range wonder strike from Jonson Clarke-Harris was enough to secure three points on a cold and wet evening in Kent.

In six of the last eight meetings between the two sides, both teams had been on the scoresheet, but Rovers were heading on the road looking to reverse the defeat that Gillingham inflicted on them back in December.

Back to the present and Rovers were looking to record back to back wins for the first time since December, with the focus on maintaining the momentum generated by Tuesday’s impressive win over promotion-chasing Portsmouth.

Tommy Widdrington’s spell as interim Manager continued at Priestfield, with Rovers making just the single change for the early afternoon KO.

The one switch saw James Daly come into the starting XI, with Sam Nicholson starting the encounter on the bench.

Jonah Ayunga kept his starting spot after his brace in midweek, playing alongside Brandon Hanlan, who was returning to Priestfield for the first time since making the switch between the two clubs in the summer.

Luke Leahy kept hold of the captain’s armband in the absence of Max Ehmer, with the defender's shoulder injury ruling him out of a return to face his former club.

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In the Gills line-up, there were two former Rovers players, with Jack Bonham and John Akinde both featuring for the home side.

Steve Evans made two changes to the starting XI for the visit of Rovers. Jordan Graham and Alex MacDonald come in for Vadaine Oliver and Tom O'Connor.

In the early exchanges, it was Rovers who marked the first chance of the game. James Daly made progress down the left and managed to drill a low cross that found Brandon Hanlan at the near post. The striker looked to turn to get a swift shot away, but couldn’t take full control of the pass, with Bonham quick to pounce on the loose ball.

The tempo of the game inside the opening ten minutes was fairly lively. A Jordan Graham set-piece orchestrated a chance for the home side, as the set-piece pinballed around the Rovers six-yard area before an effort towards goal from Robbie Cundy was deflected clear.

James Daly looked bright in what was his second start of 2021 so far, with the striker shifting an early left-footed attempt wide from 25-yards out.

Jack Bonham was the first goalkeeper to be tested, as a high ball forward by Daly was successfully chased down by Hanlan. The striker managed to take control of the bouncing ball and advance into the area, but from a narrow-angle, Hanlan’s low effort towards the near post was held comfortably by Bonham.

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The effort from Hanlan signalled a good spell of chances for Rovers. Luke McCormick took control of a wide set-piece and cultured an effort across goal that swung onto the crossbar, with Bonham seemingly beaten. In the same move, Alfie Kilgour raced to the near post to flick on a header across the face of goal that could have easily nestled into the bottom corner.

Hanlan looked inspired to be a handful for his former club, as a long-ball forward from Baldwin set the forward in a foot race with Jack Tucker to chase down the high, bouncing pass. Hanlan muscled his way onto Baldwin’s delivery and set himself to shoot on goal with just Bonham to beat, but a recovery tackle from Tucker hooked the ball away from the striker at a pivotal moment.

With three forwards on the pitch, Rovers looked a constant attacking threat throughout the opening 45 minutes.

An attractive reverse pass by James Daly set Hanlan through on goal on the stroke of the half-hour. The striker cut inside to a central position to create an angle to guide his side-footed attempt beyond Bonham and he achieved the intended result, only to see his effort bounce back off the upright.

Rovers continued in the same vein as the half time interval loomed. There was a late first-half chance for George Williams to grab his first Rovers goal, as the wing-back attacked a cross at the far-post, but saw his effort deflected wide.

In first-half stoppage time, Callum Slattery required a stretcher after being injured in a Rovers attack, with the Southampton loanee forced off in what appeared to be considerable pain.

At half-time, with the enforced change of Slattery, the hosts made three substitutions in total – with Rob McKenzie, Tom O'Connor and Vadaine Oliver all introduced.

The early stages of the second half didn’t allow for the same burst of chances that the initial opening of the game allowed.

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The first real opening for the second half came as Jonah Ayunga’s powerful shot from inside the area clattered off Jack Tucker, in what was a brave block by the Gillingham defender.

Rovers crafted a handy opening when Hanlan darted into the Gillingham area and kept his options open by aligning a pass to McCormick on the edge of the area. The Chelsea loanee made good purchase on his first-time attempt, but his effort bobbled marginally wide of the target.

Moments after McCormick's opening, the home side grabbed the game’s opening goal, against the run of play. A long-ball pumped forward by Tom O’Connor by the home side found its way into the path of Akinde, who tucked his finish beyond Day to score.

It looked like Rovers would have a bigger task in hand just minutes after Akinde’s opening goal, as the striker went to ground very easily under pressure from Jack Baldwin. The Rovers defender escaped without a caution, but the home side was given the opportunity to add a second goal from the penalty spot.

Akinde and Graham debated on who should take the penalty, with Akinde winning the dispute with his teammate. The striker slowly tracked towards the ball to take the spot-kick and side-footed a soft effort centrally, with Joe Day on hand to push clear for his second penalty save of the week.

Rovers responded by creating a credible chance when McCormick’s set-piece swung into the area, with Jack Baldwin glancing an effort wide at the far post.

As the clocked ticked towards 90 minutes, Rovers had the majority of the pressure in and around the Gillingham half, but couldn’t quite accumulate the clear cut chance for a equalling goal.

In stoppage time, Akinde added a second goal with a close-range finish after being found by Dempsey’s low cross. Akinde's effort bounced over the line after Joe Day almost did enough to keep the powerful effort out in the closing stages.

Rovers face Wigan at the Mem on Tuesday evening.

Gillingham: Jack Bonham, Ryan Jackson, Jack Tucker, Robbie Cundy, Connor Ogilvie, Callum Slattery (45’ Tom O’Connor), Alexander MacDonald (45’ Rob McKenzie), Olly Lee (45’ Vadaine Oliver), Kyle Dempsey, Jordan Graham (89’ Stuart O'Keefe), John Akinde (90+3’ Matty Willock)

Subs: Sacha Bastien, James Morton.

Rovers: Joe Day, Luke Leahy (c) (89’ David Tutonda), Jack Baldwin, Alfie Kilgour, Cian Harries, George Williams (82’ Alex Rodman), Josh Grant (89’ Cam Hargreaves), Luke McCormick, James Daly (73’ Sam Nicholson), Brandon Hanlan, Jonah Ayunga.

Subs: Jordi Van Stappershoef, Ed Upson, Josh Hare.

Booked: Hanlan 51’, Ayunga 69’, McCormick 83’, Baldwin 89’

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