Rovers 0-2 Gillingham
Bristol Rovers suffered their first defeat since the return of John Ward, going down 2-0 to Gillingham at the Memorial Stadium.
Rovers put in a committed and passionate display against the league leaders, but lacked in the final third and were unable to create the goalscoring opportunity.
Gillingham created just two real chances throughout the game, and managed to score them both.
Chris Whelpdale slotted home the third after just three minutes, and Deon Burton doubled the tally just before the half hour mark.
The second half lacked clear cut opportunities for either side.
John Ward made four changes to the side that beat Plymouth on New Year’s Day.
Mark McChrystal made his debut alongside Garry Kenneth, who returned from suspension. They replaced Matt Lund and Cian Bolger who have both returned to their parent clubs at the end of their loan spell.
This saw Tom Parkes move into midfield. Seanan Clucas replaced Oli Norburn in the centre of the park, while Eliot Richards came in for Tom Hitchcock up front.
It was the worst possible start for Rovers, when midfielder Whelpdale opened the scoring after just 3 minutes.
Following some good play down the left, Whelpdale picked up the ball just outside the area, and fired home past Steve Mildenhall, into the top right hand corner of the net.
Andy Frampton then had a half chance for the Gills from distance, before Joe Anyinsah put the ball just wide from inside the box.
Rovers then had a spell of pressure, and almost managed to bundle the ball into the back of the net, but the Gills defended well and keeper Stuart Nelson gathered the loose ball.
Two minutes before the break Gillingham extended their lead. Whelpdale headed the ball into the box and Burton turned Garry Kenneth and slotted the ball home from close range.
The build-up to the goal resulted in a knee injury to Kenneth, who came off to be replaced by Oli Norburn. This saw Tom Parkes move back into defence.
Rovers made a half time substitution, with Tom Hitchcock coming on to replace Joe Anyinsah, who was suffering from a sore hamstring.
There was little of note to report on in the second half, as Gillingham changed their formation to play with one up front, and neither team really threatened in the final third.
Substitute Steven Gregory had a shot from wide on the left that was easily stopped by Mildenhall in the Rovers goal.
For Rovers Fabian Broghammer fired a low cross from the right into the box, but it managed to evade the feet of all the Rovers players.
Whelpdale had a chance to double his tally, but it was easily saved again by Mildenhall.
Rovers then made their final substitution, with Mitch Harding coming on to replace Broghammer.
With the game drawing to a close John-Joe O’Toole had a shot from 22 yards that flew over the bar, and in added time Eliot Richards shot just wide of the right upright.
It was a disappointing result for Rovers, but there was a good amount of fight and commitment on show, and this was recognised by the excellent support, who cheered their side off the pitch.
Rovers: Steve Mildenhall, Michael Smith, Garry Kenneth (Oli Norburn), Mark McChrystal, Lee Brown, Joe Anyinsah (Tom Hitchcock), John-Joe O’Toole, Tom Parkes, Seanan Clucas, Fabian Broghammer (Mitch Harding), Eliot Richards
Substitutes: Conor Gough, Ellis Harrison, Tom Lockyer, Danny Woodards
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Matt Fish, Joe Martin, Leon Legge, Andy Frmapton, Adam Barrett, Jack Payne, Chris Whelpdale, Myles Weston (Charlie Allen), Adam Birchall (Steven Gregory), Deon Burton (Danny Kedwell).
Substitutes: Tommy Forecast, Charlie Lee, Danny Jackman, Callum Davis
Referee: Brendan Malone