Gills go top of League One following victory over Doncaster
Jake Hessenthaler’s second half strike ensured Gillingham returned to the top of Sky Bet League One with a 1-0 win over Doncaster Rovers at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.
The midfielder came off the bench in the second half and drilled an effort over the line following a teasing cross from Bradley Dack.
Doncaster had their opportunities with Curtis Main brilliantly denied by Stuart Nelson, with Cameron Stewart and Oscar Gobern missing the target while in good positions.
There were a few surprises on the team sheet with John Egan, Deji Oshilaja and Brennan Dickenson all injured.
As a result Bradley Garmston returned at left back with skipper Doug Loft partnering Max Ehmer in the heart of defence.
Mitchell Dickenson and Elliott List were named among the substitutes with Hessenthaler, Ben Williamson, Jermaine McGlashan and Rory Donnelly for company.
Gillingham stormed out of the traps and put Doncaster under heavy pressure in the opening minutes, an early chance from Josh Wright blazed over before the midfielder had another effort which was blocked inside the box.
Dack was next to have a go, his left footed effort inside the area was deflected wide for a corner which Stuckmann, along with his defence, did well to clear.
On 28 minutes McDonald tried to take the former Preston keeper by surprise when, on the turn, he decided to shoot from 20 yards and missed the left hand post by a yard.
Another Dack effort was gathered by Stuckmann before Main almost grabbed the opener against the run of play – from 20 yards he attempted to place his shot into the bottom corner but missed the target.
Three minutes before the break and Nelson made an outstanding stop to deny Curtis Main with the striker odds on to beat the keeper.
The forward was one on one and had the angle in his favour but the keeper stood tall and blocked the effort. He was also on hand to cover off a shot from Gobern who struck the side netting with the last kick of the half.
An early effort from McDonald was deflected over the bar as Gills pressed for an opening goal. Doncaster however remained threatening on the counter with Main in particular the player to watch out for.
Wright and Osadebe both had efforts thwarted by Stuckmann before Gills took the lead in rather controversial circumstances.
A cross from Dack wasn’t cleared properly by the Donny defence, the ball made its way to Hessenthaler who at a tight angle had a shot at goal which looked to have been blocked on the line.
Osadebe followed up the effort only for the linesman to wave his flag and give a goal.
The visiting players protested with a minority of the crowd unsure what decision had been made, however Hessenthaler sprinted away in celebration having only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes.
This appeared to deflate Doncaster who still threw bodies forward but failed to make the most of their territory – Stewart in particular should have done better when, in space, he latched onto a cross from the right but skied his effort.
Luke Norris was brilliantly denied by Stuckmann with the keeper diving to his left to keep out a long range effort, before a header was sent narrowly wide following an excellent ball from the lively Ryan Jackson.
Donny went in search of an equaliser late on but the Gillingham defence stood firm with sub Rory Donnelly playing his part up front to shield the ball and run down the clock.
Gills: Nelson, Jackson, Ehmer, Loft, Garmston, Houghton (Hessenthaler 60), Wright, Osadebe, Dack, Norris (Donnelly 90), McDonald (Williamson 74).
Unused subs: G Morris, M Dickenson, List, McGlashan.
Doncaster: Stuckmann, Lund, Evina (Stewart 70), Butler, Chaplow, Gobern, MacKenzie, Taylor-Sinclair, Coppinger, Main (N’Guessan 70), Williams.
Unused subs: Marosi, Keegan, McKay, Middleton, Whitehouse
Referee: Mr C Sarginson