Stunning second half strike seals victory for Bristol Rovers in Kent.
Jonson Clarke-Harris’ superb second half strike proved to be enough to secure all three points for Bristol Rovers as Gillingham slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Priestfield on Tuesday evening.
In a cagey game in ME7, Gills had large periods of pressure but were never able to really test Jack Bonham in the Bristol Rovers goal as the one moment of brilliance sealed all three points for the Gas.
Gillingham manager Steve Lovell freshened up the midfield for the visit of the in-form Rovers. Darren Oldaker, Regan Charles-Cook and Callum Reilly all returned as Gillingham looked to build on Saturday’s win at home to Oxford.
Bristol Rovers came in to the tie as one of the form sides in the league, losing just once in their last seven league outings under the leadership of Graham Coughlan and kept with the same eleven that won at Scunthorpe on Saturday.
After a quiet opening at Priestfield, the first half chance of the game fell to the visitors, but Tom Nichols couldn’t properly connect on the edge of the box. Gills’ first foray forward saw Tom Eaves play in Brandon Hanlan down the right-hand side, but his cut back missed all the on rushing players in blue shirts.
Minutes later and Luke O’Neill blazed over after the ball fell to him on the edge of the box as the hosts started to get a foot hold in the game.
Gills’ best chance of the opening half fell to Callum Reilly. After more good work from Hanlan, the forward played the ball back to the onrushing midfielder who curled inches past the post, on target and it would surely have been 1-0.
Rovers responded to the Gills pressure though and the in-from Johnson Clarke Harris, who scored for Coventry at Priestfield earlier in the season, thumped a header just wide.
Bristol Rovers started to grow in to the game as the half moved on and a cross from the left-hand side just evaded the onrushing forwards before Darren Oldaker sliced over the bar to kick away for a corner.
Bristol Rovers were forced in to an early change as Abu Ogogo limped off, replaced by Stuart Sinclair in the middle of the Gas midfield.
Gills pressure was causing problems at times and after Callum Reilly played a corner short to Luke O’Neill, his cross found its way to Tom Eaves in the box but after a classy turn, his shot was blocked.
Neither side made a change at the break and within the first two minutes both teams had chances to break the deadlock. First, Clarke-Harris headed straight at Holy before Brandon Hanlan broke on the Rovers defence but struck straight at Jack Bonham.
In the 50th minute, Ed Upson delivered a teasing cross into the box and Max Ehmer had to be alert to flick the ball behind and clear of danger. Minutes after and Ehmer again was on hand to block Ollie Clarke before Liam Sercombe struck straight at Holy as Bristol Rovers threatened an opener.
In the 56th minute Bristol Rovers took the lead in emphatic fashion as Jonson Clarke-Harris powered in to the top corner from 30 yards. The forward drove at the Gills defence before unleashing an unstoppable effort to give the away side the lead. 0-1
Steve Lovell’s first sub saw Elliott List introduced in place of Darren Oldaker as the Gills went in search of an equaliser, though a string of corners went by without harm.
Tom Eaves had penalty appeals waved away in the 77th minute when he was dragged down in the penalty area from a set piece, though referee Christopher Sarginson saw nothing wrong and played on.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Gills were starting to up the tempo and Regan Charles-Cook came close with a dipping half volley from the edge of the box, unfortunately for Gills, it went the wrong side of the post.
With time running out for Lovell's men to get back in the game, Leo Da Silva Lopes was introduced to the action and as the game ticked over into the 90th minute. However, Rovers won a free-kick deep into the Gillingham half and they kept the ball well and ran the clock down to seal victory.
Gillingham: Tomas Holy, Luke O’Neill, Connor Ogilvie, Max Ehmer, Barry Fuller, Mark Byrne, Callum Reilly, Darren Oldaker (Elliott List 59) Regan Charles-Cook (Leo Da Silva Lopes 82), Tom Eaves, Brandon Hanlan.
Unused subs: Hadler, Garmston, Parrett, Burke, Rees.
Bristol Rovers: Jack Bonham (GK), Michael Kelly, Tom Lockyer (C), Tony Craig, James Clarke, Ed Upson, Ollie Clarke, Abu Ogogo (Stuart Sinclair 37), Liam Sercombe (Alfie Kilgour 90), Tom Nichols (Alex Jakubiak 71), Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Unused subs: Adam Smith (GK), Alfie Kilgour, Chris Lines, Gavin Reilly,
Referee: Mr Christopher Sarginson
Attendance 3938 (176 Bristol Rovers)