Gills strike late to clinch a draw at the Memorial Stadium.
A late equaliser from Thomas O’Connor helped the Gills make it four games unbeaten in League One with a 1-1 away at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday.
Gillingham had trailed from a goal in the first half scored by Tyler Smith, whose low drive beat Jack Bonham. The away side levelled things up in the final ten minutes to earn a point, when Thomas O’Connor turned in his first professional goal after Connor Ogilvie’s shot was saved.
Manager Steve Evans made two changes to the Gills side that beat Wycombe on Saturday, with Alex Jakubiak and Brandon Hanlan coming into the team in place of Mikael Mandron and Mark Marshall.
The Gills made the faster start, and had the first shot on target, when Max Ehmer’s looped header from Olly Lee’s corner was comfortably held by Anissi Jaakkola in the Rovers goal. Ehmer was causing problems again moments later, helping on Mark Byrne’s throw in, which had to be scrambled clear in the six-yard box.
The away side were forced into an early change however, with Barry Fuller, having picked up an injury, replaced by Jack Tucker at right back. Tucker was straight into the action, finding Lee in space 25 yards from goal, but the midfielder’s effort was comfortably over the bar.
Gillingham’s better chances continued to come from set-pieces, with Connor Ogilvie the next man to try his luck, heading over from Lee’s corner. Rovers’ first big chance came to Jonson Clarke-Harris, whose header looped over Jack Bonham in the Gills goal, but was cleared by the covering Thomas O’Connor.
Despite the Gills making the brighter start, it was the home side who were ahead after 38 minutes, when Tyler Smith made room on the left, before cutting inside and firing low beyond Bonham.
H/T: Bristol Rovers 1-0 Gillingham
Steve Evans made his second change at the break, bringing on Mark Marshall for Mikael Ndjoli, switching his side to a 4-4-2.
After a cagey opening ten minutes to the second half, Rovers carved out the first opportunity, with Alfie Kilgour shooting wide from range. They had another chance to double their advantage a couple of minutes later, when substitute Liam Sercombe sliced Josh Hare’s cross wide.
Rovers were inches from a second goal on the hour mark, as Sercombe set up Upson, whose shot wrongfooted Bonham, but slid wide of the post. The Gills followed this with their first chance of the half, when Alfie Jones lay off found Tucker, who fired over the bar.
This was quickly followed by the Gills’ third and final change, as Mikael Mandron replaced Brandon Hanlon. It was still Rovers having the better chances though, and they carved out another as Luke Leahy crossed to Clarke-Harris, but Bonham was on hand to keep him out.
The Gills pushed for an equaliser in the second half, with Bryne finding Jakubiak in the box, only to see his shot blocked. With 82 minutes on the clock, the Gills equaliser arrived. Tucker’s cross picked out Ogilvie in room at the far post, and after his shot was kept out by Jaakkola, Thomas O’Connor was on hand to make it 1-1.
O’Connor nearly added his second in the closing minutes after collecting Marshall’s deflected cross, but his volley was parried clear by Jaakkola. Mark Byrne also came close to netting the winner deep into stoppage time, but his strike from the edge of the box was deflected inches wide.
It was still a good point for the Gills, who returned to Kent with a hard-earned draw.
F/T: Bristol Rovers 1-1 Gillingham
Bristol Rovers: Jaakkola, Hare (Little 73), Davies, Kilgour, Craig, Leahy, Upson, Clarke (Sercombe 53), Ogogo, Smith (Adeboyejo 79), Clarke-Harris
Unused subs: Van Stappershoef, Nichols, Bennett, Rodman
Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller (Tucker 12), Ehmer, Ogilvie, O’Connor, Byrne, Jones, Lee, Jakubiak, Ndjoli (Marshall 45), Hanlan (Mandron 62)
Unused subs: Walsh, O’Keefe, Charles-Cook, Pringle.
Referee: Mr K Johnson