Gills leave Doncaster empty handed despite strong performance at the Eco-Power Stadium.
Ben Close scored twice as Doncaster Rovers beat Gillingham 2-1 at the Eco-Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Neil Harris made two changes from the team that beat Morecambe last weekend as Max Ehmer and Tom Nichols came into the starting XI. George Lapslie and Jonny Williams missed out, while Max Clark and Joe Gbode were named among the substitutes.
Macauley Bonne had the first chance of the game in the fourth minute. Gills won possession in the final third, allowing Bonne a free run into the box and a shot at goal. However, his low effort was tame, allowing Louis Jones to get down and gather the attempt.
Moments later, Mo Faal had a golden opportunity for Doncaster. He was played through on goal by Louis Marsh and found himself one-on-one with Jake Turner, having beaten the offside trap. As Faal made his way towards the penalty area, Turner had come off his line to close the angle for the shot. He did well to make himself big and saved Faal’s attempt.
In the 13th minute, Ben Close fired Doncaster into the lead. The hosts were awarded an indirect free-kick just inside the Gillingham penalty area after the referee believed that Ehmer had deliberately tapped the ball back towards Turner, who picked it up. From the set piece, Zain Westbrooke laid it off for Close, who drilled a low-driven effort into the bottom corner of the near post.
Connor Mahoney had a half-chance after Scott Malone’s cross into the box found Bonne, who played it back for the attacking midfielder to shoot. However, his attempt was blocked before the hosts put the ball out of play for a corner.
From the resulting corner, Shaun Williams was denied by a huge save. The ball was floated deep into the penalty area for Conor Masterson to get on the end of. He got the ball out of his feet before dinking a cross towards the back post, where multiple Gillingham players queued to attack the ball. Williams was the man to head towards the goal, but Jones did well to push the attempt onto the crossbar before Doncaster cleared their lines.
Malone volleyed straight at Jones in the 31st minute. A cross into the box by Ethan Coleman was eventually played out to the Gillingham left-back, who was just outside the penalty area. Malone had the space to shoot, but his attempt was gathered by Jones in the Doncaster goal.
Bonne had a huge chance a few minutes later. A long ball into the penalty area was headed down by Masterson into the path of Ehmer, who touched it into the path of Bonne. The striker had time to turn and shoot, but his effort was too central, allowing Jones to save and gather at the second attempt.
Masterson headed Gillingham level in the second minute of first-half stoppage time. Mahoney floated a corner deep into the penalty area, and Masterson had done well to lose his marker before guiding his header across the goal and into the far corner of the net.
HALF-TIME: Doncaster Rovers 1-1 Gillingham
The opening 15 minutes of the second half were uneventful, with neither side testing the goalkeepers. Doncaster had more of the possession, but the Gills did well to limit the hosts' attacking threat.
In the 61st minute, the visitors made their first change of the afternoon as Ashley Nadesan replaced Nichols.
Bonne had another big opportunity in the 63rd minute. Malone did well to latch onto a wayward pass from the hosts before making his way down the left wing. He then spotted the run of Masterson, floating a cross towards him at the back post. Unfortunately, Masterson could not direct it goalward and was forced to hook it back for Bonne. The striker did well to get it under control but blasted his half-volley over the crossbar.
Masterson continued to be at the heart of the action as he smashed a shot over the bar shortly afterwards. A Gillingham corner was cleared as far as Cheye Alexander, who headed it towards Nadesan. He flicked it on for Masterson to latch onto, and the defender fired it goalward. It had plenty of power but fizzed over Jones’ crossbar.
Turner produced a fantastic save to deny Owen Bailey. A cross from the right found the head of Bailey, who thumped his effort goalward from around the six-yard box. However, Turner was equal to it, as he did well to catch Bailey’s attempt.
Robbie McKenzie replaced Shaun Williams in the 73rd minute.
Close almost scored his second of the game as Turner had to push his attempt from just inside of the box away from the danger area before the ball was put out of play for a corner, which came to nothing.
Gills had a huge half-chance in the 83rd minute. After retaining possession, the ball was played to Malone down the left, who played a low cross into the penalty area. It found its way to Bonne, who could not set his feet as it bounced off the forward before it fell into the arms of Jones.
Close scored his second in the 87th minute. He received the ball 25 yards from the goal and found himself in space. He set himself before blasting his shot into the top corner, leaving Turner with no chance.
Gillingham made a double change in response to the goal, with Gbode and Jayden Clarke replacing Coleman and Ehmer respectively.
Mahoney forced Jones into a save during stoppage time. He received the ball on the right side of the box and got beyond his man before drilling it towards the near post from a tight angle. It went out for a corner, which was eventually played back out to Alexander, who fired it over the bar.
Shad Ogie came incredibly close in the dying seconds. Mahoney’s corner towards the back post found the head of the defender, who looked destined to score. However, he headed the ball into the ground, and it somehow failed to end up in the back of the net.
FULL-TIME: Doncaster Rovers 2-1 Gillingham
Doncaster Rovers: Jones, Nixon, Bailey, Olowu, Anderson, Molyneux, Biggins (Broadbent 64’), Westbrooke, Close, Marsh (Faulkner 90’), Faal (Ironside 64’)
Unused Substitutes: Bottomley, Sotona, Roberts, Goodman
Gillingham: Turner, Alexander, Masterson, Ehmer (Clarke 89’), Ogie, Malone, Coleman (Gbode 89’), S. Williams (McKenzie 73’), Maloney, Bonne, Nichols (Nadesan 61’)
Unused Substitutes: Morris, Clark
Referee: Thomas Parsons
Attendance: 6371 (580 Gillingham supporters)