Gillingham 0-1 Bristol Rovers
Gillingham 0-1 Bristol Rovers

One moment of brilliance was enough to condemn Gillingham to defeat on a bitterly cold night at Priestfield as Bristol Rovers trumped Steve Lovell’s side and moved out of the League One relegation zone.

A superbly struck piledriver from Jonson Clarke-Harris from thirty yards which even six foot nine Tomas Holy couldn’t get anywhere near, won the points for the Pirates who then set about unsettling the home side with every play in the book which it has to be said was helped by some bewildering decisions from official Sarginson, the most bizarre of all ironically nearly lead to a Gillingham equaliser.

Brandon Hanlan battled down the left for possession with two defenders and clearly had the last touch, but the official gave a corner rather than a free kick, and from Luke O’Neill’s corner Connor Ogilvie just couldn’t get to the ball as it dropped in the edge of the six yard box.

For the Gills really shouldn’t have been surprised by the Pirates tactics as coming into Priestfield incredibly for a side in the lower reaches, they boast the best defensive record in the division with just fifteen conceded in seventeen games – a better record than Sunderland (16), Luton (17), Barnsley (18) and Portsmouth (23).

And as soon as Harris’ drive thundered into the Gills net, the Rovers defence took over – more than one tried to swap shirts with Tom Eaves whilst still playing and some of the tackling was crude to be polite.

That said, the biggest protagonist at bending the laws to snapping point was keeper Jack Bonham.

Yes, Lovell will be upset that the Gills failed to test the keeper with a shot worthy of the name all night, but his blatant time wasting – taking on average sixteen seconds to clear the ball every-time he fell on it (whatever happened to the “nine-second-law”?) riled many of the Gillingham players as well as most of the home support in the 3,900 crowd – the third League attendance at Priestfield this season under 4,000 which must be a concern to the powers that be if the trend continues.

Overall, it was a game of few chances, with both sides clearly aware of how important the three points were. Callum Reilly shot wide in the Gills’ best early foray forward before Tom Nichols drifted unmarked from the Rovers left only to send his shot heading towards the back of the Rainham End.

Harris then has what proved to be a sighter for later as his fired over before on the stroke of half time Eaves just could reach a ball into the box after a clever Gillingham corner routine.

Saturday’s matchwinner against Oxford – Hanlan – then had a gold chance to put the Gills ahead early in the second but his shot was blocked by Bonham’s right knee before out of absolutely nothing, Harris scored on 57 minutes. Not even the giant Gills keeper Holy could get anywhere the shot as it flew like a missile into the top corner for Harris’ fifth goal in six games.

Shell shocked, the Gills tried to up the tempo, but time after time attacks floundered on a yellow wall strung across the front of the Rainham End. They may have stretched the Laws of the game to absolute breaking point, but let’s be honest, if the Gills had secured such a vital three points playing like that we’d have been celebrating!

The Gills now head on their travels to leaders Luton Town at the weekend and bottom of the table AFC Wimbledon on March 23rd and are just three points outside the relegation zone, but only four behind Burton Albion who at 11th.

Nine games left; nine Cup Finals – welcome to “squeaky bum time!”


GILLINGHAM – Holy, O’Neill, Ehmer, Hanlan, Eaves, Charles-Cook (Lopes 83), Fuller, Reilly, Oldaker (List 60), Byrne, Ogilvie.

Subs not used – Hadler, Garmston, Parrett, Burke, Rees.

Booked: Fuller (94).

BRISTOL ROVERS – Bonham, Lockyer, Craig, Upson, Sercombe (Kilgour 91), Clarke, Nichols (Jakubiak 72), Clarke, Clarke-Harris, Ogogo (Sinclair 38), Kelly.

Subs not used – Slocombe, Osho, Lines, Smith.

Goal: Clarke-Harris (57).

Referee: Mr Chris Sarginson

Attendance: 3,938

Picture supplied by Gillingham Football Club.