I can’t remember when I last saw Rovers beat Gillingham. Maybe I never have. Thankfully that run ended here as Rovers served up a very visual depiction of a work in progress.
The first half highlighted the limitations of 5-2-2-1 when the ball isn’t moved quick enough; Rovers too often looked shy of options in midfield and were duly forced backwards. One sweeping move – from Kyle Hurst, to Ro-Shaun Williams, to Kyle Knoyle to James Maxwell – bucked this trend; the latter’s off-kilter shot, the half’s only real chance.
Conversely the second 45 showed the same formation’s potential when Rovers move with more purpose; kicked into life by the latest instalment of Harrison Biggins’ personal long-range crossbar challenge. Shortly after Williams’ chipped pass was laid into the path of Ben Close by George Miller only for his shot to cannon off a Kentish leg.
Though Rovers were in the ascendancy, Jonathan Mitchell was the first ‘keeper truly tested, arching to tip over a header from a Gills free-kick. A timely reminder that encouraging play doesn’t win matches, goals do.
Mercifully Rovers combined both facets on the hour to really neat effect, working the ball from left to right before Knoyle stood up a perfectly weighted cross for the arriving Biggins to head home.
The only criticism of Rovers second half is that they didn’t add to their tally – Max Woltman going closest with a well-saved half-volley. Still, ground out though it may’ve been, this win felt like another welcome step forwards.
by Glen Wilson