Crazy day in Kent has Doncaster Rovers in results gridlock: Analysis of the 2-1 defeat at Gillingham

As they sat in gridlocked traffic on a flyover connecting the A2 with the M25, their modes of transport lashed by horrendous wind and driving rain, many of the 200-odd Doncaster Rovers supporters that had made the trip to Kent must have been deeply considering their life choices.

Sunday, 16th February 2020, 2:00 pm

Storm Dennis had shut the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford, forcing both directions of traffic through the tunnel and causing tailbacks for miles.

The prolonging of an already long journey home was the salt in the wound after a frustrating, head-scratching, wet and windy day at the Priestfield Stadium.

Rovers beaten 2-1 by Gillingham, with the game’s biggest incidents coming courtesy of their own hands.

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Seny Dieng watches as the ball is diverted home to draw Gillingham level against Doncaster Rovers. Picture: Shibu Preman/AHPIX

Making sense of such a mess of a fixture is no easy task.

The aforementioned Storm Dennis, a sending off, two own goals from the same player, nothing between the sides on basic stat terms.

The basics would suggest that Rovers, after leading the game, gifted the win to their hosts.

But this was far from a poor performance from Rovers who could so easily have taken something back with them on that long journey north.

Ben Sheaf celebrates his goal against Gillingham. Picture: Shibu Preman/AHPIX

Those 200-odd fans that had made the trip travelled home with the knowledge their side had battled rather than capitulated.

But they will still have had a hard time processing what they had witnessed.

Though the wind was firmly in their faces in the first half, Rovers had started the better with their ever-present intent to seek controlled possession suiting them in the storm-force conditions.

The wind and bobbly pitch made control difficult but Darren Moore’s side were producing little moments of passing magic as they looked to attack at pace.

Niall Ennis looks for a way through against Gillingham. Picture: Shibu Preman/AHPIX

Gillingham’s more direct offering was taking them forward but the unpredictability of the flight of the ball was making it easier for Rovers to keep them at bay.

The deadlock was broken with a wonderful strike. Ben Sheaf received a free kick of beautiful vision from Brad Halliday, saw the ball run across his body and drill a left-footed effort into the far corner from 25 yards.

A first Rovers goal for the Arsenal loanee - though he did have one at Southend United harshly taken off him and awarded as an own goal - as part of an excellent all round performance from the midfielder.

Rovers continued to have the better control, though Gillingham were coming into the game, particularly down the flanks where Brandon Hanlan proved potent.

But the door was swung wide open for the hosts on 40 minutes. Of all the mad incidents in the game, this was the most pivotal.

Fejiri Okenabirhie raised his arms for leverage looking to meet a high ball forward and caught full back Barry Fuller in the face.

It was unfortunate for the striker that the incident took place in front of the Gillingham dug out where messrs Steve Evans and Paul Raynor deployed their usual manner of reserved demonstration.

Okenabirhie was dismissed and though the led, Rovers already had a mountain to climb.

That got worse when Cameron John diverted into his own net as he tried to prevent a corner from sneaking straight in at the near post moments before the break.

Rovers were largely undeterred and almost went back in front when Tom Anderson cracked a shot off the post from the edge of the area.

But Gillingham began to take control and pushed forward with greater regularity.

Again though, they were gifted a goal off the boot of the deeply unfortunate John.

Questions should be asked about the lack of assistance given to Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee in the circumstance, particularly the absence of a call to let him know that he had time and space on his side as he looked to cut out Jordan Roberts’ driven cross.

Gillingham could have put the game to bed with John Akinde skying a glorious headed opportunity while Roberts hit the post.

But Rovers rallied and threatened a late equaliser with controlled attacking play rather than a desperate rush.

Substitute Devante Cole inexplicably put a free header back where it came from while Ben Whiteman drew a save from Gillingham keeper Jack Bonham with a last gasp free kick.

Given all the madness, drawing a line under this one and moving on seems the only sensible option.

The cycle of three game weeks is now over for a short while, handing Moore the time at Cantley Park with his players that he deems so important.

The hope now, with the chance to work on the training ground, is that Rovers can get themselves out of the gridlock brought on by inconsistent results and push themselves on to destination play-offs.