Darren Ferguson insists that Gillingham’s troubles last season will not mean they will be pushovers for Rovers this weekend.
Rovers kick off their return to League One with the visit of the Gills to the Keepmoat.
Adrian Pennock’s side survived by a single point last season and have been tipped for another term of struggle.
But Ferguson says he has read nothing into the last campaign as he prepares for the season opener.
“They managed to just stay up but they’ve changed a lot personnel-wise,” Ferguson told the Free Press.
“Every club will be going into the season with fresh optimism and Gillingham will be no different.
“We’ve watched them firsthand over pre-season.
“They’ve got quite a bit of experience in the team – through the middle with Gabriel Zakuani who I had at Peterborough.
“They’ve got good height in the middle of the park with Billy Bingham and Josh Wright.
“Lee Martin has got good experience and Scott Wagstaff so they’ve got good experience through the team and there’s quality in there as well.
“They’ve played a certain way throughout all pre-season so you’d expect them to do that against us.”
The Gills have operated with a 3-5-2 system throughout pre-season and look set to stick with that.
Pennock is still looking to add another central defender to his squad before the weekend following an injury to new signing Alex Lacey, who joined from Yeovil Town.
Gillingham have enjoyed a positive pre-season which has raised optimism levels at the Priestfield after last season’s struggle.
But Pennock is not getting carried away.
“Pre-season has gone very well and I am pleased with what they have been doing but we will only be judged on August 5, that’s for sure,” he told Kent Online.
“There’s been a few positive comments but I’m thinking ‘wow, hang on a minute’ because it’s a case of keeping our feet on the floor.
“August 5 is the most important game.
“We’ve had some good feedback. I do believe we have some really good characters here and it is a good, happy changing room.”
Rovers start the season minus the services of Luke McCullough, Alex Kiwomya and Mathieu Baudry.
Joe Wright and Craig Alcock are battling it out to partner Andy Butler at the back.
Probable: 4-4-2 - Lawlor; Blair, Wright, Butler, Andrew; Mason, Whiteman, Coppinger, Rowe; Mandeville, Marquis.
Rovers 2 Gills 2, January 16, 2016
Late goals from Cameron Stewart and Andy Williams rescued a point for Rovers - but ultimately provided false hope.
This game was the start of a disastrous, and fatal, run of 16 games without a league win.
The Gills enjoyed an encouraging and unbeaten pre-season campaign which included wins at Ipswich and Colchester.
Expect them to line up in a 3-5-2 with Tottenham loanee Connor Ogolvie on the left and Scott Wagstaff on the right. Josh Parker and Tom Eaves are likely to start up front.
Rovers’ attacking players must try and expose a new-look Gills defence. The Kent side had the worst defensive record in League One last season.