A pre-match power-cut delivered a surreal warm up without music or announcements, during which Nathan Tyson and Harry Middleton both sustained injuries. When Rory Donnelly volleyed home Gillingham’s opener less than ten minutes in, one could be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t Rovers’ day.
Bradley Dack – easily the best player on the pitch – almost headed a second on the half hour; the bar saving Rovers’ blushes. In contrast most of Rovers numerous chances landed in Row Z.
Rovers’ day worsened in the second half, Andy Butler picking up an injury and unable to prevent the irrepressible Dack strolling through to setting up Donnelly for his second. Gillingham felt this was job done and their time-wasting took on vigour that gave the game the air of a practice match.
Substitutes Cameron Stewart and Liam Mandeville offered Rovers a new edge; with a strong penalty shout ignored on the hour. On 75 minutes Andy Williams was felled on the edge of the area, allowing Stewart to slot home another exquisite free kick.
Stewart was stretchered off shortly after, having landed on his neck from a horror tackle. Once again it seemed fate was conspiring against Rovers, until the 87th minute, when Williams brilliantly turned his defender and broke to roll in an equaliser.
Nine minutes of injury time prompted a frantic climax; Gillingham hanging on desperately. But there was to be no Crewe-style miracle – Williams fluffing his lines when set up by Mandeville – and despite everything, a draw felt a fair outcome.