Doncaster Rovers 1 Gillingham 1: Stalemate to begin Darren Moore era

Doncaster Rovers v Gillingham. Doncaster's Kieran Sadlier, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-03-08-19-DoncRoversvGillingham-5Doncaster Rovers v Gillingham. Doncaster's Kieran Sadlier, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-03-08-19-DoncRoversvGillingham-5
Doncaster Rovers v Gillingham. Doncaster's Kieran Sadlier, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-03-08-19-DoncRoversvGillingham-5
Kieran Sadlier smashed in a superb volley to ensure the Darren Moore era at Doncaster Rovers began with a point against Gillingham.

Alex Jakubiak deservedly put the visitors ahead midway through a first half as Steve Evans’ side took advantage of disjointedness from Rovers.

But Sadlier struck brilliantly in first half stoppage time to give Rovers the platform for a much-improved second half showing.

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A lack of cohesion was somewhat understandable in the Rovers ranks with five players making their competitive debuts and only two men remaining from the side that started the final game of last term.

Rovers looked dangerous on the counterattack, with one-touch passing in the middle of the park leading to smart balls forward to release players.

But they struggled to convert such play into chances with attacks breaking down in the final third.

Though they lined up in the same system, the visitors found it easier to flood bodies into Rovers territory.

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It needed a smart block from Tom Anderson to keep out a low drive from Regan Charles-Cook while Brandon Hanlan fired wide from a good position.

Skipper Ben Whiteman curled over the bar from a free kick in a rare threat on the Gillingham goal.

Ian Lawlor produced a superb save to deny a swiping volley from Charles-Cook before Whiteman produced a last gasp block to keep out another strike from Hanlan.

But Gillingham finally got the breakthrough on the half hour.

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Rovers were caught napping when Hanlan's flick-on put Mikael Ndjoli's through on the right and he squared to Jakubiak to slam home.

Gillingham looked the more likely to score next as Rovers continued to struggle for fluency, with Charles-Cook racing past Alex Baptiste on the byline and drilling low on the angle.

But Rovers changed the narrative of the opening period in first half stoppage time as they grabbed an equaliser.

James Coppinger clipped an excellent ball forward which Sadlier caught sweetly on the volley and rifled past Jack Bonham.

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A change in Rovers was sparked in the second half, which they played largely on the front foot.

Opportunities remained hard to come by, but there was a renewed aggression in attacking play from the hosts.

Madger Gomes saw a shot deflected narrowly over after controlling a pass from Brad Halliday while Alfie May forced Bonham into an awkward save after superbly cutting inside from the left.

Ennis came off the bench for his debut and added an injection of energy into the Rovers attack.

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He sent May racing forward with a wonderful crossfield ball but saw his shot blocked, as was the follow up from Ali Crawford.

Whiteman fired a low effort narrowly wide in stoppage time as Rovers continued to push.

ROVERS: Lawlor; Halliday, Baptiste, Anderson, James; Sheaf, Whiteman; Gomes (Ennis 67), Coppinger (Crawford 84), May; Sadlier. Subs not used: Dieng, John, Blair, Longbottom, Kiwomya.

GILLINGHAM: Bonham; Hodson, Ehmer, Jones, Fuller; O'Keefe, Cisse; Ndjoli (Byrne 72), Charles-Cook (Marshall 62), Jakubiak (List 62); Hanlan. Subs not used: Walsh, Garmston, Ogilvie, Mandron.

REFEREE: John Busby (Oxfordshire)

ATTENDANCE: 7,939 (618 away)

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