Forest Green caretaker manager Dan Connor says his players need to “love each other” after they started the post-Troy Deeney era with a 1-1 draw at Gillingham.

Callum Jones fired into the top corner to cancel out Oli Hawkins’ opener and lift Rovers off the bottom of the League Two table in Connor’s first game in charge.

Deeney was sacked as manager following an extraordinary attack on his own squad last weekend where he called them “babies” and said he’d rather watch the Antiques Roadshow than his team play after they lost to Harrogate.

He was given a four-match touchline ban and then dismissed on Thursday, less than a month into the role.

With another relegation fight on the cards, Connor has urged the squad to move on quickly and stick together as a team.

“We spoke before the game about heart and courage and making sure we left here with something,” he said.

“We got across to the boys that they need to love each other and they have to show the ability to show resilience when the chips are down.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be plain sailing today. It’s easy to crumble when you’re behind but there was a willingness from everybody here to will that ball into their net.”

Hawkins put Gillingham ahead in the 67th minute when he rose highest to head Connor Mahoney’s corner past Rovers goalkeeper Luke Daniels.

Jones fired home eight minutes later and Forest Green had the chance to win it late on when Fankaty Dabo – who Deeney labelled as “awful” last week – missed a golden opportunity.

“I had a couple of conversations with Fankaty, about whether or not he wanted to be involved this week given all that’s gone on,” Connor added.

“He said that he was and I trust him as a professional. He went out there and helped earn the point for the team.”

Gillingham were on a three-match winning run and another would have lifted them into sixth and the play-off places.

Manager Stephen Clemence claimed complacency had set in and his players expected to roll Forest Green over.

He said: “I’m very disappointed with the result. Unfortunately we didn’t reach the same levels we have in the last three games.

“I felt there was a little bit of edginess about us and we all have to look at ourselves – myself included – and reset for next week. I know we can do a lot better than that.

“We’re playing against the team at the bottom of the league but their players are fighting for their careers.

“These games are never easy – just because we’ve won three on the spin you can’t think you can turn up and roll teams over easily.”