Published: 00:00, 06 December 2018
Gillingham centre-back Gabriel Zakuani had a starring role in Sunday’s FA Cup win at Slough – but admitted he was as surprised as anyone to play.
A back spasm in the midweek game at Bristol Rovers led to him being taken off after just 15 minutes and looked to have ruled him out of the cup clash.
But he recovered in time to play, much to the annoyance of the opposition manager.
Zakuani said: “When we went in to do the teamsheets their manager was surprised I was playing.
“They had worked on things with me not being in the team so they had to make some changes.
“It was good to be out there with the boys and get through the game.
“I was surprised to be playing. I went for a header and couldn’t get back straight after landing. I couldn’t even point to where it was because any movement I did there was a spasm.
“The gaffer said it was my call if I wanted to play, as long as I could get through the game. I felt OK on the Friday and better again on Saturday.”
Zakuani was busier than expected but the Gills kept a clean sheet with a goal from Darren Oldaker enough to send them through.
“Sometimes you have to graft your way through a game,” said the 32-year-old.
“We showed that side to our game, it might not have been pretty but we got the result we wanted.
“I am just happy that I played my part in the win and it took a special goal from DJ to get us through.”
Oldaker has started to get game-time under manager Steve Lovell, playing in the role just in front of the defence. It has given Zakuani and Co an extra option when playing the ball out from the back.
“It is good to have someone there who always wants it,” said Zakuani.
“He can have two men on him and still wants it. It is hard to find a player that is so comfortable wanting the ball.
“Even if they have made a mistake, some would hide in their shells but he seems to be playing like a seasoned pro.”
Gills have taken criticism for playing direct at times this season but at Bristol Rovers, in their last league game, they showed plenty of quality on the ball.
Zakuani said: “Sometimes with teams like us, when you have someone likes Eavesy (Tom Eaves, their 6ft 3in striker), who is a big presence, it is the easy option to go long when nothing else is on.
“When you have someone like DJ it gives you someone to bounce off and he can create something out of nothing. It does give you different options.
“We played some great football at Bristol Rovers. The fans probably want to see it on a consistent basis, but it is about mixing it when you have to and I think the position we are in, it is about the points at the moment.
“I am sure the higher up we go the more you will see it on a consistent basis.
“We are growing in confidence slowly and surely and six wins in 10 is a pretty good return. Some of those have been in cup competitions, but wins build confidence.”
Read more from Gaby in this week's Medway Messenger newspaper