Published: 16:00, 20 February 2021
| Updated: 10:08, 21 February 2021
Gillingham’s players were told to be more aggressive in the second half against Bristol Rovers and they came good in the end.
The Gills made a triple change at the break, replacing injured Callum Slattery and two others who were carrying knocks. They managed to keep Rovers quiet after the turnaround while creating the chances that striker John Akinde converted, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win.
Assistant boss Paul Raynor said: “At half time we said that we needed to bring our qualities out and the way we needed to do that was to be more aggressive, to win our battles and our qualities would come out on top in the end and that is what happened.
“It was a tight game with very few real chances. They had a couple of sniffs early doors but so did we. We said at half time to the guys we needed to win that first contact. We felt if we could get that first pass off and we could get up against that back four we would cause them problems. We did that and we were delighted with the victory.
“We knew it would be scrappy, we had done our homework and watched the way they played against Portsmouth, they were very direct, very expansive, they took chances and we knew it would be a tough and aggressive game.
“We had a couple of niggles at half time and we didn’t want to take any chances. The changes did freshen us up in that second period.”
It was one of the substitutes Tommy O’Connor that opened up the Rovers defence for the opener, playing in Akinde.
Raynor commented: “It was a great ball from Tom O’Connor, he has got that composure. In the first half we didn’t really have that composure. Up until then we were a bit hurried and we lashed at a few things.
“Tommy showed that composure that he has got and it was a fabulous weighted ball. With the form John is in at the moment I fully expected John to tuck the ball into the net and he obliged.”
It was a cross from captain Kyle Dempsey that led to the second.
“He has that drive, those driving runs in the second half, he was magnificent,” said Raynor.
“It was a fantastic move for the goal. When Kyle does that and drives at opponents he is unstoppable and he is in good form.
“That penalty area is a bit bobbly but he (Akinde) controlled it well and it was a great finish for the second one as well.”
Inbetween those goals Akinde missed a chance from the penalty spot, his weak effort saved by the keeper. Jordan Graham had wanted to take it but Raynor confirmed Akinde was the designated taker.
“He very reluctantly handed it to John,” said the Gills no.2.
“John scored the last one. I know Jordan didn’t miss his last one. John was the designated penalty taker and Jordan was the second. Sometimes penalties are missed and he didn’t mean to.
“It’s disappointing he did and that would have been a hat-trick which would be great for any striker but I am sure he is happy with the two good finishes.”