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Ex-Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron savours starring role for Gillingham on return to old stomping ground the Stadium of Light

It was good to be back, beamed two-goal Gillingham striker Mikael Mandron on Saturday.

He was released by Sunderland four years ago, the last of his first team appearances coming against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in the Premier League in January 2015.

Mikael Mandron is challenged by Sunderland's Tom Flanagan on his return to the Stadium of Light Picture: Ady Kerry
Mikael Mandron is challenged by Sunderland's Tom Flanagan on his return to the Stadium of Light Picture: Ady Kerry

Mandron didn’t manage to net a goal in the first team for Sunderland but showed what he can do on Saturday, firing in Gills’ equaliser to make it one apiece and then hitting a last-gasp second to level it up at 2-2.

“I felt good and happy to get the goals,” said the Frenchman, who moved to England to join the academy at Sunderland.

“It always feels good to go back and play in the stadium, but I am disappointed we couldn’t get a win.

“I love playing there, I have played many games in the stadium, whether it was for the 23s or first team. I love going back and you always want to do well against your old team.

“We have done all right in the four games we have played against them.”

Mandron ended up at non-league Eastleigh following his Sunderland exit but is working his way back up the leagues and insists he has no bad feelings towards the club that brought him to England.

“I had a great relationship with everyone at the club,” he said.

“I was out of contract, I didn’t make it to the first team so I left. It happens, I understood the logic, it wasn’t personal.

"Different players have different paths and my path was to leave. I have no hard feelings.

“When I go back and see old faces it is all smiles, it is all good energy, I love going back. I always want to go back and do well and score. I never scored for the first team at Sunderland, it does feel good.”

He poked home the first goal after a bit of a scramble in the box from Connor Ogivlie’s long throw.

On that goal, he said: “I tried a volley, it got blocked, the ball got stuck under the defender’s feet, I went to hit it, it was a bit scruffy, but it was towards the goal and it went in.”

His second was a bit more special, firing home from the edge of the box in the 96th minute, a goal which hushed most of those in a crowd of 29,822.

“I am happy to score any goal,” he said. “I got the set from Olly Lee, from the angle I knew there was only one place I could put it and I just hit it hard and low and it went into the corner.”

It was a point that keeps the Gills eight points behind the play-off places and they’re not giving up.

Mandron added: “Everybody is believing and in the same direction where we can win games and make it into the play-offs. That is what we play for.”

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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