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Gillingham's Mark Byrne made amends for a mistake made in the first half against Plymouth Argyle

By Luke Cawdell

Midfielder Mark Byrne had an extra incentive to come out fighting in the second half against Plymouth.

He was robbed of the ball in the first half, leading to Plymouth’s opening goal, and the visitors took that lead into the break.

But Irishman Byrne came out fired up for the second half, playing a key role in the comeback with a committed performance, a headed effort to put the Gills ahead and a crucial part in the goal that finally killed Plymouth off.

Mark Byrne in action for Gillingham against Plymouth Picture: Ady Kerry
Mark Byrne in action for Gillingham against Plymouth Picture: Ady Kerry

“It was relief for me after what happened first half,” he said.

“I wasn’t really expecting the ball from Tomas (Holy, the goalkeeper). I thought it was going to go over to Luke (O’Neill). I didn’t see the guy behind me and I turned and got tackled. The guy got in and scored.

“That was the only real chance he had. It was a mistake but we showed great character and for myself, personally, I wanted to rectify that and have a go second half. I think I did that.

“I didn’t want it to come to the end of the day and people see me losing the ball and them scoring. I needed that, to owe it to myself and everyone else, I am just relieved to get my goal and to win the game.”

Byrne is no stranger to a worldy goal but his last couple have come with headers inside the box and he enjoyed the one to put Gills 2-1 up on Friday.

He said: “I know I am one of the smallest players on the pitch but I fancy my chances to win a header against anyone.

“I don’t think they expect me but I just had a go and Luke put a great ball in. I knew from the first contact it was going in. I have said it all season to the manager, ‘put me in there, I fancy winning headers.’

Gillingham's Luke O’Neill beats David Fox to a header Picture: Ady Kerry (8902365)
Gillingham's Luke O’Neill beats David Fox to a header Picture: Ady Kerry (8902365)

It was then his interception that led to Gills’ third and final goal.

“Brandon nicked the ball off me for the third goal but I am happy for him,” said Byrne.

“I was going to run onto it and I didn’t know whether he was onside but he was running straight through and I was delighted he finished it.

“We were absolutely buzzing afterwards, delighted.

"I think the first half was pretty even, the only chance they really had was the goal, coming from the mistake, but the second half we showed great character to have a go.

"With the energy in the second half that the boys put in, there was only going to be one winner.

“We owed the fans something second half, especially after the performance of last week and you could see when the first goal went in they were right behind us. They got the boys going and we’re delighted to have won the game.”

Referee Antony Coggins booked Mark Byrne on Friday Picture: Ady Kerry (8902363)
Referee Antony Coggins booked Mark Byrne on Friday Picture: Ady Kerry (8902363)

It’s now onto a game against already relegated Bradford City today (Monday).

“We are one foot over the line,” said Byrne, after Friday’s win took them onto 51 points, five clear of the drop zone.

“We need to try and get another three points to be mathematically safe.”

It would be very unlikely for the Gills to get in trouble now and Byrne spoke of the relief from the players’ perspective after all-but confirming their safety.

He said: “At the end of the day it is players’ livelihoods that are at stake. We have to keep going but we are absolutely delighted to win.

“When you get relegated people can lose their jobs, money goes down and stuff, people have families to look after. I have been there before with Barnet and it is very tough, it can ruin your whole summer.

“I don’t want to be relegated and just want to pick up as many points as possible to ensure we’re definitely over that line.”

Asked whether there could be better times ahead, he said: “It is about being consistent.

“We have had some good games this season and then others where we’ve been nowhere near it, especially last weekend. If we could be more consistent we could be in and around it.

“From January when we got the players in (five signed at the end of the transfer window) we have had a good go since then. Had we started like that it might have been different.

"We just have to be consistent next season, try and turn losses into draws and draws into wins and then you never know where you could be at the end of the season.”

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