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Rochdale 1 Gillingham 4: John Akinde scores twice while Robbie McKenzie and Connor Ogilvie also net in win at Spotland

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Gillingham produced a much-improved performance to ease past Rochdale on Saturday.

The Gills were 3-0 up at the break with goals from Robbie McKenzie, John Akinde and Connor Ogilvie but they weren’t finished there. Akinde made it four from the spot and they had other chances to make the scoreline even more emphatic. A late goal from Dale's Eoghan O'Connell denied them a clean sheet.

John Akinde was on the scoresheet for the Gills at Rochdale
John Akinde was on the scoresheet for the Gills at Rochdale

Gillingham turned up at Rochdale with a patched-up forward line but enjoyed their biggest win of the season, scoring three goals in the opening half.

The Gills had turned in some poor first half performances in recent games, heading to Rochdale with back to back defeats in League 1, but made a much better start at Dale.

John Akinde started the match up top with Vadaine Oliver on the bench with an injury picked up in their last match. The Gills were also missing Jordan Graham and Dominic Samuel, while Trae Coyle was on the bench after a recent injury himself. The four forwards who didn’t make the XI had contributed 23 of the 28 goals the team have scored this season.

Supporting Akinde upfront were Alex MacDonald, Kyle Dempsey and Robbie McKenzie, playing as a three behind the striker.

It was McKenzie who fired the Gills ahead in the ninth minute, in the right place to finish after Akinde’s shot had been well saved. The goal had come about after Dempsey had won the ball off a Rochdale defender out wide.

McKenzie almost had a second soon after when Josh Eccles picked him out in the box, his shot taking a deflection to send it wide.

The Gills did get a second goal on 21 minutes and it was Akinde who netted, for his second of the season. Ryan Jackson’s throw into the box was aimed for Ogilvie and after he got a touch the ball fell invitingly for the striker to hook it home.

Ogilvie claimed the third goal with a crucial deflection off a Scott Robertson shot, taking the ball beyond the reach of keeper Jay Lynch.

Gillingham had shown what they can do with the ball when they want to, taking care in possession, strong out of it, and creating numerous openings and putting themselves in firm control at the break.

Rochdale took an age to come out for the second half and they might have regretted returning as they conceded a fourth shortly after the restart.

Akinde was bundled over in the box and he stepped up to score from the penalty spot with just two minutes of the second half played.

The Gills had experienced some tough afternoons at Spotland in recent years, conceding 12 in their last four visits, but were enjoying this one.

Visiting keeper Jack Bonham was called into action to prevent Stephen Humphrys from finding the top corner with a free-kick, diverting it over the bar. The hosts had a spell of pressure midway through the half, Humphrys and Jim McNulty both meeting corners and heading wide of the mark.

Dale were unable to make anything of their chances and the Gills had a few more of their own, Ogilvie stabbing a free-kick towards the keeper and Robertson also forcing Lynch into a save, trying his luck from the edge of the box.

Alex MacDonald went wide with a shot too but four goals was enough for the Gills as they head into Christmas with a great win behind them.

The only blow was missing out on a well-earned clean sheet as O'Connell lashed home in stoppage-time for the home side.

Rochdale: Lynch, McNulty, O’Connell, Dooley, Morley, Humphrys, Newby (Tavares 73mins), Keohane, Roberts, Baah (Done 63mins), Brierley (Bola 63mins). Subs not used: Chalton, Bradley, Hopper, Dunne.

Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Ogilvie, Tucker, O'Connor, McKenzie (Willock 90mins), MacDonald, Eccles, Robertson (Drysdale 88mins), Dempsey, Akinde. Subs not used: Walsh, Maghoma, Woods, Coyle, Oliver.

Referee: Ollie Yates

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