Gillingham 2-0 Bristol Rovers
Gillingham 2-0 Bristol Rovers

John Akinde’s second half double secured Gillingham just their second win in their last seven League games at Priestfield as managerless Bristol Rovers left Kent pointless as Steve Evans’ side completed the League double.

Akinde netted twice after the break as the Gills took the spoils but the giant striker could, and perhaps should, have left the ground with the match ball as he missed a penalty within seven minutes of putting the home side ahead on sixty-seven minutes from Tom O’Connor’s pass, before sealing the win in stoppage time as he connected with skipper Kyle Dempsey’s lay off.

The Gills made two changes from the midweek defeat by Peterborough with Jordan Graham and Alex MacDonald coming into the starting line-up in place of Vadaine Oliver and O’Connor who both dropped to the bench.

Whilst former skipper Max Ehmer missed out on a Priestfield return through injury, but the visitors did include Brandon Hanlon in their starting line up as the striker returned to the county for the first time since his controversial summer move.

And in the opening half, it looked like Hanlon would be making a happy return as Rovers looked more likely to open the scoring on the first half. Gills keeper Jack Bonham had an evening that he’d sooner forget by his own high standards in midweek but was at his alert best to deny his former teammate low to his right just past the quarter hour.

George Williams then brought the very best out of Bonham with a drive from distance that was destined for the top corner until the Gills keeper brilliantly intervened, but even Bonham was powerless to stop reach Luke McCormick’s free kick that cannoned off the bar on twenty minutes.

Hanlon himself then smacked a shot against a post before disaster struck for the home side just before half time when Callum Slattery suffered a serious looking ankle injury which sadly saw the on-loan Southampton midfielder leave the pitch on a stretcher.

The injury meant that Robbie McKenzie was introduced at the break, but Slattery wasn’t the only player in blue not to return for the second half as the Gills boss made two more changes with Oliver and O’Connor replacing Olly Lee and MacDonald.

As the second half became more and more tense, both sides were searching for the games opening goal and it was the Gills who finally made the breakthrough at the midway point of the second period as O’Connor found Akinde who raced clear and brilliantly held off his marker before magnificently curling the ball round the advancing Chris Day in the Rovers goal and into the bottom corner of the net.

Day though was to get his revenge moments later when Akinde was fouled in the act of shooting before dusting himself down to take the spot kick – much to Graham’s seeming annoyance! However, unlike his successful kick in midweek against the Posh, Akinde’s spot kick wasn’t very good and Day saved comfortably.

Rovers nearly made the Gills pay for Akinde’s miss in their next attack when Jack Baldwin – who started at Faversham Town – headed McCormick’s free kick inches wide.

In stoppage time Gillingham sealed just their second home League One win in seven games as Dempsey did well out wide and he expertly picked out Akinde at the back post who made no mistake, and the points were secure.

After at week at home, the Gills now face a week on the road and whilst a trip to Fratton Park looms next weekend, their next game takes them the “new” Plough Lane in midweek to take on bogey side AFC Wimbledon – a side that Gillingham have only beaten twice in their last ten meetings – it promises to be an “interesting” week for the faithful as the Gills look to keep the Play Off places in reach.

GILLINGHAM – Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Cundy, Ogilvie, Slattery (McKenzie), MacDonald (O’Connor), Lee (Oliver), Dempsey, Graham (O’Keefe), Akinde (Willock)

Subs – Bastien, Morton

BRISTOL ROVERS – Day, Williams (Rodman), Harries, Kilgour, Baldwin, Leahy (Tutonda), Grant (Hargreaves), McCormick, Daly (Nicholson), Ayunga, Hanlan

Subs – Van Stappershoef, Hare, Upson

REFEREE – Mr Oldham

Image courtesy of Gillingham FC