John Akinde delighted to score twice in commanding victory at Spotland.
John Akinde delivered a performance in the Sky Bet League One victory over Rochdale which not only earned his teammates three precious points, but also the reward of spending Christmas Day with their loved ones.
With the postponement of Gills’ Boxing Day fixture with Peterborough, Steve Evans dangled the carrot of Christmas at home to his players, providing they picked up maximum points on Saturday, and they responded with a ruthless 4-1 win.
Akinde, a threat all afternoon, starred with two goals and an assist. His first-half strike, a powerful close-range effort, was followed by a cool second-half penalty which wrapped up the points. The influential Robbie McKenzie, playing further upfield to devastating effect, and defender Connor Ogilvie also made it onto the scoresheet to give a rampant Gills their biggest win of the season. Rochdale netted a late consolation goal in the 91st minute, but by this point the damage had been done.
Akinde said after the game: “We were very determined; we wanted those three points. I was happy with how I played. I think I have had some decent performances this season but that was probably my best, and it was great to score some goals as well.
“They are a good side and know how to play football, but we made it difficult for them.
“The shape really worked today. Everyone knew what they were doing and it was a really good team performance.
“I feel like we were really structured, really organised and we made it hard for them to break us down. We punished them when we had the ball.”
With Gillingham’s attacking options limited after a number of key injuries in the squad, the burden of responsibility fell to Akinde. The imposing forward was deployed as a lone striker, and he didn’t disappoint.
He said: “Whether you are playing on your own or with a partner, as a striker you have a responsibility to do well. You still need to hold the ball up, get behind and score goals. Whether there is one or two strikers it’s always the same, you have to do your best for the team.
“We were buzzing, we felt like we were in control. We didn’t feel like they were going to hurt us. I’m just glad we scored the goals that we deserved. We dominated the game.
“It’s good to get the goals and hopefully there are many more to come, but the main thing is those three points.”
The Gills players, who are five points better off now than this time last season, will have the luxury of Christmas Day at home, but it will be straight back to the training ground on Boxing Day to prepare for their final league game of the year, an away clash with Northampton on December 29th. Akinde, who manager Steve Evans described as “equal to any striker in the division,” is determined to end the year on a high.
Akinde said: “Prior to the last two games we had been doing really well; five league games unbeaten. We know that if we play well then we can give anyone a game.
“We want to be successful, we want to keep climbing up the table, keep picking up points and keep playing our best football.
“It is time to prepare for Northampton now, it is a tricky game but we will want to win.”