Match reaction from Paul Raynor.
Assistant Manager Paul Raynor said he was delighted to clinch all three points following Gillingham’s 2-0 victory against Bristol Rovers at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
John Akinde scored a second-half brace to secure victory as Gills closed the gap on the play-offs. Raynor believed if the Gills could get into the rhythm with their game they would run out eventual winners, and they did exactly that.
He said: “It was a tight game for sixty minutes, very tight, and few real chances. They had a couple of good sniffs early doors, and so did we.
“As we said to the guys at half-time, we needed to win that first contact, be a little more aggressive on that first ball, drop on those second balls, and then our qualities will come through.
“We always felt if we can get that first pass off and get against that back four, we’d cause them problems, and we did.”
Akinde’s second-half brace stole the show as he continued his fine form, and Raynor was full of praise for the big man.
Raynor said: “He needs to realise that when he opens those legs and gets them going, he’s unstoppable at times. He’s been excellent in the last few weeks.
“He’s playing with confidence, and he’s enjoying being in the team and enjoying scoring goals. When he does that, he’s a real handful for teams. That’s why we brought him here.”
Tom O’Connor was a second-half substitute, and he made a major impact on the game. He got the assist for Akinde’s first goal, and it was a timely assist.
Raynor praised the Southampton loanee, who continues to impress in his second stint at the club.
Raynor said: “It was a great ball from Tom O’Connor. Tommy’s got that composure, and in the first half, we didn’t have that.
“When it popped out, we were a little bit hurried and lashed at a few things. Tommy showed that composure with what was a fabulous ball and very well-weighted.”
Another Southampton loanee in Callum Slattery was stretchered off just before half-time with what appeared to be an ankle injury, and Raynor provided an update on the situation.
He said: “The first thing I was told, is that it was his ankle. Fingers crossed that it’s not too serious.”
There were three substitutions at half-time, one enforced, and Raynor explained the thinking behind them.
He said: “Just a bit of tightness, and as I say, with our squad and not having the massive numbers that Bristol Rovers have got, we can’t take chances. The moment the guys are talking about a little bit of tightness, we had no option.”
The Gills travel to AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday night with hopes of making it back-to-back wins. Raynor is hopeful that they can begin an unbeaten run to push them up the table.
Raynor said: “That’s what we’ve got to do if we’re going to start looking up the table at the play-offs. We’ve got to put a run together and put wins and draws together and go unbeaten.
“That’s what we’re going to aim to do. It won’t be easy, but we will take a lot of confidence from that second half in particular today.”