Gillingham 2-0 Bristol Rovers: Akinde brace the difference in scrappy affair
AKinde (right) was the star of the show on Saturday | Photo by Michael Steele - Getty Images

Gillingham defeated Bristol Rovers 2-0 on Saturday in EFL League One after a John Akinde brace.

In a scrappy affair, Akinde's strikes were the difference, and, despite also missing a penalty, his efforts were enough to secure his team all three points at Priestfield Stadium.

Story of the match

First-half

The game started in slow fashion, with some Gillingham set pieces the only real action – a goalmouth scramble from a Jordan Graham cross the only real action of the opening 10 minutes.

The first shot in anger came from Rovers’ first real attack of the game, although James Daly – in for Sam Nicholson in Rovers’ only change from a midweek win against Portsmouth – fired well over.

Brandon Hanlan had the first shot on target soon after, but former Gas ‘keeper Jack Bonham was equal to the effort.

As Rovers began to take control, Luke McCormick hit the bar from a free kick. A cross-come-shot made it all the way through and rebounded off the crossbar, before Alfie Kilgour headed just wide from a following cross.

Jack Tucker then found himself the wrong side of Hanlan, who was sprinting at goal, but the Gills defender recovered well to tackle his former teammate as he looked to shoot.

The scoring was once again almost opened just after half an hour through former Gill Hanlan. After John Akinde hit the deck at the other end, the referee waved play on and Hanlan led the break. The number nine cut inside his defender, but his shot could only come back off the post, leaving Rovers heads in hands once again.

Alex MacDonald fired just wide from distance as Gillingham tried to get back into the match, but the Blues were resigned to long balls for most of the first-period.

Gillingham’s half was made worse when Callum Slattery hit the deck in stoppage time off the ball. After treatment, the 22-year-old was stretchered off and taken to the back for further treatment on his ankle injury.

George Williams fired wide for Rovers as the break approached, and Gills manager Steve Evans had a lot of tinkering to do during the interval. Rovers would have been the happier of the two teams.

Second-half

A triple change for Gillingham at the break suggested manager Steve Evans was less than impressed with his side’s performance, with Vadaine Oliver, Tom O’Connor and Robbie McKenzie replacing Olly Lee, Alex MacDonald and the injured Slattery.

Gills manager Steve Evans was shown a yellow card by referee James Oldham just before the hour mark as both teams struggled to gain a foothold on the game, and Jordan Graham’s free kick sailing out of play summed up Gillingham’s afternoon up until that point.

Vadaine Oliver headed Kyle Dempsey’s deflected shot over as the game became scrappy, and it was hard to see where a goal was going to come from.

Hanlan squared a ball to McCormick on the edge of the area, but the midfielder dragged his effort wide. The scoring, however, was opened on 67 minutes through Gills forward John Akinde.

Akinde was played through on goal, and the flag stayed down, much to Rovers’ dismay. With Joe Day rushing out of his goal to close Akinde down, the front man slotted calmly past the ‘keeper to give his side the lead on 67 minutes.

It should have been two soon after. Akinde found himself in on goal, latching onto Robbie McKenzie’s header, and he was dragged down. The referee pointed to the spot, giving Gillingham the chance to double their lead.

Akinde had scored a penalty on Tuesday against Peterborough, but regular taker Jordan Graham wasn’t on the pitch. The two debated who would take it, and Steve Evans decided for them, signalling for Akinde to take.

Take Akinde did, but it was a poor penalty. Low and tame, Joe Day kept the effort out.

Rovers then came inches away from equalising as they pushed forward, and heading into the final 10 minutes it was all to play for.

Connor Ogilvie headed just over from a Gillingham corner and that will the signal for Rover to step it up a gear. They bombarded the Gillingham box, but that left them open at the back, and they were punished by John Akinde again in stoppage time when he sealed the three points for his team in stoppage time.

Vadaine Oliver played forward well and Kyle Dempsey ran onto the pass. His cross was met by Akinde in the middle, and Day couldn't keep the effort out.

The win was soon official, and Gillingham were the victors in a hard-fought game.

Takeaways from the match

Grinding out results

Gillingham have been playing well lately, but haven't always achieved the results they have perhaps deserved; recent defeats to Lincoln City and Peterborough United prime examples.

Here, Gillingham weren't at their best, but managed to secure a result, and, at this stage, that's more important than the performances.

Not all doom and gloom for Rovers

Bristol Rovers recently sacked their second manager of the season in Paul Tisdale, and are in the midst of a relegation battle.

Caretaker manager Tommy Widdrington has taken the last two games, leading his team to a 3-1 win over Portsmouth in the week before the loss here.

They created chances and hit the woodwork twice. They look a lot better already, and should be OK.

Standout players

John Akinde

Akinde has had an up-and-down time since joining Gillingham in January 2020 but he is now in perhaps his best run of form at the club.

He netted twice here, and, despite missing a penalty, Gillingham are now playing to his strengths and getting the best out of him.

Jack Tucker

After bursting on the scene at Priestfield last season, Tucker has struggled for consistency this campaign and not quite hit the heights he did last term.

But here, he was back to his best. He controlled the defence and dominated his forwards, taking a couple of whacks to the chest on the way. He will hope to continue this good form.

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