Gillingham defeated Wigan Athletic 1-0 on Wednesday to move into the League One play-off places.
A second-half Vadaine Oliver header – his 17th strike of the season – was enough to see the Gills over the line – after the game, Gillingham vice-captain Stuart O’Keefe faced the press. Here are five of his key quotes.
On reaching the play-offs
“We had fallen short at certain hurdles but there is a real good buzz around the place – when we look at the table it is a great feeling.
“The last seven or eight weeks the boys have been excellent, and we have the momentum. We are seeing the rewards now.
“You want to see your name in the top six. We have given ourselves something to play for, and when you see rewards such as going into that top six it makes it that bit better.
“We took our big chance today and they did not. Once we got our goal, we saw the game out very well – the boys worked hard and put their bodies on the line, and you can see just how much it meant to everyone to get that win and hold onto the top six.
“Seeing the rewards gives us real belief it is possible. Hopefully we can do something.”
Gillingham’s win on Wednesday evening meant they moved into the play-off places for the first time since October. They have played more games than those around them, but they have points on the board, and would probably rather be in that position for the run in.
It will be tough for Gillingham to finish inside the play-off spots, but the dream is there, and they are in form. They have something to play for at the top end of the table, which couldn’t have been said too often in previous seasons.
On Vadaine Oliver
“He is enjoying his football. He is a pivotal player for us and is getting his rewards for his hard work.
“It was an excellent cross from Ryan Jackson and if you give the big man crosses like that, he will get you goals.
“He is a great lad. He works his socks off day in, day out and is getting the rewards he deserves. He suits us and we are going to need him in the last month so hopefully it can continue.”
Vadaine Oliver’s goal on Wednesday took his tally to 14 in the league and 17 in all competitions this season. He has become arguably Gillingham’s most key player, and he dominates his defenders every game.
He has won the most aerial duels in the league this season and it would take a brave person to bet against him losing a header. The forward will be vital for Gillingham in the run in.
On the squad
“We are a small squad competing against teams with bigger budgets and bigger squads, but that might help us. We are a close-knit squad, everyone works so hard for each other – there are not many changes, everyone knows their jobs and their roles, and everyone understands what is required from everyone.
“We are a good group, good lads and people are leaving everything on the pitch.”
Heading 2Gillingham have one of the, if not the, smallest squads in the league, only really using 14/15 players in the last few months.
But Steve Evans’ side are fit. It is clear to see both on the pitch and off it that the team chemistry is high and that is clearly helping their performances.
On his form since his comeback
“I am pleased. When the injury happened, you expect and think the worst, but it is a credit to the medical and fitness staff that I got back as quick as I could.
“For me it is about playing games and helping the team as much as possible in whatever way I can. Everyone wants to achieve something and if we can it will be a fantastic finish to the season.”
When O’Keefe broke his leg in September, it looked like his campaign was over before it had really got started. But he was back starting for the team in February, and that is a credit to him and the necessary staff involved.
He has helped the Gillingham team massively. His leadership as vice-captain next to captain Kyle Dempsey in central midfield is notable from the sidelines and his hard-hitting and aggressive play style suits the Gillingham team. His return has been a more than welcomed one.
“We are aware how well they are playing at the moment. They are getting results; it will be a tough place to go, and we are going to have to be at it again to get anything.
“But the pressure is on them, they are at home and it will be down to them to break us down and beat us. We are going with no fear or pressure and will enjoy the occasion.
“It helps massively to have the days off. We are a small squad, and we can watch the other teams fight it out on Friday. We can have a real good go on Monday and see where it takes us.”
Gillingham will make the trip to Blackpool for their next game, taking place on Easter Monday in a current sixth versus seventh clash.
Blackpool, like the Gills, are in excellent form, and the game won’t be easy, but Gillingham will fancy themselves – and why shouldn’t they?
Before that, however, they can sit back and watch the rest of the teams battle it out on Good Friday, knowing they have their points in the bag.