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McCann's praise for battling Rovers as play-off place is secured

28 April 2024


McCann's praise for battling Rovers as play-off place is secured

28 April 2024

Grant McCann was full of praise for his team’s battling qualities as Rovers earned the point they needed at Gillingham to secure a top seven finish in Sky Bet League Two.

Rovers were cruising towards another win after goals from Joe Ironside and Luke Molyneux gave them a cushion at half time.

But Thimothée Lo-Tutala was sent off for handling the ball outside his box and within a seven minute spell, Gillingham levelled the game courtesy of a Tim Dieng free kick and a Tom Anderson own goal.

Rovers fought hard for the final 30 minutes to make sure they emerged from the Priestfield Stadium with something and book a play-off place.

“I thought we were really in control in the first half and the sending off is a big changer in the game,” McCann said. “It’s a bit of a decision that Jamie [Sterry] and Timmy [Lo-Tutala] have made and Timmy has put his hand up.

“We concede another one but I do believe we had a stone wall penalty that wasn’t given on James Maxwell. You’re half thinking that at that point is it going to cost us but fortunately it didn’t.

“It was never ideal to concede straight from that free kick and it’s something we’ll look at because we’ve conceded a couple like that on the edge of the box. And to concede again was disappointing.

“I sat with Big Tom [Malkin] our analyst and the line wasn’t great through to Cliff [Byrne]. And when I had him running down to the bench to change the shape, they got their second. I’m not saying it would have stopped it because they scored from a set play but I was gutted at that moment because it was a bit of a run down to the bench to give them the piece of paper.

“We had to do something because they were coming at us and putting balls in our box. But credit to the boys who came on, they did really well and it was a massive save from Louis Jones at 2-2 to keep it level.”

McCann was pleased with the manner of Rovers’ two first half goals.

Ironside sent a diving header home after Owen Bailey burst out of midfield and sent in superb cross, while Molyneux smashed in from 25 yards after a smart short corner routine.

“Two outstanding goals,” McCann said. “The first one is something we work on a lot with Joe’s position, the bounce and the forward run from one of the midfielders.

“The second is a corner Cliff has worked on on the training ground, to free Molyneux and Hakeeb [Adelakun] up on the edge of the box. It’s worked and I’m delighted.”

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