Stephen Clemence pledged to lift the shackles on low-scoring Gillingham after they powered past Salford in a 3-1 victory.
Goals from Connor Mahoney, Tom Nichols and Dom Jefferies earned victory in Clemence’s first home league game at the helm.
Clemence has inherited the joint-least potent attack in Sky Bet League Two and the Gills had only scored more than one goal in a game only twice before this clinical performance.
“I told the boys that we can’t win every game 1-0,” Clemence revealed. “I’ve said we want to play more football and ultimately I want to win games.
“I have to say well done to the players, as they’ve taken on everything we’ve tried to give them over the past two weeks in training. I hope that gives them a confidence boost.”
Indeed, Gillingham could have scored four goals in a home league game for the first time since January 2021, but Shad Ogie’s late header struck the crossbar.
Huddersfield loan star Mahoney curled home a fine opener with his left foot after 22 minutes, cancelled out when Salford striker Matt Smith rose above Ogie to meet Ryan Watson’s cross and head past Jake Turner.
Unlocking Nichols’ goal threat will be a key priority for Clemence – the striker had not scored in the league since April before guiding home a header from Jonny Williams’ cross to restore the lead in the 54th minute.
Gills all-but sealed their victory shortly after the hour mark when Jefferies met Cheye Alexander’s looping assist to head past Salford goalkeeper Alex Cairns.
“I’m proud of the performance,” said Clemence. “We struggled in the first 15 minutes; we couldn’t get the ball off them, but they didn’t hurt us. When you hang on in games and suffer through periods that can pay off.
“We played well and some good. I could see some of the things we’ve been working on in training coming out on the pitch. The performance was good, the result is a bonus.”
This is Clemence’s first senior management role having been part of Steve Bruce’s backroom team at Sunderland, Hull, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle and West Brom.
He admitted: “I’m not going to lie, I had a few butterflies coming into the game. Everybody I’ve spoken to in management has said that feeling never changes, even as you do more games.
“It was nice to give the supporters something to cheer. We need to make sure we’re all on the same page as we’re all trying to achieve the same things here.”
Neil Wood’s Salford are struggling to build momentum in a stop-start season. After being knocked out of the FA Cup by Peterborough on penalties, this was their second successive league defeat.
Wood castigated his side’s defending, saying, “The bottom line of the second half is that you can’t defend crosses like we did, you can’t not mark properly, and you can’t not get contact on
the opposition player.
“If you compare the difference between the two boxes to when we’re attacking and when the opposition are attacking, it’s night and day. The defending is poor for the second and third goals. You can’t defend like that.
“It’s basic stuff: if you can’t stop the cross, get hold of your man, mark them properly, get your position right and stop them getting to the ball first. We weren’t good enough at that today and ultimately we got punished.
“I thought we started well, but we were disappointed to concede in the way we did. We lost our way after that until we scored our goal. I thought the first half was quite even and I thought we had enough to go on and win it.”