Fleetwood Town defeated Gillingham 2-0 in EFL League One action on Saturday afternoon thanks to strikes from Paddy Madden and Ched Evans.
After a half of being the better side, Gillingham succumbed to Joey Barton’s Fleetwood team and lost 2-0 for the third game in a row.
Following full-time, Gillingham manager Steve Evans spoke to the press. Here are five of his key quotes.
On Gillingham's first-half performance
"From a distance it looks like that is a comfortable 2-0 away win, but Joey Barton is an honest boy, and they rode their luck in the first-half. He would have gone in there at half-time and said it could not get any worse."
Gillingham were poor in the second-half, but, more most of the first period – certainly from the 30th minute onwards – they were well in control.
Fleetwood didn’t have a sniff, and the hosts wasted a number of chances to go ahead. Goals change games, and Gillingham didn’t get them when they should have done.
On his side's wasted chances
"I know it is a good save, but you would expect Dominic Samuel to put it away. John Akinde goes through one-on-one and is unlucky. Alex MacDonald at 0-0 hits the underside of the crossbar. It is about fine margins. But we will regroup and go again."
Dominic Samuel missed a great opportunity on half-an-hour to give Gillingham the lead, forcing Jayson Leutwiler into a smart save low to his right.
It was a tight angle, but Evans is correct – he should have scored, and Ched Evans did so for Fleetwood from a near enough identical position late on.
Alex MacDonald’s chance was perhaps unlucky, but John Akinde’s opportunity was much easier than Samuel’s. One-on-one with Leutwiler, the Gills forward shifted the ball onto his left foot before striking it with his right, but hit the post.
The miss reeked of a man short on confidence. He hasn’t scored in 10 appearances this season, and has just one goal in 21 games for Gillingham since joining in January.
On his injury-hit squad
"We are backs to the ball. We will not fill our bench that is for sure, and we will not put kids on the bench for the sake of it at Portman Road."
Kyle Dempsey, Jacob Mellis and Vadaine Oliver all missed the Fleetwood game through injury, and Steve Evans confirmed after the match that it is “unlikely” any of them will be back for the Gills’ trip to Ipswich Town on Tuesday.
The absentees left the Gills with just 18 fit first team players on Saturday, but, with Tom O’Connor picking up a knock and Connor Ogilvie being sent off late on, Evans will be down to just 17 players for Tuesday’s game.
He may be tempted to dip into the free agent market before then.
On his side's defensive problems
"Of course [we are searching for our best partnership at the back]. We have to keep searching until we get it right. But they are a young group, a young team, we will come in on Monday, lift everyone again, come up with a system and formation with the personnel we have got to go to Ipswich, which is a tough a place as any to go. This is the hardest introduction to a season I have seen."
Gillingham have regularly chopped and changed their centre-back partnership this season, and did so again on Saturday, replacing Chris Maghoma and Declan Drysdale with Jack Tucker and Connor Ogilvie.
It worked to an extent – the Blues looked more solid defensively as Ogilvie dominated Fleetwood’s forwards for periods of the game – but, ultimately, Ogilvie was sent off and two more goals were shipped, taking the Gills’ tally to 12 goals conceded from their opening eight league games.
There is little doubt at this point that they are missing last year’s captain and experienced campaigner Max Ehmer, who left in the summer, and it may be a while yet until Evans finds a pairing that works at the back.
On the game going ahead despite Fleetwood playing a COVID-infested Accrington Stanley
"To hear a Football League board director tell my board today that football is more important than the welfare of the players and the staff here today… my God. You better come out and defend yourselves. I will name you."
Eight Accrington Stanley players tested positive for COVID-19 in the week, almost directly after playing Fleetwood on Tuesday. Since then, no Fleetwood players have been tested, yet the game on Saturday still took place.
Evans had plenty to say on the match going ahead after full-time – more to follow – and he wasn’t a happy man. If what he says is true, then the EFL will be hoping no Fleetwood or Gillingham staff or players pick up the virus in the near future.