Ahead of the game, Gills manager Steve Evans spoke to the press. Here are five of his key quotes.
On the win at Accrington
“The physicality, the way we kept the ball, the way we interacted as a new team with Olly [Lee] and Callum [Slattery] coming in and out eagerness and energy was outstanding. We know we have good technical players all over the pitch, we have to make sure we get the effort out the bag as much as the opposition and if we do, we have a chance.
“We probably did not get the credit we deserve for winning at Accrington – not many teams go there and win. It was the manner in which we won – we rode our luck in the last five minutes but up until then we should have been three or four ahead. A really good all-round performance.”
Gillingham won for the first time in six games on Saturday, defeating Accrington Stanley 1-0 in Lancashire. Accrington were in fine form and were knocking on the door of the League One play-off spots, but the Gills put in perhaps their most impressive performance of the season to take all three points
Evans knows the significance of that result and will be hoping his side can now kick on.
On his new signings settling in
“Back in the summer my two top targets were Kyle Dempsey and Callum Slattery, but for whatever reason Callum was kept in the building at Southampton and you have to respect that – he is a top young talent. So, it was a big, big plus to get him in, and Olly Lee is someone that happened in 20 minutes.
“I had a conversation with Hearts, I was surprised with what I heard, I got permission to speak to Olly and within 20 minutes he was coming back on loan. These are two players that make us so much better in an area of the team where Kyle Dempsey has now got two brilliant players to play with him.”
Callum Slattery and Olly Lee joined the Gills on loan last week and slotted into the side nicely. They helped the side keep the ball on the floor, and the team as a whole looked much more threatening going forward than they had done previously.
Kyle Dempsey has been the standout midfielder for Gillingham so far this term, and the new loan duo looked right at home playing with him on Saturday. Expect to see more of the same against Rochdale.
On the Lincoln postponement
“The work we do on Sunday and Monday is for Tuesday, Tuesday lunchtime that game is off and that affects what you have done for Tuesday because it is too late to put things in place, but then we are on the training ground Wednesday, Thursday Friday, which is not ideal before a Saturday game, but we have had to do it. We are not the first and will not be the last, but we will prepare the lads the best we can, and they will prepare themselves.”
Gillingham’s away tie at then-league leaders Lincoln City was postponed on Tuesday evening for a second time after a waterlogged pitch. Evans was frustrated when speaking about the postponement but hoped fewer training days ahead of the weekend will now have an impact.
On Tyreke Johnson signing permanently
“We are delighted. He is a brilliant young player; he will only improve.
“When he came to join us on loan, we had a conversation on if it would be a loan or permanent and we said: ‘join us on loan and have a look and see what you think’. He was chomping at he bit to make it permanent, he loved being involved on his debut, he was possibly our best player.
“He did not get on the pitch at Accrington because it was so evenly balanced and we were hesitant to do anything, but he will do really well. He has a contract until the end of the season, we have the option to take that further, so we will see how he does between now and then.”
Winger Tyreke Johnson has joined the Gills permanently after originally signing on loan from Southampton at the start of January. After making his debut in the 1-0 defeat to Burton Albion almost a fortnight ago, he was an unused substitute at Accrington, but Evans insisted he will play a big role going forward.
The move allows Gillingham more flexibility in the loan market. With five loanees allowed in a matchday squad, Gillingham currently have three. Expect those slots to be filled come the end of January.
“When we played them last time, we were fortunate three of their best players were missing but I went to the Valley recently and watched them draw 4-4 – they are a good side, keep the ball very well and difficult team to play against.
“I travelled up to Doncaster and they should have left with all three points, let alone nothing. We know how tough it will be – anyone who thinks different does not know anything about League One football.”
Rochdale may be just a point above the League One relegation zone, but they play nice football, keep the ball well, and score a lot of goals.
Gillingham will have to be alert on Saturday if they are to take anything from the game, and Evans knows it.