Gillingham will host Bristol Rovers in League One action on Saturday with the hope of bouncing back from a disappointing midweek defeat against Peterborough United.
Ahead of the match, Gills assistant manager Paul Raynor spoke to the press. Here are five of his key quotes.
“It was disappointing. From a good first-half performance against a good side it was disappointing in the second-half. But we have had a meeting about the individual errors and cutting them out and it was positive.
“There were a lot of plusses from the first-half performance but unfortunately we were punished for a frantic 10 minutes and the game went away from us. The guys were disappointed because we showed out potential.”
Gillingham controlled the first-half against Peterborough on Tuesday, and went into the break 1-0 up courtesy of a John Akinde penalty.
But in the second-period, they collapsed. Early strikes from Jonson Clarke-Harris (2) and Siriki Dembele condemned the Gills to a 3-1 loss in a game they, judging by the first-half, should have won.
But it wasn’t to be, and lessons must be learnt.
On cutting out individual errors
“It is about concentration, discipline and game awareness, you do not expect Jack Bonham to drop a routine save – he has been fantastic for us. Then we did not track a runner and when you allow quality players to have a run they will punish you.
“It is about defensive awareness, spotting those runs a bit quicker and having the defensive nous to make sure we are a little bit more solid out of possession.
“It is a young group. were disappointing goals to concede so we have analysed them and hopefully they have taken that on board. It is a learning process; we have got a lot of good young players."
Gillingham are conceding some sloppy goals at the moment and individual errors are costing them. On Tuesday, goalkeeper Jack Bonham spilled a save that Clarke-Harris put into the net, before Jack Tucker and Robbie Cundy were caught out for the other goals.
It sounds as if a meeting has been held to help cut these errors out. Time will tell if it will make a difference.
On the new pressing approach
“It took us a long time to get it through last season too. It is about getting the back four to trust being higher up and getting the midfield a lot higher and to engage and make it more difficult for teams to play, and the penny seems to have dropped in the last few weeks, but we have tried to do it all season.
“Once you get the results and the guys see the profits they believe in it but we have had some great performances in the last few weeks and we are pleased with the level of performance.”
It has been more notable in recent weeks that Gillingham have pressed teams high and often won the ball high up the pitch. Just a few weeks ago they tore apart Crewe Alexandra and won 4-1 thanks to some aggressive tactics.
According to Raynor, this had been the plan all along. It seems to be getting through though, now, and the rewards are coming.
On Bristol Rovers
“You have got to do your work. Tommy [Widdrington] took them on Tuesday and we can have a little look at what he did. We have watched the game through a few times and highlighted a few areas we think we can exploit and some areas we are wary of. We have done our homework, but we are sure there will not be too many changes after a fantastic win against Portsmouth.
“There is some real strength in the squad and the type of contracts they could put on the table for Max [Ehmer] and Brandon [Hanlan] – we could not compete. We were desperate to keep them, they were fantastic for us, two great lads, two great players, they had a fantastic season, but we got blown out of the water with the financial packages put on the table.
“I am gobsmacked they are in the position they are in at the moment, but Tommy showed that they can put performances in on Tuesday. We are very wary of the qualities they have got but we are sure they are wary of what we can do to them. It is game on.”
Bristol Rovers are a sleeping lion at the minute. In a relegation battle and just two points above the drop zone, they spent big money in the summer, and it hasn’t paid off.
They recently relieved a manager of his duties for the second time this season and are currently under the guidance of caretaker manager Tommy Widdrington, who led the Gas to an impressive 3-1 win over Portsmouth in the week.
That could be a sign of things to come. That, and the fact the squad includes former Gills regulars Max Ehmer and Brandon Hanlan, suggests Saturday afternoon is going to be tough for the Gills.
On the immediate future
“We spoke about it being a pivotal couple of weeks. Are we going to be looking at the play-offs or sitting mid table?
“We want to be looking up – the problems have been that when we have been in touching distance, but we cannot put back-to-back victories in place. A win on Tuesday would have seen us a few points off the play-offs, but it seems to have been stop-start tall season and they are the inconsistencies that have been disappointing for us.”
Gillingham are 15th in League One, 12 points above the relegation zone and eight points off the play-offs. If they are going to make a push for the top six, it needs to be now – the next two weeks or so are vital to the Gills’ season.