Gillingham defeated Wigan Athletic 1-0 in League One on Wednesday to move into the play-off places for the first time since October.
Vadaine Oliver’s header was enough to secure the three points for the Gills, who are now well in the play-off race.
Following full-time, Gillingham manager Steve Evans spoke to the press. Here are five of his key quotes.
On the performance
“I do not think we were anywhere near our best tonight in terms of quality on the ball and it was our final bit of quality that was missing, which is normally there in abundance.
“We should have had a penalty in the first-half, but we said at half-time that it was about getting the right pass. We had some good play – the quality was missing a bit, but the one bit of quality from Ryan Jackson did it.
“It was a hard-earned win for us – credit to that group in the dressing room, they fight for everything."
The game was hard-fought from both sides and turned into a bit of a physical battle as it progressed. Gillingham did struggle going forward at times, but Ryan Jackson got it right when he needed to, putting a cross on a sixpence for the in-form Oliver to head home.
Evans has spoken a lot about finding a way to win, and that is what his side did on Wednesday.
“I can remember watching Tiger Woods at Augusta on the 18th and in all his years of practice he had to put a fore iron on the green, and he did again, and he got the jacket. I said to the players to put that fore iron on Oliver’s head, and that is exactly what Ryan Jackson did.
“I remember it vividly – he was a long way away and I told the players to get the green jacket like he did. We had lots of time to put crosses in, but the quality was not quite there – as soon as Ryan Jackson put the cross in, I glanced to where Oliver was, and I said ‘there is the fore iron, and big V’s head is the putter’.
“I am a fan of elite athletes producing on the big stages – look at Harry Kane, great basketball players, golfers. There is going to be a bit of time where you expect that bit of quality and when Ryan Jackson opened himself up for the cross I thought ‘where is the putter?’ and Vadaine Oliver is the putter. Afterwards some players asked if it was like Augusta – to me that was like Augusta.”
Evans clearly had in his head what he saw as the perfect comparison in terms of how the game was going for his team, and the result suggests his half-time reference of it paid off.
His team delivered that one bit of quality when they were searching for it, and it saw them over the line.
On changing approach
“The chances came about because we had to gamble – we had to win. That is why we were so disappointed at Hull – we needed four out of six.
“At one point early in the second-half we said we had to gamble and leave players further up the pitch. Your defenders are suddenly overloaded and that is where their chances game from.
“My teams have always scored goals and laid caution and taken chances when we have had to win games – Monday will not be any different if we are in the game on 60/70 minutes.”
Gillingham are into the play-off places, but teams around them have games in hand, so it is expected that Evans’ side will slip out soon.
But they can only control their games, and it is highly likely they will finish in the top six if they were to win their remaining seven games. So the ball is still essentially in the Gills’ court, and Evans and his team are looking to pick up as many points as possible to give themselves a chance.
On the players’ efforts
“We are working so hard to support the players and they are giving us more in return. They know the criteria under myself and Paul [Raynor, assistant manager] – they have to work as hard as they possibly can, prepare as well as they possibly can and give us everything, and they are doing that, and I have said for a number of weeks I am immensely proud.
“We cannot affect what teams do on Friday, but two or three managers will be feeling it if they do not get back above Gillingham soon.”
𝗔 𝗛𝗨𝗚𝗘 𝗪! pic.twitter.com/tJXaY8LlFE— Gillingham FC (@TheGillsFC) March 31, 2021
A lot has been made of how close the Gillingham team are both on and off the pitch, and Evans has made it more than clear that he is immensely proud of their efforts.
A small squad has dragged the Gills into a play-off fight, and who knows how far it could take them come the end of the season?
On Vadaine Oliver
“He is untouchable. He was fouled all evening; he got no support from the referee. He does not get 70% of fouls he should get, and that is because he is untouchable in the air.
“I would not have signed him if I did not think he would score goals. People said Alex Revell would not score goals and he did, and the same with Chris Wood at Leeds. You have to see it in your head, and I think if you get Vadaine Oliver and we make chances, he scores goals.
“Not only is it a fantastic header, he is a foot higher than the defender, and you could have put two goalkeepers in and they would not have saved it because of the power.”
Oliver netted his 17th goal of the season to seal the win for Gillingham, and he has rightly been earning plaudits from all areas of the football world. He netted eight goals in March and has clearly been a key player for the Gills recently.
He is pretty much the complete striker but takes pride in his aerial ability and has won the most headers in League One this season. The header he won to convert Jackson’s cross on Wednesday may have been one of the most important, and the forward is going to be vital to the Gills in the run in.