The Gillingham manager talks following last night's gameTalking last night in his post-match press conference following the 3-2 home defeat to Exeter, Gillingham manager Martin Allen admitted to being disappointed but not downhearted.
He said: “It was exciting and there were twists and turns at the end. We have had some turns that have gone in our favour but tonight it has been pretty cruel and hit us hard, a brilliant save from Stuart Nelson on the penalty and what a goal from Danny Jackman, absolutely brilliant.
“We left ourselves a bit too open, a bit too gung-ho. A point would have been good point at that stage but we had so many attacking players on the pitch we couldn’t really change it or influence it from the bench because it all happened so quickly.
“It’s a difficult one to swallow but I thought the lads gave it everything they’ve got, they played some really good stuff and it is nothing to be too disheartened about, but we don’t like to not win.
“The players have been fantastic, I certainly wouldn’t blame any of them, all of them have given everything they’ve got for the team and the club, it was a fantastic atmosphere, we are all moving in the right direction, there were a lot of good things that happened out there tonight, a lot of good performances from our lads and we move on.”
Speaking about Exeter he added: “They have got some dangerous players and had a great result at Bradford on Saturday and have shown they have something about them - without a shadow of a doubt.”
The Gills boss also stated that they had tried to change things following the penalty save, continuing “We tried to change it a little bit then but because of the noise and the atmosphere, the excitement, we did try to change it from the technical area but we couldn’t get that positional change in central midfield to protect our defenders and, as I’ve just said, they have a couple of very dangerous players and they turned on that little piece of magic and got what was needed.”
When questioned how the team would respond, Martin said: “The same as what we do every game to be honest, we don’t ever build up any game that this is our European Champions League final, the biggest game of the season, we just go to the next game.
“They call it peaks and troughs but we just ask for the same level all the way through the season, don’t get too excited, too down, just carry on doing what they have been doing and work hard together, support each other, win together, take a few knocks together and get on with it, there has not been any boot-throwing in the dressing room it’s more a question of living with it, learning from it, don’t get too hard on everybody, get everybody back in on Thursday and get ready to go up north on Friday.
“Our supporters have been absolutely fantastic from day one, we’ve got a message in our dressing room (from the players) ‘we play together, we win together, we lose together, we stay together’ and I feel our supporters are part of our team, the backing, the noise, the atmosphere from that technical area tonight was fantastic but it’s only just starting.
“There’s a long, long way to go in this competition and the numbers are building, the special offers that the club are putting on obviously help financially but we are creating interest locally and nationally and as a club we are all moving on together.
“There are going to be times that they don’t always go great, that’s life, that’s sport, that’s football and that’s where we are, if anybody was expecting us to have this many points at the start of the season to what we have got now, you would say they were mad.”
Back to last night’s game and he continued: “Credit to the goalkeeper, a brilliant save, credit to the players for getting back in it, Jackman - brilliant goal, disappointed but not down hearted, we will march on together.
“The supporters have been magnificent, we have won a lot of games and some of the games we have won more than comfortably, teams are playing differently now when they come here, playing very deep – five midfield players one upfront and making it difficult for us to break them down – it’s a tough challenge.
“It’s different to what we started off with at the start of the season, we’ve got to find ways to do that, we’ve got to be patient, we’ve got to keep working the ball and moving the ball to create openings and keep it going.
“When you are top of the league and clear, people are going to make it difficult for you, they raise their game and put a lot more into it. We’ve got to be prepared for it, we’ve got to be ready for it, we’ve got to deal with it, accept it and know that this is part of the challenge.
“We are looking strong, powerful, we’ve got a great bunch of players, good squad, so we’ll keep working together, supporting each other and backing like that from the supporters, to lose like that in the last minute was pretty cruel.”
On the crowd’s reaction at the final whistle Martin said: “I saw it from the tunnel, how our players were clapped off and I think that says a lot about how our players have conducted themselves and gone about their business.”
When asked about possible tiredness (the last three games going right to the wire) and also squad rotation, he added: “Our players are very fit, very strong and work extremely hard, because we have been able to rotate them in different games and give other players opportunities to come in and play, it relatively keeps them fresh so that’s one of the beauties of the squad that we’ve got.
“I suppose that would take a lot out of them but a lot of that is mental anyway, if we had won tonight nobody would have been complaining about being tired or any of that sort of rubbish our players are extremely fit and don’t really feel that sort of stuff.
“We’ve got a very strong bench haven’t we, we saw that on Saturday, we put those three players on and they changed the game, fresh legs, fresh fire, energy, enthusiasm, power and pace and won us the game.”
Finally he was questioned about the decision to substitute Charlie Lee, Martin replied: “We made that change at half-time, I thought Charlie Lee was playing very well but he had that yellow card and I didn’t want to go down to ten men and lose Charlie for more games so it was a calculated risk, a bit of a gamble, and Charlie’s done really well in training.
“But Myles Weston is a match winner, he opens teams up, he’s a real threat, to have him sitting there at half-time it was 50/50 whether to take Charlie off and he only came off because he had that yellow card, Myles went on and looked particularly well again – all our subs have gone on and done really well again.”