Gills Manager reacts to first league defeat..
Gillingham Manager Martin Allen praised his side’s second half performance against Rochdale despite the fact the club suffered their first league defeat of the season.
The visitors won 2-1 at MEMS Priestfield but only after the hosts had been reduced to ten men in the first half with Danny Jackman seeing red following what was deemed to be a dangerous challenge on Dale captain Andrew Tutte.
The skipper had already put John Coleman’s side in front after a solid strike from the edge of the box following a short corner, and when Jackman was dismissed they looked the favourites to go on and clinch the points.
Bobby Grant extended their lead as the hour mark approached, but the Gills refused to be beaten and reduced the deficit with over 15 minutes left to play when Danny Kedwell converted a penalty after Chris Whelpdale had been brought down inside the box.
The hosts did their best to grab an equalizer but were unable to do so – however they remain top of League Two going into the midweek game against Northampton.
Martin Allen said after the game: “I thought we had a go in the second half, we tried our best to get back into it. It wasn’t a very good first half performance I don’t think but of all the games we have had so far the players have been absolutely spot on with the commitment, energy and desire.
“The first 45 minutes was the first time we had slipped low of the high quality and tempo that we play.
“The opposition had some chances but we were only playing one at the back – we went all out to get the point, everyone played their part. We are disappointed but not heartbroken.
“They have had some good results – they beat Rotherham and were unlucky last week against Dagenham so they have done well away from home and they have some dangerous forward players.
“Everybody knows with John Coleman that his teams will be competitive and they did it for years at Accrington. I’ve just been sat downstairs with him – he’s a great character, he’s not a great mate but I respect him and I like him.
“His teams always have a go and his young defence he put out today stopped us in our tracks – we have some things to work on but we have always said its work in progress. We certainly never celebrated winning all those games and we certainly won’t go home, close the curtains and turn our phones off.
“Lets not take anything away from the opposition, they played very well but I thought our players adapted really well to play with ten men, we were not quite on our game – that’s before the tackle that was given as a red.
“We were not on it as we have been – the tenacity, the pace and the spirit was just a little a bit below where we have been and that’s something we will have to look at.
“It was the same team that we played at Port Vale to get some continuity and I thought they deserved to play; it didn’t work so you have to say we were a little bit below our best.”
The Gills came out fighting after the interval and the manager was delighted with the determination his side displayed as they looked to get back into the game.
He said: “I thought in the second half we were absolutely terrific; there was no sulking, no moaning and the real test of your players is not when you are winning four or five nil, the real test of your players and supporters is when it isn’t going so well.
“In adversity that’s when you see where your players are and in the second half all our players and the lads who came on really lifted the ground, the supporters got behind the players as they saw the effort they were putting in.
“We made some fantastic moves; we were unlucky with a few different bits. Yes they had counter attacks when they could have gone further ahead but I believe when you’re losing I just say go for it and play one or two at the back and keep pressing and pushing.
“That’s what I like to do and the crowd recognised that, they recognised the effort of the players and that we were not quite on top form so what they did in the second half was tremendous. No one hid; everyone was at the forefront of it and wanted to get that extra goal.”
Martin watched on as Jackman was given his marching orders before half time, and although the manager didn’t think it was a sending off, he refused to challenge the decision of the officials and will take another look before carrying out the relevant procedures.
He said: “I need to look at it again – I thought he was just going to get a yellow card but the referee has seen it differently. I didn’t think it was a red card but I’m not going to criticise him, I will look at it privately and have a chat with Dan.
“We have an internal disciplinary system in place and that will always be kept private in the confines of my office. The lads have been great and there has been no bad disciple I don’t think but three sendings off is a real body blow and that’s something we need to look at.
“There have been no bookings for dissent or arguing with the referee or elbowing or childish challenges. Jackman went for the ball and did his best; there isn’t a malicious bone in his body.
“Dack on the halfway line was a sliding tackle, he did catch the player but also got the ball and I thought that was harsh.
“Tom Flanagan got two yellow cards for tow challenges which were both a bit late. He is only 20, Dack is only 18.
“You want them to be competitive and you want them to pit their foot in but it’s a fine line and we have to respect the rules and the regulations. Overall I think the discipline of the players at the club at the training ground and on the bus is absolutely spot on.
“No supporter likes it – the elbowing and the arguing.
“We don’t tolerate any of that and the players don’t want it either, they have said that’s not good enough and they will lose a hell of a lot of money if they are sent off. We don’t fine them but they will lose appearance money in the bonus system that has been put in place and they will lose their place in the team.
“Its very frustrating when you don’t play, but when they don’t I can assure all our supporters they have to work. It makes them dizzy and sometimes sick but we do that to try and improve their fitness levels while their out of action and unavailable for the club.”
Finally Martin looked forward to the clash at Northampton this coming Tuesday and is convinced his squad will bounce back as they look to consolidate their position as league leaders.
He said: “I wish the game was tomorrow. The players have done great and they will bounce back there is no doubt about it.
“We all know what type of game it will be at Northampton so we will have to make sure our players are up and ready and ready to go again but I don’t think I need to do that because they know and I know we can all do better.
“On Tuesday morning we will be back on the training pitch and on the night we will be ready to go again.
“It’s a test of all of us. A test of me, the staff, the players and the supporters. Are we up for it? Can we do it? All these questions will be asked no doubt.
“There was nearly 6,000 here today and I was chuffed to bits to see that. Things will get bigger and better; we know there will be setbacks along the way but its how you deal with that. We have a good squad and perhaps on Tuesday you will see something different.”