Zakuani | "We played to their game plan"

Gills taken to a replay by Hartlepool in the FA Cup.

Gills skipper Gabriel Zakuani, who was named Man-Of-The-Match on Saturday, was left frustrated as Gillingham couldn’t find a winner against Hartlepool at Priestfield in the first round of the FA Cup.

In a closely fought battle the Gills struggled to break down a resolute Pools defence as the game finished goalless. Reflecting on the game, Zakuani said: “It was a game where they sat behind the ball, so we had plenty of possession but we struggled to break them down. They didn’t pressure us from the back, but I think we played to their game plan. It’s a learning curve for a lot of the players.”

Zakuani was keen to praise Hartlepool’s defensive display as they kept Gills out to earn a replay at Victoria Park.

He added: “I think their game plan worked spot on. They came for a replay and it worked so credit to them.”

Both sides will battle it out again in ten days’ time to see who progresses in to the second round of the FA Cup but Zakuani remains hopeful that Gills can progress further.

He said:  “The positive is that they’ll be at home, so they’ll have a bit more of the ball and their fans will expect them to go for it which will help create the space that we need. But again, it’s a long journey and another game chucked in, so it’ll be a leveller.”

The Gills have improved defensively of late, shutting out Hartlepool to keep a third clean sheet in four games. Speaking on the improving defensive record, Zakuani said: “Yeah it’s pleasing, it was something that we had to improve. I think we look a lot more solid as a back four and a lot more solid as a team. It’s pleasing to get the clean sheet.”

Both Gillingham and Hartlepool will go in to the hat for Monday night’s draw and Zakuani for one, will be watching. He said: “We will keep an eye on it, it’s a bit of a carrot for us to go and win up there but we know that we have a job to do, and a tough one at that.”