Lovell calls for players to bounce back and show character after setback.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell was left to rue defensive mistakes against Walsall at the Medway Priestfield Stadium on Saturday and called for his players to show mental strength in the battle against the drop in Sky Bet League One.
Two headers from Andy Cook within the first 20 minutes put the Saddlers in command of the game at half-time, before Cook wrapped up the 3-0 victory within two minutes of the second half as he span and fired home to grab his hat-trick.
Lovell was particularly disappointed that the Gills defence failed to deal with Cook as the Saddlers’ target man put the game beyond the reach of the hosts.
“Mark Patterson [Gillingham’s Assistant Manager] spends hours going through analysis, what their strengths are from set plays, how we can stop them scoring goals from these areas, Cook peeling off to the far post. And he scores two goals at the far post.
“I’m lost for words really. We work all week on things, the way we want to start games and set out to play, we do it in training and it looks lovely. We come here and freeze – our players looked scared stiff on the ball.
“We started sloppy, people were losing the ball in areas they shouldn’t and it just didn’t happen.
“It’s happened too many times this year. You can’t legislate for one individual’s mistake or switching off.
“We will pick the holes out of it on Monday. We’ll get everybody in and go through it, and keep working on these things to try and eradicate the mistakes that we are making.”
With some important games coming up in the League with the Gills poised just one point above the drop zone, Lovell called on his players to show character in their bid to pull clear of danger.
“It’s the mentality – that’s the big thing I’m questioning," he said. "Are they strong enough characters to get through the phase that we are going through?
“That’s part of football – you’ve got to take the criticism, but this is where they need to be strong because this is a terrible defeat for us. A defeat that we deserved.
“I’m not going to get carried away too much, because we have been on a decent run and the boys have done really well. It was a bad day at the office, but it’s how they bounce back, they’ve done it before and they will do it again.
“It’s tight down there. It’s a battle that we’ve been in before so I know what to expect, and I know what is needed to get out of it, but we can’t give goals away at any level.”
Matt Jarvis returned to the Medway Priestfield Stadium for the first time since leaving the Club but Lovell felt his team could have dealt with the wide man better.
“He’s been out a long time and he’s come back and caused us problems in the first half which you expect him to.
“But, we’ve been coming across players like that all season and dealt with them. We never dealt with the fella sticking them in the back of the net – that was the problem.”