Gaffer | "Improving, but plenty of hard work still to be done"

Gillingham Manager chats to the club website following pre-season friendly at the Madejski Stadium.

Steve Evans says there is still lots of hard work to be done as his Gillingham side continue their preparations ahead of the new season.

Gills suffered a 2-1 defeat at Championship side Reading on Saturday afternoon but played very well in stages which pleased the boss, who revealed he is still looking for additions to improve the team.

Speaking to the club website at the Madejski Stadium he said: “We knew it was a test but the simplicity of the goals; we gave the ball away cheaply, they got a corner, we got outjumped for the corner and perhaps Jack should come, but the second one was sloppy.

“We had to regroup, rebuild and work our way into the game. After the first 30 minute break we said let's win the second period. We did that, there is no doubt it was a penalty and perhaps we should score a second goal. Jack Bonham made a stunning save from John Swift’s free-kick which keeps us in it, and I think the final third was end to end."

Gills conceded twice within a matter of seconds which turned the game on its head, but after equalising the visitors created a number of decent chances to draw level, and this gave the Gaffer a lot of encouragement having used a number of different players in a number of systems.

“We’ve certainly created good chances to equalise and they have aswell to perhaps go further in front,” Steve added. “From our point of view three or four different types of shape were deployed in the game, changes of personnel, and we tried one or two things.

“One or two things worked, one or two didn’t, but overall we have to come away and say it's another step on the journey. I am pleased with that, some of the boys had 90 minutes today which is where he had to go with some, others were just short of that.

“I’m pleased, but there were one or two sloppy passes.

“It was even considering the qualities they’ve got, and we were short of personnel and short on numbers. We made, you would say, three first-team changes from the bench; we couldn’t use young Trae [Coyle] today, or Matty [Willock], just slight things, and hopefully they will be available for Tuesday.

“I decided not to involve Matty and Trae. It was just precautionary. We need some players, we are talking to players, we are trying to improve the group, we will improve the group, and hopefully we have some additions, certainly by the middle of the week."

The Gills boss was particularly pleased with Kyle Dempsey and Stuart O’Keefe who worked well in the centre of the park.

He said: “The biggest compliment I can give to any of the squad is that Kyle Dempsey could have played for Reading, he was absolutely outstanding today and Stuart O’Keefe was very good in there with him.

“Vadaine Oliver is carrying a dead leg, knock, call it what you like. He came on for the final half an hour and put himself about. Their manager asked why he was on the bench, but he was because he was carrying a knock, we’ll get him the right treatment and hopefully he’s okay to start Tuesday, or certainly Saturday.”

Robbie McKenzie featured for the first time since signing for the club on Friday morning, and the boss is pleased to get him on board as he will provide stern competition for existing players.

He added: “That kid has trained for two days, proper training. He wasn’t going to be playing for Hull City post-COVID break. I thought he was going to a club in the north for three days, but it changed, he changed, he spoke to his family and he fancied it. We had a good positive chat, he played at centre back today but is accomplished at right back, left back, or in the centre of the park.

“I’m pleased that Jack Tucker could have a little break, sit back and watch. He is not going to be an automatic choice and hopefully by the beginning of the week we can sign someone who is an out and out centre back, and then there are four good players for either two or three of them to play.”

Finally, the Gaffer delivered his assessment on how pre-season is going so far:

“Positive, improving, understanding and getting better,” he said. “Lots and lots of hard work still to be undertaken. Some are still working on their fitness, having had a lot of time off, with three weeks to be ready against Hull City.

“Before that we have Southend in the cup, I know their Manager well and they will be committed. We will go to Stevenage next Saturday and we are talking to a couple of clubs about playing on the Tuesday ahead of Southend.”