Plenty of positive displays, says Gills assistant boss.
Gills Assistant Manager Paul Raynor says there were a number of encouraging individual performances to be pleased about following the 1-1 draw with Arsenal at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Trae Coyle scored against his parent club to seal a point in the club’s final Papa John’s Trophy group stage game, which proved enough to send Steve Evans’ side through to the next round as runners-up to the Gunners who gained a bonus point by winning the resulting penalty shootout.
Speaking after the game, Raynor said: "I thought it was an excellent performance against an excellent Arsenal team. They have got some fantastic individual players but I felt we were always in the game. We created opportunities; I thought we controlled their possession, it was a mistake for their goal but on the whole, for 90 minutes, I thought we were the better team, we were always a threat and we are just disappointed to lose in a penalty shootout, which can happen.”
Coyle, and fellow Arsenal loanee Zech Medley, were given permission to play against their parent club, and Raynor said both are progressing well at League 1 level.
“We are delighted with both of them, they are obviously good young players and Arsenal have many of them. We identified these two guys as players that would develop here; Zech has slotted in at centre-back, and left-back. Steve Bould [Arsenal Coach] said some nice things about them and their development under us; they will keep learning and they’ll really benefit from this period with us.
“They are here to learn and be coached; they have been coached very well at Arsenal but are also learning the other side of the game in League 1 where it’s a bit more feisty, they need to be a bit more aggressive as points are at stake, that’s the difference. They are great lads, they learn, listen, take everything on the chin and had some disappointments when they’ve not been in the team, but they have responded really well and I thought both did well.
“Trae made a big difference on Saturday, he’s got his goal and every time he got the ball he looked a threat. He's had a bit of a stop/start beginning to his Gillingham career; he came in, scored a goal at Wigan and was a little bit unfortunate to go out [of the team], Dominic Samuel came in and scored a couple of goals so he’s been waiting for his opportunity.
“I thought he grasped it tonight, and on Saturday, and he’s looked a real threat.
“I thought Henry Woods was excellent; he is coming on leaps and bounds and he has been a massive plus for us. Maghoma and Drysdale look more confident; I thought there were some excellent performances all round.”
Matty Willock, Alex MacDonald and Josh Eccles all got minutes under their belt, and Raynor said it’s important that all members of the squad get game time so they are ready when called upon.
He added: “We asked him [Matty] to go a bit higher and have a bit more belief to intercept the ball and get a bit closer to Vadaine, and later to Dominic Samuel. He was a lot more effective in the second half, he won possession nice and high up the pitch and he was a constant threat. He just needs minutes and game time; he has been striving for that since he came through the door a year ago.
“If he can get a run of games and get that consistency then he’ll be an asset for us.
“Josh came in and did really well at the start but they are young players, they are always going to be a little bit inconsistent, they are here to learn their trade and are learning on the job.
“We’ve got to get results as they are learning which isn’t always easy but we are really pleased with the performance; we are just disappointed to lose on penalties.
“We know what Macca is about; we had him at Mansfield and he did a great job for us there. He’s an experienced professional, he’s taken the challenge against Sunderland on the chin. He’s bounced back with a good performance and he’s invaluable in the dressing room, he’s a real character in and around the group.
“We said to the guys, ahead of the Woking game, and Tuesday, we would utilise the whole of the squad. Everybody that is available has played in the two games; great game time, good individual performances, so a real plus."