Gills boss proud of fighting spirit as Stoke claim narrow cup win.
Steve Evans said he was immensely proud of his young team following Wednesday night’s narrow 1-0 defeat to Stoke in the Carabao Cup at the bet365 Stadium.
Gills were eliminated from the competition as a result but put on a brave show, particularly in the first half, to make Stoke work for their fourth round place.
Speaking after the game the Gaffer said: “I think in the first half we did really well in terms of organisation and shape. Obviously we are here with fairly limited resources; there are a number of young players I am immensely proud of.
“Joe Walsh, I would say, was playing in his first proper game, against a Championship club. You look at the back four, across the back they are 22, 21, 20 and 24. A few teenagers in midfield, so I think it was hard work for us but we were disciplined and we had a couple of half chances in the first half, balls across the box which we should get on the end of.
“We gave a poor goal away, it has to be said. It’s a simple ball up from the back that gets cut out, they counter attack and score. We said at half-time keep your shape and discipline; these are top players for Championship level and we might get that one chance.
“It never came, we never created it. We hung in, this team doesn’t give up.
“I thought Robbie McKenzie was outstanding; he was very good and Maghoma got a good run out which will bring him on, and Medley gets better.
“Connor Ogilvie could play for Stoke, that is the reality. Looking into midfield, Matty Willock is 24, young Henry was making his full proper competitive debut, who I thought was excellent. Scott Robertson too, he gets on the ball but we didn’t get enough of it for him to effect it, but he put a hell of a shift in. Graham and Coyle worked extremely hard; I am really proud of them and I told them to be proud of what they have done, but it should hurt that you have lost.”
Joe Walsh started in goal for the Gills, and the manager explained why this was:
“I made the decision for Jack Bonham not to make the trip,” he said. “He just felt his back twinge a little bit. I made that decision, but we ran that risk and we have come through. He should be fine to train Thursday or Friday and I’ll make a decision as to whether I feel I need to bring someone in.
“Ian Pledger has done a lot of work with Joe, improving his feet and distribution. Simon Royce started that in fairness; we had the option to bring in an emergency loan keeper and I said why are we not playing Walsh? We have to see if he is capable, and he has proved that. He needs to continue learning and continue to work hard on the training ground and when opportunities come he needs to grab them.”
Matty Willock was substituted just before half-time and the manager is hoping it isn’t too serious a problem.
He added: “He felt his hamstring go really tight, that can happen. He hasn’t had a lot of minutes, hopefully we got him off in time but that was disruptive as the midfield three had settled. I thought he controlled the right side to a degree; Scott and Henry helped him enormously and it blew the balance a little bit.”
Dominic Samuel travelled with the team but wasn’t named on the teamsheet, however the manager revealed there was always a possibility this may be the case.
He said: “You have to supply every detail now to the Football League when you register a player and we were simply waiting for the sign off from a consultant from a medical.
“We missed it by a matter of minutes, but he had a warm-up session.
“He was starting tonight so we were really disappointed to hear it hadn’t gone through in time. I wanted to play him for at least 45 to 60 minutes, and he was desperate to play, but he has a lot of Football to play for us.”