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Gaffer | "We won a game of chess"

Steve Evans pleased to see a change of shape pay off as Gills come from 1-0 down to defeat MK Dons.

3 March 2021

Gills boss delighted with the second half performance of his team as they come from 1-0 down to win 3-2 in Kent.

Under the floodlit hazy fog on Tuesday night, Gillingham and MK Dons’ football match unravelled like a complex game of chess, something that was noted by Gillingham manager Steve Evans who was quick to adjust his tactics to defeat a difficult opponent.

“We were playing chess and we had to be clever when we moved,” said Evans after the gripping five-goal encounter. “We had to be clever when they moved their pieces.”

The Gills started sluggishly and were behind with barely four minutes on the clock; Will Grigg firing the visitors ahead after an impressive sweeping team move.

Shortly after the goal, Gills full-back Ryan Jackson went down injured, giving Evans an opportunity to regroup, reorganise and implement a more fruitful strategy.

A restructured Gills fought back with a powerful Jordan Graham penalty and a composed Vadaine Oliver finish and looked to be heading into the interval 2-1 to the good, until Warren O’Harra equalised in the sixth minute of added time to level the score at 2-2.

The game continued to unfold in a careful contest of defence and attack until Gills ultimately toppled their opponent when Connor Ogilvie struck with only 16 minutes remaining. The defender brutally lashed home from close range, leaving the home side to proficiently shut up shop to see out the game as 3-2 winners.

Evans, speaking to the press after the game, said he was delighted with his team's display: “They climbed ten-foot walls in their bare feet. Our players stood up to the challenge and worked really hard to get the win they deserved. I’m proud of every one of our boys.

“We knew we had to change shape after five minutes and that we hadn’t got it right. We worked on two options on the training ground; we said to the boys pre-game we may have to change it. We were thinking later in the game, not after seven or eight minutes!

“For seven or eight minutes we didn’t put any of the plans we put into place into action. We changed it round and we were by far the better side.

“We were like a tortoise in a shell, we didn’t move, we sat there but it was amazing, the minute we gave them an expression of freedom to play, Dempsey rose from the ashes, the likes of Olly Lee and Jordan Graham responded and Vadaine became like he did against Portsmouth, he was unplayable.

“We were disappointed to go in 2-2 at half time. I said to the players, the one thing that is not going to change is the way MK play. We have to retain our shape and discipline and when we get our opportunities we have to act. We did that, we found a way to beat a possession based team.

“Second half you always expect a reaction, they got a reaction in terms of changing the shape and personnel, but if I am being honest with 20 minutes to go, they completely ran out of ideas.

“We won a game of chess. I’m proud of our players. I think our supporters will be really pleased tonight.”

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