Vadaine Oliver says Gills have not lost the opportunity to make a late charge for the play-offs.
Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and Vadaine Oliver winning an aerial duel. The imposing forward has been one of the most threating sights in Sky Bet League One this season, assisting and scoring his way into the division’s ‘Team of the Week’ on a regular basis.
After an impressive sequence of results, which saw Big V push his overall goal tally to 12, the Kent side stuttered against Fleetwood midweek. Oliver is now calling for a big response and says he will be “giving everything” to ensure their season gets back on track, starting this Saturday.
The eloquent striker spoke with local media via Zoom to reflect on Gillingham’s play-off credentials and a year of deserted arenas, as well as looking ahead to this weekend’s clash with Swindon Town.
Disappointment at Fleetwood
“They hit us with a sucker punch after just 45 seconds in with a penalty, which we can all see is not a penalty. From then, it became a scrappy game and there wasn’t a lot in it. We had chances but it wasn’t falling for us like it has done in recent weeks, but that’s football.
“We need to respond to that defeat. If we had beat them, we would really have put ourselves near the play-off spots. We are not down and out and it has not put an end to that. For us, we don’t just need a reaction because of the loss but a reaction because we still have a chance here.”
How far can the team go?
“Stick by us, you have seen what we are capable of on our day. If we can just get that consistency together and that mental drive of, ‘we have an opportunity here, let’s grasp it’, then I don’t see why we can’t be in and around it.
“Keep supporting us. We see the support and we read it online, we know it would be added help if you guys had been in the stadium, but we still feel that energy.
“We haven’t lost our opportunity to go on and achieve something and be in and around that play-off pack. It adds more pressure on the games coming up, but every game from now until the end of the season is a pressure game, if we want to achieve something. Every game is a cup final from now on. We have to give it everything. We have a real opportunity to muster up a charge.
“On our day we can beat anyone in this league, so we need that drive and enthusiasm.
“The one thing I don’t want, is thinking that we didn’t give it everything.”
A year without fans
“Fans are a huge part of the game, home and away. They can be that driving force to getting a result; they make a massive difference. At first it was a bit of a culture shock and a bit of a change to get use to but it has become normal and everyone is used to it.
“I think I speak for the team, and all the teams up and down the country, everyone is excited about the possibility of fans coming back really soon, especially if they can come back around those play-off times. People have been in the horrible position of lockdown for so long now, so I think you will see fans more than ever. I think you will see thousands and thousands of fans coming out just because they are allowed out of the house now. I think it will be really good for football once they can come back.
“Once fans are back, maybe all teams and players will need to adapt again. Empty stadiums have become the norm now. The young players who have just come through this year will have a big culture shock. It will be a big change, but it will be a change for the good. Games will have that intensity and that extra bit of character. There’s nothing than can compare to scoring, hearing that roar and seeing everyone celebrating; there is nothing like it.”
“I am a very instinctive striker and I try things just out of instinct. The game moves too quick to think too much. Confidence does play a massive part when you are coming off the back of scoring a few already. When you are confident, you might try things that you might not necessarily try if you are on a bit of a drought. If you are hunting and are aggressive it can lead to a mistake. Teams and players can become a bit more rattled.
“I feel like I am always going to affect a game, whether it is scoring, assisting or doing something for the team. It is a great feeling as a striker to go into a game confident. I think I have to credit the rest of the boys, there has been a lot of quality in the team that is helping me achieve what I am so far. There are still games to go and I am still hungry; I am not satisfied yet. Hopefully the run continues. I have a target, but I’ll keep that to myself.”
“We feel like we are always at our best when the intensity is high.
“If we’re in someone’s face with an intensity and pressure, then not many defenders can hack that sort of presence. Not just myself, but Demps, Olly Lee, Jordan Graham, Tommy O’Connor, Macca, John Akinde, whoever else is in there. When you’re in their face and it’s not just you but a few of you, teams seem to just fold against it. We can beat anyone because of that sheer intensity.”
Swindon on Saturday
“Teams in the relegation zone can be dangerous. Just because they are down there, don’t think that it is a given. They have something to fight for.
“I scored against them last time we played (Gillingham winning 1-0 back in early December) and the defenders that I played against that day, I feel like I got the beating of them, not just scoring the goal but my all round play. It does give you that edge of confidence but every game is different. On their day they can pose a real threat, they are a good side. It’s a new game and you have to tackle it head on.
“We won’t go into the game with any complacency. They have had a sticky run but we still have to be cautious. They are at this level and they can win games. We are focused on ourselves and know what we are capable of, but we have a mindful eye.”