The Chairman's programme notes for our game against Shrewsbury.
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, and welcome back to MEMS Priestfield Stadium for tonight’s Sky Bet League fixture against Shrewsbury Town.
Firstly I’d like to extend a warm welcome to our good friends from Shropshire, including Chairman Roland Wycherley, along with his team of directors, guests, management, players and supporters that have made the long trip for tonight’s game and we wish you all a safe journey home following the final whistle. We come into this evening’s fixture off the back of two really frustrating defeats, to both Burton and Wigan respectively. Last Saturday week we went a goal up against the Brewers, courtesy of a well worked set play routine, and there was the ever reliable Robbie McKenzie from close range to give Steve Lovell the perfect start in caretaker charge. I was really impressed with our first half performance; we looked organized, resolute, well drilled and defended extremely well against a very strong side.
Unfortunately, in the second half, we conceded early and then couldn’t make the most of our territory at 1-1 to seize back control of the game, and we let in two more goals which flattered Burton in my view. We perhaps didn’t deserve to win the match, but I did feel the boys deserved a point. And the same could be said for Saturday’s game at the DW.
I write these notes on Sunday night, 24 hours after getting back from Greater Manchester, and I remain deeply frustrated that we didn’t have anything to show for our second half efforts. Our first half performance was flat; we were camped in our half for much of the opening 45 minutes and we didn’t have enough of the ball to gain any type of momentum, but at half-time we changed personnel, and shape, and looked a completely different side.
Charlie Kelman and Ben Reeves made a huge impact and, having shown incredible character to come back from two goals down to level the game, it was disappointing to concede a third from a set play, when we were commanding possession and had Wigan on the back foot, struggling to contain us.
The full-time whistle went and, like many of you who were at the DW, and listening at home, my head was in my hands. I was so disappointed for the players who had worked so hard to claw back from two goals down, only to be undone from a set piece. From what I gather, nothing was muttered in the dressing room at full-time. Sometimes nothing needs to be said, however although the first half performance was far from our best, our second half display was excellent and we can take heart from that.
We have 20 massive fixtures coming up now and we need to pick up from where we left off at the DW. I’d like to pay tribute to the 196 fans that were in the away end at Wigan. The support was magnificent; you sang your hearts out and in the second half you provided the lift the team needed to try and get back in the game, and the boys responded.
That’s exactly what we need going forwards. Steve Lovell and Alex MacDonald have been working extremely hard off the field; no stone has been left unturned over the last couple of weeks and it’s just disappointing that we haven’t managed to add to our points tally. However, the fightback starts tonight. There are plenty of points to play for; everyone legitimately has a belief we can get out of the situation we are in, but we need to get wins on the board as soon as possible to put pressure on the sides above us. Admittedly, it won’t be easy, but throwing in the towel is not an option.
That is not the Gillingham way. We will not give up.
I appreciate many of you are eager to know what the management situation will be until at least the end of the season. I am not one to rush these type of decisions, I carefully consider all avenues, speak to the appropriate people and, ultimately, make a decision which is in the bests interests of the Football Club. By the time you read these notes, I may well have made my choice but, if not, we will communicate anything as soon as we can.
Rest assured, I want to get this right, and if that means taking one or two more days, so be it.
As for tonight, we know what to expect from Shrewsbury. Over the years their record here at Priestfield is actually very good, so we need to address that. Daniel Phillips returns from suspension and hopefully Ben Reeves is available for selection after sustaining a knock on Saturday. The boys know how important this game is; three points could really kick start the second half of our campaign and they’ll be going all out to claim victory.
They’ll need you guys loud and proud in the stands from start to finish. I appreciate the situation we are in is not good, being bottom of the league is never a pleasant sight, but I ask you to do what you can to support the team. Positivity from the stands will translate into positivity on the pitch, and if we can achieve victory, that could well be the catalyst we require as we head into the last three months of the season. Let’s get this place rocking.
Up the Gills!
Paul D P Scally