The Gillingham manager reflects on the win at Dartford and previews the week ahead.
Gills boss Neil Harris was very pleased with aspects of the performance against Dartford but also emphasised there is work to be done prior to the opening league fixture of the season against Stockport on August 5.
Shaun Williams scored a brace at Princes Park with Tim Dieng, Dom Jefferies and Jayden Clarke also getting on the scoresheet. Following Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat to Charlton, Harris was impressed with the sharpness his side possessed in both penalty areas throughout a clinical display.
However, with the 2023/24 season edging ever closer, Harris knows that there are still things to improve upon before the trip to Edgeley Park.
Assessment of the game…
I thought that when we moved the ball quickly, we looked very productive and very sharp in that penalty area and around it. We had pace and legs in the team, and I thought we used the ball wisely. There was some good experience in the team, and I thought there was a good blend.
Today I thought we looked more like where we should be after four weeks of pre-season. Physically we looked a lot sharper and brighter than Dartford. We made a lot of good decisions today.
My only gripe that I said to the players, and I don’t always want to finish on a negative, is that managing the game has to be better. We gave a really physical team way too many opportunities to put the ball in our box and ask questions. If we do that against a League Two opponent, then we will come unstuck. That’s the learning curve from today. For us moving forward, it’s to manage the game better as a group.
On Shaun Williams…
Shaun’s got that knack of popping up in the right place at the right time, as we saw in the 90th minute against Carlisle last season. He’s not always had an opportunity to do it during his career and won’t get a load of opportunities this year to do it.
When he does, he is clinical; he strikes a very good ball. Even the timing of the run; it’s not just about the delivery or the header itself if the contact is good and the ball is good but it’s the timing of the movement, which is important.
Shaun Williams has a dozen caps for the Republic of Ireland, and he’s played at that level to know to get that timing right.
Running-wise, we’ve been absolutely fine in the games. The lads have been excellent in pre-season training, and we’ve covered a lot of distance with straight-line running training-wise. With the short and sharper stuff, I thought we looked slightly behind Millwall, a Championship side. I thought it was even with Charlton for 55 minutes, but I thought where we lacked a little bit was in both boxes.
Over the last couple of days, there’s been a lot of time with attack versus defence and sharpening up defensively and attacking-wise in the last 22 yards of the pitch.
The week ahead…
We’ve got a game on Tuesday and a game Saturday. That will be for minutes. Minutes are the main thing. We’re still looking at formations and combinations and we’re still looking to recruit in the window. We’ve still got to think about that if players come in this week, where are they at minutes-wise, and what minutes do they need.
It's making sure that the players get the right distance covered, the right speed and as many minutes as we need in their legs. That’ll be the main outcome of the next two games. Coupled with the football side of it, which is to keep adapting our play and build-up play. Keep progressing in the final third with sharpness and quality, and then make sure that defensively we’re sharpening up around the box to make sure we’ve got a clean sheet mentality as well.
The things I bemoaned on Tuesday with both penalty areas, I thought we covered quite well today. It’s amazing what you get the chance to do with two or three training sessions and where it elevates you to. Between now and Stockport, we’ve got a chance in four or five more sessions as well as the two games, to keep adapting that.