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Harris | "We've got to make sure we are defensively right"

Gills boss says his players need to be defensively solid ahead of Tuesday's game at Stockport.

6 March 2023


Harris | "We've got to make sure we are defensively right"

Gills boss says his players need to be defensively solid ahead of Tuesday's game at Stockport.

6 March 2023

Neil Harris previews the trip to Stockport and reflects on Saturday's 0-0 draw at Harrogate.

Gills manager Neil Harris was pleased that his side came away with a hard-fought point and clean sheet in the 0-0 draw at Harrogate.

Timothee Dieng returned to the Gillingham starting XI after suffering a concussion in the win against AFC Wimbledon, and Harris was glad to have the midfielder back fit and believed it was the right time to bring him back into the line-up.

With the fixtures coming thick and fast, the Gills boss admits that focus quickly moves to Stockport, who will provide a stern test on Tuesday night.  



The setup... 

Aiden [O'Brien] gives us so much versatility. To be able to play off the left, off the right and upfront. Hawks [Oli Hawkins] and Nico [Tom Nichols] have been excellent for me as a pair. Aiden's done really well since coming in, and he just needs that goal just to get going. Obviously, we know that [Timothee] Dieng and [George] Lapslie are forward runners and have scored goals for us already. I felt that I had goal scorers in the team.


I felt that without Dom Jefferies' energy, his forward running, and his legs, that going with the three players behind the front pair was going to be key for us. It just wasn't to be in that moment in the box.


Injury updates...

Obviously, Alex MacDonald missed out during the week because he was ill. He trained yesterday [Friday], fortunately, so I was really pleased to have him back in the group. 


Dom [Jefferies] was injured on Tuesday night with bruising to the ankle, and we don't think that there was any ligament damage, but he certainly wasn't ready today. 


[Robbie McKenzie] Tuesday is very unlikely. Next Saturday is a lot more positive. With a groin injury, until you start kicking balls, you don't really know. As much as he feels a lot better in his movement patterns, he's not back on the grass running in straight lines. I do feel that we miss Robbie's versatility and reliability. 


The return of Timothee Dieng...

He's a seasoned pro, an experienced player, who's got real quality. He's added so much since coming in, in January. I just felt that it was right to put him back in. 


[Regarding his concussion] We thought that he might be slightly behind the curve with it. He saw the doctor late on Thursday, and it was a lot more positive. He came in Friday and ticked the box by taking part in a bit of contact training, which gave us the option of bringing him, with a view to being involved from the bench or in the starting line-up.


I just felt with fresh legs, the fresh energy that he'd bring, and the determination to want to play. I thought it was right to bring him back in. 


The signing of Lewis Page...

Everyone would've looked at Lewis Page and gone- 'Oh, West Ham and Charlton, a good player.' I know he's a good player. I know that he's a really good player, but he's had a real stop-start period for a few years now. He's not played a lot of football this year.


We had the opportunity for Lewis to come and train with us, which he did. He played in a 60-minute game against Dover last week for us and did extremely well. Lewis isn't quite ready at the moment, but it's an opportunity between now and the end of the season for Lewis to train with us. To have a look at us, for me to look at him, and for us to assess him as well to where we see him moving forwards. It gives us even more strength in depth in a position where ultimately when you take Robbie McKenzie out of the squad, we are quite light in the defensive positions. 


Whether he's got any involvement this week, we'll have to see. It's not one where I need to rush him because it's not about being selfish in rushing him, and him then doing a hamstring and being out for the rest of the season and all summer. We have to be mindful to him but also, can we get him up to speed to maybe have some involvement in games?


Stockport on Tuesday...

I've not watched them yet. That'll be my job on the bus on the way home, to watch Stockport and get more of a picture of them. I've not seen a lot of them recently, I've got to be honest. What I do know is that the form guide is favourable to them. They've got an unbelievable squad of players, an embarrassment of riches at this level. They are a team that should be at the top of the league. 


For us, it's another challenge. Another test for us on the back of a Mansfield and a Bradford, where there's not been a lot in the games. We've got to make sure that we get it defensively right, but we also have those moments of quality as well. Our next test is to come out of a game against a top-six side and come out on the right end of a positive result.

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