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Harris | "We have set our standards now"

Gills boss reacts following 1-1 draw with Mansfield.

3 October 2023

The manager reflects on the weekend's game against Mansfield.

Neil Harris said he was pleased with the performance of his side against Mansfield, earning a solid point in the process following a 1-1 draw.

The game will be remembered for how the visitors scored their equaliser, but Harris wanted to focus on the positives, which included Macauley Bonne scoring his first goal for the club.

With a tough stretch of fixtures coming up, the Gills manager believes they will need to maintain that level of performance heading into October. 


Assessment of the performance... 

"I think that we have to accept that a point was a fair result in the end and a really strong performance. The way we used the ball and moved the ball at times. The way we penetrated their defence and got into good areas. We played well today and created the chances. 

"At the other end, we just had to be a little bit more secure at the back. We gave up too many chances, which hasn't been like us here at all, so that's the learning curve for two centre-halves who have not played a lot of football in particular and a goalkeeper who hasn't played a lot of football. That triangle has to dominate a little bit more.

"Ultimately, for the start of a two-week period, it is a strong point against a very good side." 


The Mansfield goal...

"It's a tough one. I'm not disputing the law so we can sit and talk, and we can watch it back and say that we should have kept the ball there and should have had better positional play. That is my job with the players to dissect that. 

"Ultimately, if we just focus on the moment. Ethan [Coleman] brings the lad down, and there's no debate. It's a foul and a yellow card.

"The Mansfield players are well within their right to put their hand on and play; there's no issue with that. The question to my two centre-halves is, do we protect the space well enough? That's the debate.

"The debate then becomes around the letter of the law, which says he can put his hand on it and play it. I said to the referee that is the letter of the law however, your actions as a referee with the whistle and with the card and with the gesture to book the player makes it clear to everybody in the ground that you're going to book a player.

"You allow them to take a quick free-kick six or seven yards further forward from where it was given away. Again, I am not going to dispute the rule on that. Ultimately, his body language and his demeanour has made our team stop and think it's a yellow card. I said that is taking the decision out of the game. He then has to bring it back. 

"I spoke to him, and he understands that. He needs to see it again and to discuss it with his coaches. The learning curve for us and my young centre-halves is that they have to expect the worst. I can understand my team stopping and why they did it. 

"I have not seen that for a long time in football. In my 25 years, I might have seen it once, maybe twice, and I might not see it again in my time in football. It's very contentious and very subjective. Ultimately, I think that we are right to feel hard done by in the moment.  


On Macauley Bonne...

"His performances have warranted it; he has been excellent. He knows as well as I do that strikers get judged on goal-scoring, and that is a fact. His all-round game has been exceptional. I thought today we saw another excellent performance.

"He led the line brilliantly, and he took his goal fantastically. A couple of good saves from the goalkeeper stopped him from adding to his tally. He is an important focal point of our team at the moment, and to get off the mark is really pleasing for him.

"He was disappointed last week at Doncaster and accepted criticism that he had not got on the scoresheet. I politely reminded him over the last few days about how well he did to get into those positions and how well he was playing. 


Looking ahead...

"We have five tough games in 14 days, and we have set our standard now, not just with the home point but with the level of the performance. We have to take that into Crewe on Tuesday night. 

"The challenge for the players when thinking towards Crewe is that they're on a great unbeaten home run. One of the longest in the division, if not the longest in the division. It is down to us to go and set ourselves up to go and win a game of football.

"We won our first three away games and have had a tough away game period. We were poor at Grimsby and should have won the game at Donny but didn't. I'm expecting that level of performance today, coupled with an away day mentality with strength, character and personality, to be putting in a strong performance on Tuesday."

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