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Gillingham skipper Gabriel Zakuani says clean sheets prove hard work is paying off

By Matthew Panting

Gabriel Zakuani believes two clean sheets has boosted Gillingham’s defensive confidence.

The Gills had shipped eight goals in three games before home wins over Bradford and Fleetwood where they haven’t conceded a goal.

“Everyone’s happy at the moment because it has come together,” said Zakuani.

Gabriel Zakuani and fellow defender Luke O'Neill celebrate at the final whistle on Saturday Picture: Ady Kerry
Gabriel Zakuani and fellow defender Luke O'Neill celebrate at the final whistle on Saturday Picture: Ady Kerry

“We had a bad run but the last two games have gone exactly to plan.

“We were quite nervy last week because of the results before that. We always know the goals can come if we can defend decently.

“When you’re on a bad run, they might have got a couple of goals. We’re working hard and are (starting to get) that luck we deserve.

“As a team we’ve got a lot of experience in the back four, the talking is showing on the pitch and we’re growing in confidence. Tomas (Holy) looked commanding coming for crosses, we’re building that trust and each game is getting better and better.

“Tom Eaves and the strikers are judged on scoring goals, we’re judged on goals against.

“We needed to tighten up, even though a lot of the goals we conceded before were unfortunate and against the run of play.

“Keeping clean sheets builds confidence for the defence and I wanted to make sure that we got that.”

Skipper Zakuani has also seen the improvement in midfielder Darren Oldaker at close range – travelling in with the teenager from Surrey every morning.

“He’s sick of me now to be honest,” joked Zakuani. “I’ve been very hands-on with him because we come in together as we both live in Surrey. We come in together so he’s getting tired of me messaging him.

“We all know the ability he’s got, we’ve got to put our arm around him because he’s that sort of player and tell him how good he is every day.

“As long as he keeps his feet on the ground and goes game by game then he won’t go far wrong.

“We tell him how good he is and what he can be. If he listens to us then he won’t go far wrong because for natural ability he’s one of the best youngsters I’ve seen.

“He’s a laid-back character and he needs a grown man to tell him what to do. He needs to keep learning, he’s listening and it’s paying off for him. He does it without thinking, he’s very technically gifted.

“He’s on the same page as everyone and his ability is coming out on top. I see him like a foreign player as he has great balance and range of passing, I don’t know where he’s learnt all that!”

Gills entertain Blackpool on Tuesday night, knowing victory could move them up as high as 14th in the table.

It is the third game in a run of five successive matches at Priestfield, and Zakuani is keen for the Gills to cash in.

“We’ve got to make this place a fortress now,” he stated. “Our fans are turning up in numbers home and away, and we’ve got to show them that we’ve got it in us to do it.

“They appreciate the effort anyway but now the results are coming in we can’t relax, we’ve got to keep going.

“It will be another tough game. If we can get on the front foot, hopefully take the lead, then we can go on and win it. We’ll take each game as it comes but hopefully we can go on and produce.

“It will be massive (to win again) and hopefully we can concentrate on looking up (the table) rather than behind us.”

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