Published: 06:00, 27 November 2020
| Updated: 08:27, 28 November 2020
Gillingham’s weekend FA Cup opponents scored six on Tuesday night and boss Steve Evans reckons they could have had eight in a recent game he watched.
It’s no wonder Evans isn’t taking the League 2 side lightly ahead of their trip to Priestfield on Saturday for the second round cup match.
The Grecians are riding high in the division below the Gills, thumping Colchester 6-1 in midweek, and Evans has seen enough of them to know what to expect.
He said: “What we have to do is be ready and prepared to play against, for me, a team that will be in League 1 next year. I have seen enough of their live games and recordings.
“I travelled up to Bradford to watch them, they were terrific and they could have scored seven or eight. It was 2-2 but it could have been 8-2 to Exeter."
Their midweek hat-trick hero striker Ryan Bowman said it could have been 10-1 against Colchester such was the team's superiority, producing 27 shots on goal.
Evans, from his own previous viewing, said: “I thought they were wonderful and they have a beautiful mixture of experience and youth and they have a good young manager. When he got the job I was interested to see how he would do and he has gone from strength to strength because they were a poor side when he got the job. He has turned it around.
“We don't underestimate Exeter for one minute. We have total respect for them but I will have to change it up a bit
“I have to give minutes to some people because as everyone knows we are Saturday-Tuesday until Christmas and we don’t want to be getting hamstring strains.”
Gillingham are now allowed to use extra substitutes for the rest of the season in the league, to help with the condensed schedule. From last Saturday teams in the EFL could play five from seven named subs. Charlton used four on Saturday and the Dons their full quota on Tuesday.
“I don’t agree with it,” said Evans, who had previously spoken of his reservations, believing the top clubs with the big squads now have an advantage.
“It is better for the likes of Ipswich, Sunderland and Portsmouth but we will get on with it because it is a democratic decision and I manage democratically with my staff and I always will.”
Midfielder Scott Robertson, on loan from Celtic, is likely to return to the team after being rested on Tuesday as Evans didn’t want to overload him with minutes, having just come back from injury.
Tom O’Connor is out with a hamstring strain and Evans was furious that he played a midweek international for Republic of Ireland under-21s despite claiming they knew of the injury.
“It was a disgraceful decision to play him,” he told the club’s website.
Evans does now have Alex MacDonald back available after his three-game ban. He was sent off against Sunderland but put in a top performance against Wimbledon.
“He did great,” Evans said. “I am a huge Alex MacDonald fan, huge. But when he did what he did against Sunderland I hate him, simple. It is black and white, you can’t do that and he knows it.
"He got the cold shoulder treatment for two or three weeks but he knows us, he knows that when he works hard and when he goes back into training you have to work hard and smart and on Monday he was stunning in training.
“Alex ran himself into the ground on Tuesday, he will bounce back in on Thursday, and be the infectious character that he is.”