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Gillingham 2 Crystal Palace 3: Gills boss Neil Harris reacts to pre-season friendly encounter at Priestfield

Manager Neil Harris was a happy man after seeing his Gillingham side take on Crystal Palace at Priestfield.

The Gills conceded twice early on before getting back into the match with two goals of their own through Olly Lee. Premier League Palace won it 3-2 with a penalty from Wilfried Zaha.

Gillingham manager Neil Harris was pleased with his side's performance against Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin
Gillingham manager Neil Harris was pleased with his side's performance against Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin

It was a pre-season that had atmosphere in the stands and some quality play on the pitch, not always from the South London side. While Zaha was a class-act, Olly Lee knocked a goal in for the Gills with a heel while livewire forward Jordan Green once again showed he has no fear.

“Palace were the better team,” Harris said. “They are a Premier League team. The biggest thing for me, I am a happy man afterwards because lessons were learned from Saturday. I wasn’t happy after that game (against Portsmouth) with some of the aspects.

“The shape against a fantastic group of players was very good, we limited them to not many chances, I could pick bones in the goals (against). The first one was excellent play by a terrific footballer (Zaha). Second one I was a little disappointed with, I thought we could have done better in various areas, but when you are 2-0 down against a good side we had to show a bit of character second half.

“I thought we played on the front foot, we moved the ball really well, we showed a lot of attributes with and without the ball that will set us in good stead this season and we scored a couple of goals ourselves, not 25-30 yarders but good moves to get us into those positions, really pleased.

“It looks like we have come through unscathed, which is probably the most important thing, we had no Ben Reeves or Stuart O’Keefe (through injury), it was really important we came through and I’m delighted with the six days we have had, I am delighted with that. I couldn’t have asked for a tougher six days for the players.”

The Gills played Championship side Luton Town last Wednesday and hosted League 1 Portsmouth on Saturday before Palace brought a top side to Priestfield on a stifling hot Tuesday night.

Harris said: “We have worked a lot physically and recruited a hell of a lot of players, every game we have got things wrong. Folkestone probably not so much without the ball, but with the ball we got things wrong, but we were solid enough to win comfortably in the end.

“Dover we were exceptional with the football from box to box but we just left ourselves exposed at the back but we could have won the game by eight or nine goals. We have been to Luton, played Portsmouth and played Crystal Palace, three exceptional opponents and we have played really well in spells.

“I want us to play from the back, through the thirds, I want us to run forward and play forward, I want us to be good in both boxes, I don’t want us to turn the ball over that leads to goals, we have to smarten up on that and be cleverer but we have to remember we are playing against good opponents.

“We will play against good opponents in League 2, but maybe not as many good players as we have played in the last week.”

It was like a cup game at times on Tuesday night, with both sets of fans in good voice and a bit of spice to the play too. Zaha and Christian Benteke had put Palace two-up. Jordan Green got at them second half, creating an opening that led to Lee scoring the opener and then winning a penalty for the same player to make it 2-2.

Green then gave away a penalty that Zaha converted for 3-2. The Palace man had taken some stick from the Gills fans but was gracious enough to sign autographs for the home fans after he was substituted, still going at it 15 minutes after being replaced.

Harris said: “Palace fans were brilliant, our fans really enjoyed the game and the challenge, to come from two behind and get a couple back against a Premier League team is exciting.

“It almost had a cup atmosphere at times, I really enjoyed it, but what an opportunity for the players. A lot of our players aren’t going to play Premier League football, maybe not get a cup run, to get a chance to do that, for me to ask Palace to come down and give us a game is great for them.”

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