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Gillingham manager Neil Harris previews trip to Stevenage to face Steve Evans' promotion chasing side in League 2 clash

Gillingham take on high-flying Stevenage and old boss Steve Evans buoyed by an encouraging Thursday night performance.

With just two wins and seven goals scored, bottom-of-the-table Gills will hang onto any positives coming their way and there were encouraging signs at Sutton United, even in defeat.

Gillingham boss Neil Harris was encouraged by their performance at Sutton on Thursday
Gillingham boss Neil Harris was encouraged by their performance at Sutton on Thursday

A trip to second placed Stevenage marks the halfway point of the season and the last game before manager Neil Harris can welcome any of his January signings into the fold.

“It is another challenge isn’t it?” said the Gills boss. “We played extremely well against them at our place, a 1-1 draw, and probably deserved to win the game.

“We know Stevenage are a big physical side who play one way and they are very good at it, very competitive, it is a great challenge.

“We have to break this run. (Thursday) was a step in the right direction, even with a defeat, looking at the manner in which we played and the chances that we created, if we play like that then we will score goals.

“We have to look at the positives, there has been a lot of negative this season and the league table doesn’t lie, we aren’t kidding anyone, but (at Sutton) we did play well.”

The 2-1 defeat came off the back of a 1-0 home loss to Colchester United on Boxing Day, a forgettable game played out between two teams clearly struggling.

Harris picked a team at Sutton who he felt would give him their all and they did.

“It was a more encouraging performance,” he said. “I watched (the Colchester game) back, we were miles the better team in that one as well and gave a poor goal away. We didn’t create enough, didn’t create enough pressure, but (against Sutton) we created chances, created pressure, played well, that is what we have, we have to have characters on the pitch.

“I didn’t necessarily pick a typical Neil Harris team but I picked players who I thought would compete for me, players who I wanted to play, players I felt deserved an opportunity, because they compete, they train well every day and they are good characters and that is what we need more of.”

Steve Evans and Neil Harris embrace before the match at Priestfield that ended 1-1
Steve Evans and Neil Harris embrace before the match at Priestfield that ended 1-1

The Gills lost in stoppage-time at Sutton. It’s now 11 without a win in League 2 for the Gills but a goal in the 2-1 defeat ended the run without scoring. They are waiting on their first away victory in the league after picking up just four points from 11 games.

Harris said: “Yes it was difficult to lose to a last minute goal but we did play very well at times and I think we showed with the group of players that I picked and brought on that that is the way forward and letting them play with a little more freedom.

“We are looking to add further players to the group, to add to what we have got, because like (on Thursday) we had numerous chances and were not clinical.

"I am delighted to have made the chances, delighted we have got bodies in the box and we have been brave enough to be creative. Kashket should score, Dom (Jefferies) should score, Mika (Mandron) should score, Robbie (McKenzie) scored one but should have scored first half, Shaun Williams should have hit the target with a couple of shots, MacDonald and Hakeeb (Adelakun) score 25-yarders day after day in training so they will be disappointed they haven’t hit the target.

"We played a lot more positively. I take pride in that but no pleasure in the result.”

Monday’s opponents Stevenage beat Crawley Town 3-1 on Friday night and are five points off leaders Leyton Orient in the League 2 table. They have lost just one game at home in the league this season under Evans as they chase promotion.

Crawley are without a manager as Matthew Etherington was sacked after just 32 days in charge. Former Gills striker Darren Byfield took the team on Friday, joined in the dugout by the club’s co-chairman Preston Johnson. Fans of the club are upset over losing some of their top players, including star striker Tom Nichols to Gillingham.

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