Home   Medway   Sport   Article

Gillingham 1 Stevenage 1: Reaction from Neil Harris after a League 2 point at Priestfield

Gillingham turned in a first-half performance on Saturday that was as good as anything manager Neil Harris has seen since taking charge.

The Gills took the game to the league leaders Stevenage and should have taken the lead when Scott Kashket missed from close-range. Danny Rose opened the scoring to put the visitors ahead before Elkan Baggott powered in a header to level it up. The match finished 1-1 as the Gills ended the game holding onto what they had earned.

Lewis Walker wins a header for Gillingham Picture: KPI
Lewis Walker wins a header for Gillingham Picture: KPI

Harris said: “The first half was up there as one of the best performances we have had since I have been at the club, we had quality, chances, we were playing a well-drilled side and I thought we absolutely dominated them first half. Second half was more backs to the wall, we had to dig in, it was a really strong performance.

“I was really pleased with the character of the boys, really pleased with the point, when you are a team that is growing and you play a top of the league team that has won six out of seven (in the league) then you have to stand strong. I am really proud of the players.

“First half, they have one effort that goes in the back of the net and that is what money buys you, it was a great header (from Rose). We’re disappointed as a unit that we didn’t defend the cross better but we could have been infront with Kashy’s chance just before.

“We got ourselves level with a good finish ourselves. I thought we were excellent, we stood up to the physical challenge.

“We knew what was coming and I picked a team accordingly. We talk about how direct they are but they are really good at what they do, really good at it, we stood strong. I knew an experienced manager (in Steve Evans) would have to make a change. We made the top side in the league change shape at half-time against us because we were so on top and then I had to adjust during the second half.

“I didn’t feel overly threatened but there was one moment we switched off, allowed (Jordan) Roberts to go through on goal [he missed a one-on-one]. That probably cancels out Kash’s (missed chance) and over the 90 minutes I would say a draw is a fair result.”

Steve Evans returns to Priestfield with Stevenage, sharing a pre-match embrace with Neil Harris Picture: KPI
Steve Evans returns to Priestfield with Stevenage, sharing a pre-match embrace with Neil Harris Picture: KPI

It was a fitting performance for the Gills as they marked the passing of former kitman Malcolm Stedman before kick-off with a minute’s applause.

“The players reacted off the fans didn’t they,” Harris said. “First two minutes Stevenage got into our box a couple of times but then we rallied and we asked a lot of questions, played in the right areas, got some good quality and the fans got right behind us.

“Second half when we had to dig in a little bit, they supported us and helped us get across the line to get a valuable point.

“I knew Malcolm from when I was a player and then coming back and watching games. Malcolm hasn’t worked for us since I have been at the club but I used to welcome him in whenever he wanted, to come and have a cup of tea. He knew some of the staff really well, some of them are devastated. His grandson Jack works for us as well, on an ad hoc basis, a smashing young man, I feel the family’s pain, but he was a cracking bloke.

“It was a performance to be proud of, it was mentioned in my team-talk before the game and that is all we can do.”

There were some fireworks on the sideline at the end, with former Gills boss Evans angry over a comment from the home bench. The Stevenage manager was also unhappy with the referee’s performance, getting himself a booking for protesting at the final whistle.

But Harris insisted his focus was always on his own team on the day.

“I kept my cool on the sideline and focussed on my team,” the Gills boss said. “My team needed me, a 12th man. I didn’t hear anything, I was concentrating on my players.

“Everyone is different on the sideline…I didn’t take much notice (of him). I completely respect everyone’s difference of opinion. For me, composure was key.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More