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Gillingham 0 Walsall 0: Reaction from Gills boss Neil Harris after goalless League 2 draw at Priestfield

Manager Neil Harris was pleased with Gillingham’s clean sheet after their goalless draw with Walsall in League 2 on Saturday.

The Gills had conceded five goals in their previous two league matches before shutting out the Saddlers at Priestfield - but they couldn’t score themselves, despite going close to grabbing a late winner through substitute Lewis Walker.

Gillingham's Will Wright during their goalless draw with Walsall. Picture: KPI
Gillingham's Will Wright during their goalless draw with Walsall. Picture: KPI

Gillingham changed to a back five for the game as right-back Cheye Alexander came in for midfielder Olly Lee, who Harris explained had been struggling with illness despite being named on the bench.

“First of all, we went to a back five because we haven’t been able to keep a clean sheet in the last couple of games so naturally, when you put in an extra defender, you have got to take it from somewhere,” said Harris.

“At times, I thought we got in some really good areas again. Some of our general play is really good - and has been all season - and I think people do appreciate that.

“We have just got to get the balance between trying to keep a clean sheet and the top-end of the pitch. Today, we got into some really good areas, making some really good chances, [but] we still have just not got that killer touch, that instinct in front of goal.

“That’s what money gets you in football, isn’t it? Right to the top in the Premier League as well, people buy goals. That’s the icing on the cake for us.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the clean sheet. I thought my back-line that looked edgy on Tuesday night [as they lost 2-0 to Harrogate] stood firm [and] gave one opportunity away.

“Walsall are a set-play team - they throw it into the box, they load it into the box from corners and we stood up to that as well.

“It’s just that top-end of the pitch where we just fell short today.”

The Gills are 20th in the league table, having taken just four points from their first five league games this term after a major summer overhaul following relegation, but did avoid a third successive league defeat inside a week with a point against Walsall.

But Harris insisted: “I’m a realist. I told the lads in there [the changing room], anyone who thought we would have nine, 10 or 11 points now, they are absolutely deluded!

Gillingham goalkeeper Glenn Morris clears on his way to a clean sheet. Picture: KPI
Gillingham goalkeeper Glenn Morris clears on his way to a clean sheet. Picture: KPI

“It was never going to happen. I know that - I’ve been doing this job long enough.

“We have got to find our way and I’m finding a balance at the moment within the squad, learning about the group.

“I’m really pleased with the clean sheet. You want a clean-sheet mentality. If you want to be a successful team, you have to keep clean sheets during the course of the season but then you have got to have that productiveness at the top-end of the pitch.

“I talked about that in my programme notes as well. We were there, we counter-attacked a couple of times, got to the final third, 3 v 2, 4 v 3, and ‘Do we make the right decision?’ Probably not.

“That little bit of fortune that you need in any game didn’t quite happen when the ball hits the inside of the post [from Walker’s effort] and goes back to the goalkeeper.

“So we are just 5% off around the top-end of the pitch, that’s a work in progress.”

On Lee’s absence from the starting line-up, Harris added: "Olly Lee was ill today.

"So yes, we named him on the bench and he sat on the bench, could he play a part? Possibly, right at the end - but he hasn’t trained - and we have got a bench there that wants to play, wants to be involved."

Walsall are coached by head coach Michael Flynn who had captained Gillingham during a spell with the club from 2005 to 2007. Flynn got a good reception from the home crowd and Harris and Flynn enjoyed catching up once the final whistle had gone and the spoils had been shared.

Harris said: “Look, he’s a really good man. We shared a couple of moments of laughter.

“It’s about winning the game.

“As you guys know, we are both very competitive players but we are both good football people as well and, by their standards, I think they will be pleased with a point today.”

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