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Gillingham face race against time to be ready for League 1 opener against Lincoln on August 7

Gillingham boss Steve Evans has admitted they face a race against time to be ready for their League 1 opener on August 7.

Gills host Lincoln at Priestfield but have just lost the best part of two weeks of pre-season training after a Covid outbreak among players and staff.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans. Picture: Andy Jones. (49137946)
Gillingham manager Steve Evans. Picture: Andy Jones. (49137946)

It's put their initial plans out of the window, although they did return to action with a solid 2-0 win at League 2 Colchester on Saturday.

"We are in a race against time to be ready for Lincoln," said Evans. "We probably took the lads a bit longer than we wanted to in terms of minutes but we don't have that time (now).

"There was some good defending, some sloppy bits, but when it came into our box they were first contact 95 per cent of the time.

"I was pleased with the lot of them, Ben Reeves was very good, but I was pleased with them all. Their energy was good.

"We've been absolutely smashed in pre-season, the players, Covid, everything. As I said to the chairman the other day when the going gets tough, as a manager and team you get up and fight. We need our troops to battle, we may not be good enough but we can fight.

"We're four weeks away - we start in two weeks. We won't be alone, but we won't be equal to some others. We've been absolutely ransacked by it, at one point we were training with four players and then we had to call the Covid break.

"The one thing I've got is major respect for our medical department and they said we needed to take a circuit break. I didn't cry like a baby but I shed a tear when I made the decision because I knew I was making a decision that was right, right for the players and all of us, but I also knew how it could hinder us."

On the Colchester game, Evans added: "It was very rusty, our touches and passages of play. There's no question about the desire but it was only the second time on a football pitch since last May so it's very difficult.

"We've almost had two breaks through Covid, if you like. Last week was very tough, nine of the players had Covid and three or four of the staff so we had to take an enforced break which all clubs went through similar things, it's hard when you've worked so hard to get there.

"I saw a lot of things I liked and things we need to work on, players' timing and touch will only get better."

Gills continue their pre-season games at home to Millwall on Tuesday night but Evans won't be asking any outfield players to play the full game just yet.

"I don't think any of our players are ready for 90 minutes, we're just not," he said.

"We'll probably look at 90 for the lads against Norwich. It will be 70-75 minutes, a different team and probably a different system.

"We need to make sure that when we leave Leyton Orient, because we're limited in match minutes (available), that we give everyone in the group the opportunity to have those minutes.

"It's not about picking a favourite XI or favourite players, I don't have favourite players, I have Gillingham Football Club players to pick fairly and that's what I'll do."

Ryan Jackson came off against Colchester with a tight hamstring which is likely to rule him out for 7-10 days.

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