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Gillingham boss Steve Lovell says youngster Darren Oldaker now showing substance as well as style

By Matthew Panting

Manager Steve Lovell has revealed that Darren Oldaker’s arrival into Gillingham’s first team has come later than he expected.

Oldaker produced another midfield masterclass as Gills made it back-to-back home wins in League 1 on Saturday against Fleetwood.

The teenager had to improve his defensive play to be part of Lovell’s plans but the penny appears to have dropped now.

Gillingham's Darren Oldaker takes on Fleetwood's Nathan Sheron Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham's Darren Oldaker takes on Fleetwood's Nathan Sheron Picture: Ady Kerry

“I thought after pre-season that DJ would have been one that was breaking in,” admitted Lovell.

“But because he never showed me that other side to his game, I couldn’t trust him and I told him that.

“He could have been in the side two or three weeks ago but it would have been unfair on him as we were having that bad run.

“If you stick a young boy into the team then and expect him to do things and he doesn’t do them, then you could lose him forever.

“You make sure you put the right people around him at the right time so he can produce and that’s what we’ve done.”

Lovell’s belief in Oldaker went up another level at the weekend after the youngster impressed for the second game in a row.

One good performance is encouraging but the Gills boss knew Oldaker had to follow it up – and the midfielder never let him down.

“I said before the game that this is a test for him now – he’s had a great game but can he back it up with another one?” said Lovell.

“Can he back it up with another after that and then another one - I think he can do.

“This game was so important for him, more important than last week. He played really well against Bradford but I think he played even better (against Fleetwood).

“It was a different performance, a mature performance and you’d think he’s been in the team all season.

“He’s a naturally gifted footballer with a football brain. He hasn’t got a proper brain but he’s got a football brain!

“He’s very clever and intelligent on the ball, he’s (nearly) 20 but you’d think he’s been playing for 10 years the way he plays. He makes space because he opens himself out, he always receives the ball on the half-turn.

“The two goals he has made for Tom in the last two weeks have been fantastic, two different types of ball but real quality.

“Sometimes you’ve got to take gambles with players. We always knew the ability he had, it was whether he could do the other side of it. He was blocking, tackling and heading, so it’s obvious he has learnt. He deserves his place in the team.”

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