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Crawley Town 0 Gillingham 1: Manager Neil Harris’ reaction as an own-goal settles League 2 match

Manager Neil Harris admitted his Gillingham team were poor on Saturday as they edged to victory at Crawley.

An own-goal won them the game as their hosts had a first-half penalty saved and failed to make the most of their overall dominance.

The Gills have now won all four of their opening League 2 games by the same 1-0 scoreline, a first for any club in the Football League.

Neil Harris admitted he got it wrong at Crawley and his team rode their luck Picture: Keith Gillard
Neil Harris admitted he got it wrong at Crawley and his team rode their luck Picture: Keith Gillard

More: Crawley 0-1 Gillingham

Harris celebrated with the 1,300 travelling fans at the end but then acknowledged that his side had rode their luck.

“We were really poor,” he admitted. “We were excellent at Stockport, where we might not have deserved to win but deserved a point. We got three.

“Against Accrington we dominated and should have won by more, at Sutton we deserved to win the game because we defended brilliantly, we gave next to nothing away and we scored a good goal.

“Then today (Saturday) we turned the ball over so cheaply, the shape at times was wrong, there was loads of good stuff but I have to be honest and maybe we got something we didn’t deserve, with the three points.

“I thought Crawley had really good patterns, they dominated the ball, we knew it would be a game of transitions and we would have to counter well and first half after the penalty save we transitioned really well and could have been two or three up, but then second half every time we won the ball, we gave it away.

“I said to the lads, ‘four wins out of four, brilliant, but we can’t be turning balls over like that against good football teams’.

“I have young lads in the (dressing room) and I said, ‘look at the senior lads, talk to the boys that have played at the top level and played in the Premier League and the Championship, when you turn the ball over against better teams at a better level you get punished, that is our learning curve, thank you for the points but we need to do better’.

“We rode our luck, we relied on the goalkeeper to make some saves, blocks, and we can’t do that all season.”

The Gills equaled their best-ever start to a Football League campaign with a fourth successive win. They sit top of League 2, with a three point gap to second-placed MK Dons.

Harris said: “We take all the praise and all the thanks for it, the adulation that comes with four wins in a row, it is four 1-0 wins, four clean sheets, but we won’t keep winning 1-0, we are going to have to score some more goals.

“But we have some sayings at the moment that are doing really well for us at the moment, a clean-sheet mentality, a first-goal mentality, that equals a winning mentality and at the moment it’s working for us.”

Harris accepted he was partly at fault for Saturday’s sluggish start. He looked to correct it by making a tweak with 25 minutes gone after goalkeeper Jake Turner had saved a Dom Telford penalty.

He said: “It was a huge moment in the game, saving a penalty, a free shot at goal. We started both halves really poorly, we have not done that so far this season so that’s something I have to look at.

“I got it wrong in the game-plan in the first 25 minutes. I set the team up wrong, I apologised to the players at half-time and said to them first 25 minutes, yes some of the players made poor decisions, but they come off the back of my decision-making and the way I set them up.

“I take the adulation when I get it right but if I get it wrong then I have to own that as well and I got it wrong first 25 minutes.

“We adjusted our wide players and after that we made Crawley’s centre-halves make a lot of decisions and they were wrong decisions and that is why we countered so well.

“In the second half when we looked leggy, we looked tired, it was our fifth game in 17 days, playing away from home in hot weather against a team that has dominated the ball, then we threw our bodies on the line.

“We dug in and sometimes you can get it wrong and a team dominates and then you have to have men and people who can stand up to it.”

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