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Gillingham 1 Newport County 2: Reaction from Gills boss Neil Harris after League 2 defeat at Priestfield

A flat Gillingham performance disappointed manager Neil Harris as his side’s terrific home form deserted them on Saturday.

Harris’ men were beaten 2-1 by Newport County - only a second defeat in their 12 home league games of 2023 - and the manager was keen to acknowledge how good his side had been at Priestfield prior to this performance.

Gillingham’s Dom Jefferies on the attack against Newport at Priestfield
Gillingham’s Dom Jefferies on the attack against Newport at Priestfield

Report: Gillingham 1 Newport 2

“It is hugely disappointing,” he said. “It was a flat performance. First half we were slightly the better team, their chances came off set-plays, second half I made a sub and we got worse, that is just down to players not being able to adapt on the pitch.

“I have learned loads about the players, as I do every game, but that is as far as I want to go with not being happy. Since January 14 it’s been a mega turnaround, performances have been excellent here, we have secured loads of points and goals, the bigger picture is that the lads have done great.”

Harris felt the Priestfield pitch was a bit of a hindrance as he wanted his team to play the kind of slick football that they did at Bradford the week before.

He said: “The pitch was rubbish, I have to be honest, really slow, it looked really nice but it wasn’t, it was really poor. That is something we have got to do better with next season.

“We wanted to pass the ball. We played it really well at Bradford. We wanted to move the ball really quickly.

“The pitch and weather weren’t conducive to that, I thought we played the game second half a little bit like the weather, it got hotter and we got slower.

“Disappointment, definitely. The fans stuck with us again, It wasn’t a great performance, but they are really proud of what we have done.

Tom Nichols with a chance for Gillingham in the first half
Tom Nichols with a chance for Gillingham in the first half

“I have learned some negatives, but that performance doesn’t reflect on my group of players since January 14, since we beat Hartlepool here.

“We never really got into top gear, we had some really good moments, but not enough for my liking over the 90 minutes and I have to be honest, it was probably the worst we have been in a second half of a game here, since January.

“I can’t remember us causing too many problems against Newport, why? That is more the question. I stuck with the same group of players that had performed so well, then at times they are going to have a dip, I didn’t want that dip on the last home game of the season, but I would rather have that dip now than the first home game of next season.

“It just shows they are human and we are beatable here and not just by Bradford, who are one of the best teams in the league this season to come here. If we are not at the standards, that is a gentle reminder for the whole football club, my changing room, fanbase, everyone connected to the club that if we are not Gillingham at its best then you come unstuck in this division.”

Gillingham’s Robbie McKenzie looking for options
Gillingham’s Robbie McKenzie looking for options

Since the turn of the year the Gills have taken 28 points from a possible 36 on offer. It’s a top-of-the-table return and fans had been getting used to winning at Priestfield. Harris had been getting used to it too.

“Until today I have know exactly what I am going to get,” he said. “Even against Bradford (the only other home league defeat of 2023), there was nothing in the game, we made a couple of errors.

“It has been great to have the atmosphere, the backing of the fans, the level of performance, and even when we haven’t played great we have found ways to win games, today we found a way to lose a game, by not defending our box.

“That is just a little nudge to everyone attached to Gillingham Football Club that we are not invincible here, we are not going to just steamroll everyone next year if we sign five or six good players, which we will.

“It is going to be a tough league next year because any team is capable of beating you on the day, as we have just seen.”

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