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Luton Town 3 Gillingham 2: Gills boss Neil Harris’ reaction after Carabao Cup Second Round defeat at Kenilworth Road

Gillingham manager Neil Harris revealed his half-time message that helped turn a regular cup-tie into a thriller at Luton’s Kenilworth Road.

Premier League side Luton might have thought they were in for a comfortable night, leading 2-0 at the break, but the Gills roared back. They halved the deficit through Jayden Clarke and despite another home goal, Tom Nichols netted a Gillingham second to keep it alive.

Gillingham manager Neil Harris was proud of his team’s performance at Luton Town in the Carabao Cup
Gillingham manager Neil Harris was proud of his team’s performance at Luton Town in the Carabao Cup

Report: Luton 3 Gillingham 2

At 2-0 down, Gills boss Harris and his team regrouped at the break.

“It was a tough one,” he said. “You’re 2-0 down, people say it’s a dangerous scoreline when you’re winning, but it’s dangerous when you’re losing.

“If you roll the dice too soon you can open yourself up and concede a third and fourth quite quickly against a good opponent.

“We stayed in it, I asked us to be a little bit more League 2-like second half.

“I thought we had some really good passages of play in the first half but without getting down the sides or behind.

“I asked us to, at the right time, spin the ball a little quicker to get in behind and that’s what we did, that put pressure on the opponent, it would put pressure on any opponent, then we were a little braver towards the end, when we were just getting back into it.”

A second minute goal from Jacob Brown put Luton ahead and Alfie Doughty’s 30-yarder made it 2-0, as the hosts bossed the first 45.

But Jayden Clarke’s run and finish halved the deficit on 55 minutes and although Cauley Woodrow found the net again for Luton, Nichols’ 88th minute header for Gillingham made it 3-2 and nervy for the hosts in the final minutes.

Harris said: “I thought after 75-80 minutes we adjusted the shape just to get on the front foot again, with three or four a little higher just to ask questions.

“The lads adapted well to the shape but it took us 15-20 minutes to get to grips with the back five before we settled.

“I am really proud of the group. It was a fantastic second half effort and we put a Premier League side under real pressure in moments of the game.

“To show the character and personality that we did after going 2-0 down after 35 minutes, teams may have crumbled against some quality opposition, but we didn’t.

“We regrouped at half-time and had a right go second half.

“I was disappointed with the first goal, second goal was a worldy, Premier League standard from Alfie and the third one was against the run of play, but again Premier League standard.

“To get back to 2-1 and 3-2 and build a bit of pressure and momentum, we just didn’t have that next moment. At the end we could have scored and Macauley Bonne has a great chance at 2-1 and they are the margins that when you go against top players you can fall the wrong side of.

“The group is disappointed that they’ve not gone to penalties or won the game.

“I thought we had some excellent passages of play, we were really brave with the ball at times, got into good areas, especially second half.

“We asked a lot of questions of Luton. They showed some real ability at times and some pace and quality to create opportunities but the scoreline was very close and we take huge credit for that.”

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