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Southend United 0 Gillingham 1: Match reaction from Gills boss Neil Harris

Gillingham manager Neil Harris was pleased to see his team bounce back from a terrible start at Southend.

The Gills were second best early on against the non-league outfit but Harris reminded his players of his pre-match message, that this was one friendly where the result mattered.

Gillingham manager Neil Harris pleased with response after slow start Picture: KPI
Gillingham manager Neil Harris pleased with response after slow start Picture: KPI

“I asked for a complete shift in mentality,” he said.

“Pre-season has been about getting minutes, energy and working on patterns, with and without the ball. I addressed the boys on Friday after our final day of training for pre-season and said the mentality completely shifts, we would treat it like a league game.

“I wanted to win the game. I have not spoken about any results we have had over the course of pre-season, this was about winning and having that mindset and for 22 minutes until the drinks break I thought we were second best. We couldn’t get close to the ball, we got our shape completely wrong.

“We didn’t compete well enough and I reminded them what had been said, with a few choice words about winning mentality.

“From my perspective I thought we were poor with or without the ball for 22 minutes, we have been brilliant, we were excellent against Palace’s first team (on Tuesday), Portsmouth’s first team and Luton, we were excellent, somewhere along the way there was always going to be a bad half.

“It is my job to make us better, we adjusted after 22 minutes, we were better after that and the better team. I can’t fault my players in their attitude for flicking the switch from being terrible for 22 minutes to then being the better team after that.

“I was delighted with the clean sheet. We have not conceded goals really where we have been opened up, we have conceded goals by our own doing, that is where you could see a shift in mentality (on Saturday).

“The goals we have conceded over pre-season have been where we have given the ball away in our own third and been punished, from open play or leading to a penalty at Luton. We still gave it away cheaply at times, I am asking the boys to play it out from the back and be productive in that sense, we didn’t get punished.

“We need to make sure we are slightly better with the ball at times, in our own half, take care of it with better decisions and second half we saw that, we played forward a little bit quicker at the right times, that is what winning football is.”

Southend provided the right kind of opposition for Harris, who was after a team who could give his boys the sort of test they will be facing in League 2 this season.

Harris said: “They are a team expecting to be in the top seven (of the National League). We handpicked the fixtures for what we needed.

“We went to Folkestone and Dover because we were going to dominate the ball, I never expected us to score eight or 12 goals anywhere because that is disrespectful to the teams, but we wanted to dominate from box to box. We knew the final end product would be missing in the games.

“We went to Luton, Portsmouth and played Palace, because we knew they would dominate, so we worked for 10 days without the football, this we knew it was going to be more even, it was their first home game, we knew they would have 1-2,000 people there and a bit of an atmosphere and knew they would be excited to be on their pitch for the first time and we new for 20 minutes we might be under the cosh.”

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