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Gillingham 0 Salford City 3: Reaction from Gills boss Neil Harris to League 2 loss at Priestfield

Even manager Neil Harris was struggling to understand how Gillingham badly lost their way on Saturday in their defeat to Salford.

The Gills had enjoyed the better of a goalless first period at Priestfield but couldn’t find a sorely-needed breakthrough which would have ended their league goal drought before second-half strikes by defender Theo Vassell, midfielder Ryan Watson and striker Callum Hendry earned the visitors a 3-0 victory.

Jake Turner in the Gillingham goal fails to collect a cross into the box in their defeat to Salford
Jake Turner in the Gillingham goal fails to collect a cross into the box in their defeat to Salford

Harris, who once again questioned his squad's leadership, said: “Can you explain to me how we can be that good, first half, and that bad, second half? I’ve just said to the players that you can’t make that up!

“You can’t be that dominant, first half, and not score - from four really good chances - playing against a really good team but give them nothing. Then start the second half like we did.

“I said to the players at half-time ‘Well done for an excellent first half, we just have got to repeat that second half’. It’s not rocket science.

“We played [on the] front foot and we played Gillingham-like [in the first half]. That’s all we did, we played like a Gillingham team - like the Gillingham teams I played in and the Gillingham teams I played against.

"We played like that, first half, and I thought we were excellent. Second half, we gave the ball away cheaply, we didn’t play in the right areas, we didn’t run in the right areas and the first goal is a game-changer, isn’t it?

“It comes from a set-play. Ultimately what it comes down to is balls and leadership, that’s all.”

It’s now nine league matches without a win for the Gills, who remain second-bottom in League 2, while Salford are just outside the play-off places.

“It’s why we are where we are in the league and it’s why a lot of the players are playing in this team,” added a frustrated Harris on his side's inconsistency even within games this season.

It was a joint-worst league loss of the campaign for them - Gillingham also were beaten 3-0 in August at Tranmere.

Harris said: “Coming into the game, we were talking about only conceding 21 goals in 19 [league] games and we were in the top-10 defensive records in the league.

“We’ve had a couple of disappointing defeats, and a couple here, and it’s always disappointing when you lose at Priestfield, but there’s not been a lot wrong. Teams don’t open us up and, tactically, we don’t get it that wrong really.

“It’s just the individual elements in games - ones I don’t feel I can control - I don’t feel I can control somebody marking somebody on a corner or a free-kick. That’s down to them to do it.

“When it comes to individualisation away from the tactics, we struggle. That comes at the top-end of the pitch around the box.

“We can put players into the shapes and into the right areas, but then, when opportunities come, it’s down to them individually.”

Gillingham have also gone more than 550 minutes without a league goal but their manager believes they need to take collective responsibility as they desperately search for a way to find the back of the net on a more regular basis.

“I’ve been critical of my group but we have to take collective responsibility,” he said.

“Am I putting enough attacking players on the pitch? Are we getting into the right areas? Do we create enough chances and are the set-plays right? All I can say to the players is do they get in the right positions and do they have the right desire to do it? If they get opportunities, do they take them?

“Ultimately, we have to look at it collectively.

“We just haven’t scored enough goals. Look at the second goal - it comes from a deflection. We don’t score goals like that.”

Harris also explained the injuries midfielder Robbie McKenzie and defender Elkan Baggott had sustained against Salford, with the duo set to be assessed ahead of their FA Cup replay against National League outfit Dagenham this Thursday (7.15pm kick-off) at Priestfield.

He said: “Robbie’s was a groin [problem] he felt before half-time. He got to 60-odd minutes and had to come off. How he is? I don’t know.

“Elkan’s I think was a cut and a lump [on his head].

“I’ll have more information once I have spoken to the physio and probably know a bit more in the next 48 hours.”

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