Published: 18:00, 22 January 2022
| Updated: 08:13, 23 January 2022
Steve Lovell praised the Gillingham players for their second half efforts as they took the game to new league leaders Wigan.
The caretaker boss made a double change at the break and switched formation after a dire opening half. It got the team playing with confidence, getting back on level terms after trailing 2-0 at the break, only to concede another soft goal.
Speaking after the 3-2 defeat, Lovell said: “It took a lot of bottle and determination in that second half to go back out, play well and score twice and take the game to the top side.
“The players will take a lot of heart and confidence out of it and we can build on that.”
Gillingham barely had a sniff first half but it all changed after the turnaround.
Lovell went with four players across the middle from the start before reverting to his favoured 'diamond' midfielder formation for the second half. Charlie Kelman joined Vadaine Oliver upfront from the bench while Ben Reeves made an impact playing behind those two.
“The first half performance was just so disappointed," Lovell said.
“They passed the ball around us for fun and they got into pockets, they are a good side. When I went in at half-time I said, ‘I am not going to talk about the first 45’, it was about what we would do from then on.
“I changed the formation and the personnel and I said to them, ‘go out and be positive’ and if they got the next goal they would be back in it.
“One thing changing shapes does is it causes problems for the opposition, it makes them think, they couldn’t handle it in the second half, they didn’t know how to play against it. It is alright in hindsight saying I should have done it from the start but you have a game plan, first half it didn’t work, but it is about changing it and making sure you sort out the mistakes and the problems and deal with it and that is what I did, we sorted it out.
“We put Charlie Kelman and Ben Reeves on and the two of them were brilliant, they changed the game for us. You need people to get on the ball and start passing it and start running, Charlie came on with his enthusiasm up alongside V and did a great job.
"Second half they couldn't live with us, they were bawling and shouting on the side and Leam Richardson (the Wigan boss) at the end said to me, 'tactically it was amazing.' Football is all about tactics, they had their way of playing first half and we couldn’t deal with it, second half they couldn’t deal with the way we played.
"We take a lot of pleasure out of it, without getting too carried away because we have lost the game 3-2.
“You are learning all the time, it is two weeks I have been with these boys, I am learning with them all the time and I learned again on Saturday. I have learned what is most probably my best formation and what I would like to go with with the players that we have got.
“It was just so disappointing to lose the game the way we did, with that header at the far post.”
Wigan had a player unmarked from a corner as they scored a winner.
Lovell believes the players need to take more responsibility when it comes to keeping the opposition quiet. A ball into the box from out wide had also cost them the opening goal on eight minutes.
The interim boss added: “We have conceded two really bad goals, out of the three, people have to start taking responsibility and stop these goals going in because otherwise we are going to be in trouble.”
Gillingham finished the afternoon dropping to the bottom of League 1, 10 points from safety and without a win in any competition since mid-October.