Home   Medway   Sport   Article

FA Cup: Gillingham skipper Gabriel Zakuani says competition's sparkle hasn't faded

Gillingham captain Gabriel Zakuani insists the FA Cup hasn’t lost its magic.

The Gills were held to a goalless draw by Hartlepool in the first round on Saturday in front of just over 2,000 fans at Priestfield – down from a league average of around 5,000 this season.

A lack of interest in the fixture meant that the Gills closed both the Rainham End and the Gordon Road Stand for home fans.

Gills skipper Gabriel Zakuani Picture: Ady Kerry
Gills skipper Gabriel Zakuani Picture: Ady Kerry

“It was a strange game,” said the Gills skipper. “It was different with the Rainham End empty.

“That Rainham End usually sucks the ball in when we are up against it but we are professionals and we really should be able to win the game without the Rainham End.

“It was tough, there weren’t too many people here and when the crowd starts to get on your back a bit, you can hear everything and I am not sure if that had an affect.

“We were not winning a game they expected us to win, so you do expect that kind of atmosphere.

“It was edgy but we are professionals and you have to take the good with the bad and they paid their money to see us win, it is understandable. It was a strange atmosphere but we hope to go up there and get a win.”

Zakuani has enjoyed cup upsets and been on the other end too.

He said: “(The magic) is still there but you have to get as far as you can first to feel it. It was probably magic for them (Hartlepool) but for us it was about being professional and getting the job done and making sure we are not the team that is the upset.

“Hopefully if we go further then the magic comes and it will be packed here.”

It was while at Leyton Orient that Zakuani had his most memorable FA Cup experience, one that earned him a £1.5million move to the team they beat, Fulham, a side playing in the Premiership at the time.

The next season, with Fulham, he was then on the wrong side of the fence, losing to Wycombe.

“We just have to make sure it is not us this time,” said Zakuani.

“I made it very clear to the boys in the warm-up before the game and during it, reminding them that we don’t want to be the team that is talked about as an upset.

“I am pleased that we are not and we managed to get a clean sheet. It was just a shame that it didn’t fall for us.”

Zakuani and the rest of the home defenders had plenty of time on the ball against Hartlepool, as they put 11 men behind it, but it just wasn’t Gills’ day upfront.

“I don’t think there were any highlights so hopefully it gets forgotten quickly,” he admitted.

“It was a game where they sat behind the ball.

“We had plenty of possession but they were very hard to break down.

“They didn’t pressure us at all, they were happy for us to have it there as long as everything was infront of them. I think we played to their game plan until the second half when we got told to turn them a bit more and play it in behind.

“It was difficult because the times we did go long, trying to get it in behind, the ball kept going out of play, so we just couldn’t find the space. It is a learning curve for a lot of players but the positives are that it is another clean sheet and we haven’t lost the game.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More