“Our group is new, but we’re learning about each other all the time” Evans remains confident in new recruits

Gillingham manager Steve Evans will be hoping that his players take confidence from their second half performance at Oxford when they host Southend United on Saturday. 

The Gills were beaten 3-0 at the Kassam Stadium last time out, but speaking in his press conference ahead of this weekend’s game, Evans said he was encouraged by their second half display. He said: “The reaction from the players for the second half was very good. 

“I had a conversation with Karl Robinson on Sunday, and I think we both agreed we should win the second half, and win it with relative comfort really. But the damage was done in the first half, and we don’t want to be repeating that level of performance.”

The 56-year-old admitted that training had been stepped up as a result of the defeat. He said: “We’ve just intensified that little bit more, making sure we do the basics properly because that’s what we never did at Oxford.”

“It (the mood) was obviously down Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and then we as a management team have to start lifting the boys’ minds and show them evidence of how good we can be and how good we have been in spells.”

The game at Oxford marked Evans’ tenth league game in charge of the Gills, during which they have picked up ten points, and he accepts that it will take time for the players to get used to the way he would like them to play. The new manager has overseen a huge turnover in players, with 13 new arrivals and 12 senior players leaving Priestfield this summer.

“I think it’ll take time. We found it at Mansfield, we certainly found it at Rotherham. Our group is new, but we’re learning about each other all the time, they’re learning more about what we want from them, and I’ve said if we can be in that mid to top half into January, we’ll be thereabouts at the end of the season in that top six for sure.”

Evans had praise for 19-year-old Jack Tucker, to whom he gave his full debut in September. The defender came through the Gills academy, and following loan spells with Greenwich Borough and Hastings United, has begun to establish himself in the first team squad in recent weeks.

Speaking about the youngster, Evans said: “I think he’s been tremendous, I think he’s a young man, he’s made mistakes, he’s been hesitant at times, but he’s also been terrific in other spells of the games. He’ll play a lot of games for Gillingham Football Club going forward. He’s one of our own in terms of he’s home grown and home bred, and lives in this town, and a big part of what we’re going to do in the future.” 

Another youngster who has impressed is goalkeeper Joe Walsh, who Evans confirmed will be back available for the game at Priestfield, after he missed out against Oxford with an ankle injury. His knock meant 48-year-old goalkeeper coach Simon Royce was forced to fill in on the bench at the Kassam, eight years after his last senior appearance. 

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