Strength at the back is driving Gills forward

Strength at the back is driving Gills forward

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, September 27 2012

Gillingham's front-line strikers have taken much of the credit for the blistering start to the season but a run of three clean sheets is testament to the work done where it was needed most.

Wins over Bristol Rovers, Southend and Port Vale have been achieved without conceding and credit must go to the way Martin Allen and his team have set up the team to defend.

Key arrivals over the summer have helped, with the likes of experienced keeper Stuart Nelson and no-nonsense defender Adam Barrett joining the Gills. The presence of Crystal Palace loan-man David Wright has also given extra assurance at the back.

And Allen has also played it safe in games after going ahead early, by introducing more defence-minded players like Andy Frampton, to ensure there are no last-minute dramas.

The Gills head into Saturday's game against Rochdale with the best defensive record in the division (conceding just a goal every other game) - a stark contrast to last season where goals flew in at both ends on a regular basis.

Fans were certainly put through it, with games against Northampton (4-3), Wimbledon (3-4), Hereford (5-4), Crewe (3-4), Accrington (3-4) and Bournemouth (3-2). Enough drama to fill a ‘how not to defend’ manual many times over.

This season the Gills have only conceded more than one goal twice, and both in cup games, against Championship Middlesbrough (0-2) and League 1 Crawley - where an understrength Gills team lost 3-2.

Only for a brief spell, against Chesterfield, have the Gills been behind in any league game. Eight minutes to be precise.

Individual performances have gone up another level, with Matt Fish now looking much more at ease on the right and Joe Martin looking steady on the other flank. The transformation of Callum Davies from a bench-warmer to a solid League 2 defender has been a great bonus. Even if it has meant his mate Connor Essam has needed to go out on loan to get games.

And it hasn't just been individuals who have made an impact.

The Gills are organised well and defend as a unit. With Allen drumming the message home from the sidelines throughout games, that message is getting through. Runners are tracked, crosses are being blocked and headers are being won.

During this week's chat with Allen he made a point of noting the improvement of Lewis Montrose. The big midfielder was sent away with instructions to improve his heading and against Vale he constantly won the ball in the air on the edge of the box, time and again alleviating pressure on the defence.

Much of the day-to-day training is taken by assistant John Schofield and his input to what we're seeing on the pitch shouldn't be underestimated. The coaching team of Schofield, Carl Muggleton and Allen is certainly one that is helping to shape the Gills into a rigid, organised team when defending and a fluid, fast-paced and exciting one going forward.

It's a joy to watch at the moment but it's not through luck, or by out-scoring the opposition, that the Gills are sitting pretty at the top of League 2.

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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

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The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell

Hello I'm Luke, the KM's Gillingham reporter. I've been following the Gills since 2004. Read my blog to get all the insider gossip on Kent's only league side.
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