Raynor hoping for Cup progress
Raynor hoping for Cup progress

Gillingham become the last Kent side to enter this season’s Emirates FA Cup this weekend.

But the Greatest Cup competition in the World hasn’t been kind to Steve Evans’ side and sends the Gills to the Stadium of Light to face a Sunderland side flying high in SKYBet League One.

Speaking to KSN this week, Evans’ assistant Paul Raynor started by looking back at last weekend’s defeat at the hands of Rotherham.

He said, “I didn’t think it was a poor performance – I think we just came up against a very good side who took full advantage of our mistakes. It’s what you get when you come up against these stronger teams, and we made some elementary errors that cost us – on the whole it was a reasonable performance but still a defeat!”

Turning his attention to this weekend and the club’s break from League One action, Raynor said, “We will go into the game as underdogs but it’s an exciting place to go – it’s a great place to go with great fans and a fantastic tradition.”

“It’s not the draw we really wanted – everyone wants a home tie, but to be going to Sunderland is tough but we’re looking forward to it. No one will give us a chance on Saturday – we’re going away from home to a side who were a Premier League club not so long ago.”

“Nobody gives us a real chance outside of the club, but that may play into our hands a little bit. They’ve got a lot of depth in their squad, some quality players in there and we know that we’ll be up against it. But as I said it may well kick our players on and to a great performance.”

“The FA Cup is a fantastic competition. I’ve had wins – defeats against Non-League teams as it’s a competition that always throws up surprises! We’ll all look at that first thing on Saturday when we come back in and it will be “wow, they beat them”, or someone here or someone there, you just never know who will raise their games and whose games will drop a notch. Someone could score a goal and the bigger team get nervy – you just don’t know what the Cup is going to throw at you…”

“Some people say that it’s been downgraded by people playing weakened teams, but it’s still the FA Cup and is still very special and we’re really looking forward to it. All the boys were watching the draw on the Monday night and when you see the balls come out and the first name you go “fancy that” or “don’t want that one”, and then Sunderland came out and that certainly wouldn’t be the one where we want, but it’s still a magical competition.”

“If we can get through Sunderland, there are some big fixtures in the future and then the next round. And it’s only then that we can dream of one of the big boys back to Priestfield. But to get to that we must do it on Saturday which will be tough.”

“If we play at our best, then we’ve got every chance. It would give everyone a massive lift as we’ve been a little bit unfortunate where the performances haven’t matched the results – I think we’ve done well in recent weeks, so it would be good to get the rub of the green and one of those good performances turn into a victory on Saturday!”

“A couple of victories and getting into the Third Round would be absolutely fantastic, but we’re under no illusions that we’ve got to get there first! I’m sure Sunderland will take us very, very seriously – we know Phil Parkinson very well as we’ve come across him several times over the years; he’s a good guy, a very experienced manager who will get them organised and get them playing. But know what we can bring to the table as well and won’t take us lightly.”

“We’re pretty much there with a full squad and it’s nice to have Matty Willock back on the training pitch this week – he’s had a good two or three days and may be involved at the weekend.”

“Hopefully he’ll come through everything unscathed as after you’ve been out for a long time, when you come back you’re susceptible to little niggles, but hopefully he’ll be involved at some stage or in the squad at least.”

“Barry Fuller’s fine – he’d only had a few days training before Saturday; it would have been a risk after a calf injury, and it was precautionary that we took him out of Saturday. But he’s another one who’s had a good week’s training, so fingers crossed!”