Raynor impressed with pre season progress
Raynor impressed with pre season progress

Gillingham assistant manager Paul Raynor is happy with the progress the team is making so far this pre-season, and is looking forward to stepping up the quality of opposition before the season kicks off.

KentSportsNews caught up with Raynor after Gillingham’s 2-1 win at Dartford on Tuesday evening. “It seems to be going in the right direction”, said Raynor, “so (we are) pleased.

“Obviously (there were) winners and losers, as there always is in these games, and people impress and people have little question marks about things they’re doing in the game, but we’ve got time to work on that and it’s about peaking ready for Doncaster.

“We are getting there slowly but surely. (There are) positive signs with the partnerships we’re using, people seem comfortable playing with each other. (There are) different formations we’re having a little look at, and we will settle on the right one and the one going forward. Positive tonight.”

“You’re learning every game. You’re learning who can play with each other, you’re learning combinations that work, formations that work, so you’re leaning.

“You learn in every training session, you learn in every game. There are positives and minuses in every game, but there were a lot of positives tonight so we are all pleased.”

One man Raynor was particularly full of praise for was 19 year old attacking midfielder Henry Woods, whose only minutes this summer with the first team have come at right back – a position completely new to him.

“He’s not a right back!” joked Raynor.

“No, he fitted in. (He has) loads of energy when he plays in that midfield role – he gets up and down the pitch, we saw that in training. We want to make sure the game time is right and we think he could do a job there – he’s proved he can.

“He was excellent when he came on, and he played 70 minutes last night (with the youth team, in a 7-1 win at Bearsted Town). He’s a fit boy, and he went and did a job for us, so that’s credit to him as well and his fitness levels were excellent, so really pleased.”

Trialist Mikael Mandron played his second game for The Gills at Dartford and impressed again, hitting the post with a header and putting another one just wide.

“We wanted to see our trialist up front as a target man” said Raynor.

“That’s been his role in his previous clubs. We wanted to see him in that lone striker role and see if we could get enough support to him.

“The ball didn’t stick in the first period. (It) did a little bit more in the second period, we got a little bit closer to him, and we are bit more of a goal threat in that 15 minutes (until substitutions were made).

“He’s had a couple of opportunities and it was a little bit unfortunate. He directed the header and unfortunately it’s come to the wrong side of the post, but it was good play to get those overloads in wide areas.

“We are looking to move the ball a lot quicker than they did last year. That’s not a criticism, that was the way that Steve (Lovell, former manager) wanted to play, but we want to get it forward a little bit quicker, create opportunities from wide areas, and get crosses in the box, and we are certainly doing that.”

Raynor was, though, not hiding from the fact the team needs to work on their defensive shape.

“When we are doing that, we need to make sure we are not to open at the back for the counter attacks, so that’s something that we need to work on in the next couple of weeks. If you want to play adventurously then you need a little bit of cautiousness.

“It’s positive, the number of chances we’re creating and the opportunities we’re getting from wide areas. But you’ve still got to put a nice shape behind the ball when you do that.

“They’re attacking us down the middle of the pitch, but that can be remedied by a few tactical little tweaks. As I say, pleased on the whole; good workout, good fitness levels, nice pitch, good opposition, a physical game, but nothing too naughty, nothing too silly, and it was a really good workout, so we are pleased with it.”

News broke last week that The Gills had made a cash bid for an unnamed striker, but Raynor said they are still waiting to hear whether or not it has been accepted.

“We are still waiting” said Raynor.

“Obviously clubs have got their own targets. If they can get one in, we might be able to get one out, you know. We will have to wait and see.

“It’s just like a big merry-go-round, things drop into place at times.

“It’s a bit of a waiting game at the moment unfortunately, but, if we are patient, then hopefully we can get the right person in, or the right persons in.”

“We could bring any number of players in, but they have got to be the right ones to fit in the way we want to play. They’ve got to be the right characters, and they’ve got to make us better and that’s the key, making us better, and adding to our goal threat.

In the meantime, they have a decision to make on Mandron.

“We will have a chat over the next couple of days” said The Gills number two.

“He (Mandron) will be in with us tomorrow for a cool down. We will have a chat with him, we will have a chat between ourselves and we will formulate the options we have got. Whether he’s one of them, we will wait and see.”

It does, however, look like left back Joe Skarz, who has also been on trial at Priestfield, won’t be signing for the club.

“He got a knock” said Raynor.

“Obviously we will need to look at that area as well and see, but while he’s got a knock then obviously that’s a no go anyway. It was a bit unfortunate to get a knock like that, but we will look at that situation.

“That’s obviously an area we would like to improve in, in terms of another body in there, so we will wait and see.”

The Gills are set for a busy weekend with three games in three days, and Raynor is looking forward to the test.

“We’ve got Friday at Chatham, which will probably be a youthful team, then it’ll be the senior guys against the Championship opposition.

“We’ll mix it up a little bit. I would doubt whether many will play 90, but obviously we will try and mix it up between the two games to make sure we are fresh enough in both games because they’re quality opposition; if we’re not fresh and we’re not right, we could get hurt.

“But it will be good, it will be interesting.

“It will be a real step up for us, but we played teams from lower divisions, now we are facing teams from a higher division, so it will be a good test.

“We went to QPR and we put a good performance in there as well. We looked really solid and good defensively in that game, and we were still a threat on a counter attack.

“Now we are a little bit fitter as well, so it should be two good workouts and an opportunity at Chatham for the young boys to stake a claim, so it should be a good weekend.”

Gillingham arrived back from a UK based training camp just before Saturday’s 4-0 victory at Faversham, and Raynor said the hard work is reaping rewards in their preparation.

“It’s massive” said Raynor, commenting on the camp.

“(With) double sessions you can work on a number of things, and obviously just getting the boys together 24/7; it’s a lot of new faces.

“(It helps with) the way we work, the way we want to work, the guys getting to know each other as well.

“It was absolutely massive, and we had a little bit of down time as well. We had a little bit of fun and it was great, it was an excellent exercise.”