Gillingham manager Steve Lovell has explained his thinking behind playing 3-5-2 against the Cobblers on Tuesday, stating that he felt it was the best way to counteract the home side’s strengths while also causing them problems at the back.
The Gills boss switched to three at the back for the clash at Sixfields, much like previous visiting manager Keith Hill, and in similar vein to Rochdale, the Kent side came away with a thoroughly deserved victory having dominated much of the game.
I thought we were magnificent in the first-half. Northampton couldn’t cope with us, they weren’t in the game and we could have had three or four before half-time.
They were on top from kick-off as Josh Parker hammered in an early opener before Tom Eaves made it two on 18 minutes, with Ash Taylor’s second-half header no more than a consolation for Northampton.
“We went with the three at the back because we knew they’d only play one up front and it would have been pointless having the full-back there,” said Lovell afterwards.
“I thought that if we played with wing-backs and got people out wide and dealt with their wide players, we could get Josh and Tom running towards their goal, like the Charlton game.
“That’s what they did. In the first-half, the two up front caused Northampton so many problems and I’m glad they both got a goal each.”
The Cobblers built up a head of steam after Taylor’s header 10 minutes into the second-half but they lost their way in the final 15 minutes when Gillingham, who tinkered with their formation again, comfortably saw the game out.
“When they got their goal in the second-half and there’s still 25 minutes to go, there’s a bit of concern,” admitted Lovell. “But we made a couple of tactical changes, which we had to do to try and counter their shape and we managed to do that.
“When you’ve got people like Lee Martin and Scott Wagstaff to bring on, it helps steady the ship.
“We had to make those changes to go back to a formation that stopped them from being dominant and that’s what happened. We managed to get two up front again and we could find them and we caused them problems again.
“You don’t care how you hang on, as long as you do. The main thing was getting three points. If we were hanging on from the first minute it’s different but the first-half performance was one of our best of the season so far.”
Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Sixfields was Gillingham’s fifth win in eight games, leaving them just six points adrift of the play-offs despite being rooted to the bottom of the table back in October.
“We played very well,” continued Lovell. “Apart from the Wigan game, we’ve come our firing on all cylinders in all our away matches and the game was won in the first half an hour.
“I thought we were magnificent in the first-half. Northampton couldn’t cope with us, they weren’t in the game and we could have had three or four before half-time.
“It’s very pleasing and I said to them at half-time that they would come at us in the second-half and they did that so we had to weather the storm but it was a great three points. When they play like that it’s a pleasure to watch and the only disappointing thing was that we didn’t get more goals.
“But the main thing is to create chances and play good football and the boys were in control. That was the case in the first-half. Tom should have scored another goal and I’m not sure how he missed it! But we’ll obviously take the three points and it’s another good win.”