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Neil Harris pleased with Vadaine Oliver display as Gillingham earn vital draw

Neil Harris’ Gillingham have moved out of the relegation zone (Will Matthews/PA)
Neil Harris’ Gillingham have moved out of the relegation zone (Will Matthews/PA)

Gillingham manager Neil Harris praised the instincts of striker Vadaine Oliver after bagging the opening goal in his side’s vital 2-2 draw at Cheltenham which hoisted them out of the relegation zone.

The 30-year-old frontman fired the visitors into a 14th-minute lead with midfielder Ben Reeves also on target, only for Callum Wright and Kion Etete to twice haul Cheltenham level.

Harris said: “The first goal was all about the striker’s instinct. When people watch the goal back they will see the quality of the finish into the roof of the net but they won’t see his movement to drop back onside to get the finish in.

“That’s a striker I work with every day and I’ve seen the confidence and belief grow in him. He is our talisman and carries a lot on his shoulders so I’m really pleased he was on the scoresheet today.

“I thought a draw was a fair reflection of the game but when you are in front twice, hit the underside of the bar and hit the post in the 95th minute you can feel a little bit aggrieved.

“The players are disappointed that we didn’t win the game but to be out of the drop zone with three games to go, I’d have snapped your hand off.

“It is a huge game against Fleetwood on Monday, the team just below us in the league. We will have to be as good as we’ve been since I’ve been here to beat them.”

Oliver’s opener was a well-worked effort, with Reeves and Robbie McKenzie combining to set up the unmarked striker, who lashed the ball into the roof of the net from 12 yards.

Reeves was denied a second 10 minutes later with a sweet effort on the turn that was superbly pushed away by keeper Owen Evans before Callum Wright levelled after 40 minutes when Alfie May’s shot had been parried into his path.

Gillingham regained the lead just before the hour when the excellent Reeves curled an effort beyond the Robins keeper, only for Etete to level 12 minutes from time with a close-range header.

Cheltenham manager Michael Duff said: “They made it tough, hard and they were organised. They put it in from everywhere and with Vadaine Oliver they have a constant threat in the air.

“For the first half of the first half, we were poor. We didn’t use the ball well enough or do the patterns we want them to do.

“The second half of the first half I thought we were much better. We managed to play and get into the centre forwards and we had some really good chances.

“Their keeper has made some good saves and it didn’t quite drop for us a few times. The blocks and saves that they made and the fighting spirit they have is because they were 10 points adrift when Neil (Harris) took over.”