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Trophy defeat at Pompey highlights Steve Lovell’s priorities

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As heavy as the defeat to Portsmouth in the Checkatrade Trophy may have been, the loss does seem to underline Gillingham’s priorities at the start of the new 2018/19 campaign.

A 4-0 reverse at Pompey in the first group game doesn’t exactly rule the Gills out of qualifying for the next stage, but it could hint at Steve Lovell’s approach to Cup competitions this season.

With the league a necessary focus, Gills fans may be best off not dwelling too much on the scoreline, with the club needing to concentrate on other avenues.

Having finished 17th, seven places off the bottom of League One, at the end of the 2017/18 season, the main target for Lovell and his squad will surely be to steer the Gills away from any semblance of a relegation fight and towards mid-table safety this time around.

Things started in the best possible fashion back in August with two straight wins in the league but since then, just one point has been picked up from a home fixture with Coventry City. Currently the team currently sits in 12th with those seven points from their opening six matches.

It’s early days, of course, but that dip in form would have been a concern for the manager, so does the team really need to be focusing on knockout competitions after picking up just one point in the last four?

With a number of changes made to the starting XI, Gills fans should overlook the Portsmouth defeat and, if they are looking for a better measure as to how much the club can achieve, they can look instead to the EFL Cup tie with Millwall back in August.

Neil Harris’ side made the step up into the Championship from League One last season and are available at a relatively short price of 14/1 in bet365’s Championship betting market to seal back-to-back promotions.

While Gillingham were eventually eliminated via the lottery of a penalty shootout, the club held the Lions to a 0-0 draw in normal time and can look at that achievement as a sign that an improved league campaign in 2018/19 is not an unrealistic aim.

Any Gillingham fan that is hoping for some silverware this season will know that there is some way to go before the club can be ruled out of the Checkatrade Trophy. The format of this competition has four teams in each group and each side will play each other once only.

With that away defeat to Pompey behind them, the Gills are now at home to Spurs Under 21s on October 9 followed by another home tie with Crawley on November 13. With the top two sides going through to the next phase, a strong Gillingham XI may well have the edge over the young Tottenham unit and also League Two Crawley, should Lovell decide to go for it in the competition.

In that regard, any hopes of success in the Checkatrade Trophy will depend on Lovell picking a full-strength side. But, in reality, the Gills would arguably do better to forget about these schedule-clogging lower-tier cup games and instead focus on their bread and butter, the League 1 campaign.