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INTERVIEW | Rob Elliot keen to build on ‘great platform’ in Southend test
Jack McGraghan
Author: Jack McGraghan

24th November 2023

Rob Elliot feels Gateshead have given themselves ‘a great platform’ ahead of Saturday’s Vanarama National League fixture against Southend United.

The Heed recorded back-to-back away wins over second-placed Barnet and fourth-placed Solihull Moors in the space of four days to move fifth in the league table, following up a 6-0 victory over Dorking Wanderers last time out at Gateshead International Stadium.

The Shrimpers, meanwhile, were rested in midweek following a 2-1 win over league leaders Chesterfield last Saturday, and would sit one point behind Gateshead but for an enforced points deduction.

“Everyone’s a bit stiff and tired, but if you want to get two wins like we did then you’re going to end up a bit sore,” said Elliot.

“We’ve given ourselves a great platform and now we have what is probably our toughest test so far.

“They’re going to be one of the best teams we’ve played so far in my opinion, if not the best.

“We know it’s a huge test, they’ve had a settled squad for a long time and are obviously in a bit of a false position in the league.

“They’ve got really good individuals and a clear way of playing with a good manager, so we’re going to have to be on it.

“We want to really attack the day on Saturday to finish a tough week off strongly, and keep the momentum going from what we’ve done so far.”

Tuesday’s win at the ARMCO Arena took Elliot’s men to within two points of fourth-placed Solihull, meaning a victory on Saturday could see them leapfrog The Moors should they fail to win at Altrincham.

Another fine performance in midweek made it three consecutive wins for Gateshead, with a minor blip following Mike Williamson’s departure now in the rear-view mirror.

“We’ve still got really good players, we just went through a difficult time, but the lads have to take most of the credit,” Elliot continued.

“I’m really pleased with the buy in to slight changes in how we attack games – we’re playing with loads of freedom and you can see they’re really enjoying themselves.

“Joe [Grayson], who has been excellent for us, came out with a slight injury but Mamadou [Jobe] has come despite in not really knowing much on us and has been fantastic as well.

“Conceding a penalty on Tuesday was disappointing, but also pleasing at the same time in the sense that neither Barnet or Solihull really hurt us from open play.

“We can’t rest on that, and our out of possession shape has to be really strong so if there are days where our quality lets us down, we’re really hard to beat.”

Stephen Wearne celebrates after putting Gateshead in front at Solihull Moors.

Gateshead’s fortunes could hardly be more different since the last meeting with Southend on Tyneside in November 2022, with a 3-1 win that day taking The Heed off the bottom of the National League table and up to 22nd place.

Just over one year later – and 17 positions higher – Elliot is keen to continue the club’s upward trajectory.

“A year ago, we were near the bottom of the league and everyone had us written off to get relegated,” he said.

“Now we’re in the play-off places, doing really well and playing some really good football – that comes down to the quality of the players we’ve got and how well they’ve adapted.

“If and when results don’t go our way, you’ve got to move past that initial emotional reaction and look at the bigger picture of where the club is going, and the football we’re trying to play.

“We’re not going out and getting players from leagues above, we’re developing young and hungry players who want to kick on.

“I sound like a broken record, but these boys make it so easy, and they’ve got themselves in such a good position as a group and as a club.

“The mentality of the lads and the way they’ve performed is absolutely spot on, and all I want to do is make sure the lads don’t come away from the platform they’ve built.”

Friday afternoon saw the return of Joe Grayson to light training following his recent two-game injury absence, though Elliot admits it is touch and go as to whether he will be re-integrated as soon as this weekend.

Joe Grayson

“Joe was on the training pitch today, so we’ll see how he is,” he said.

“I don’t want to risk a player for one game just to potentially lose him for six or seven.

“The team has put an awful amount of travel and work in, so we’re going to have to freshen the team up and make the right decision on how that looks.”

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