Bradley Dack strikes in the second half to help guide Gills to their second 1-1 draw in the space of four daysGillingham extended their unbeaten run to four games in all competitions after a hard earned 1-1 draw against Walsall at Banks’s Stadium on Sunday evening.
The hosts controlled proceedings in the first half and Stuart Nelson made a string of fine saves to keep the scores level at the break, and the visitors seized the initiative to take the lead on 69 minutes with Bradley Dack finishing brilliantly following a long ball from centre-back John Egan.
Walsall pushed for an equalizer and got it six minutes later when sub Ashley Grimes was in the right place at the right time to smash home from close range.
The management staff made just one alteration to the side that drew 1-1 with Bristol City at Ashton Gate three days previously – John Marquis returned after being cup tied in place of Joe Martin who wasn’t named in the squad due to injury.
Danny Galbraith and Devante McKain were named among the substitutes along with Brennan Dickenson and Luke Norris.
Skipper Doug Loft reverted to left back with Bradley Garmston also having to make do with a place on the bench.
Walsall were the better side in the opening minutes – an early effort from Romaine Sawyers was well saved by Nelson before Andy Taylor launched an effort from 20 yards over the bar.
Michael Cain saw another effort miss the target before Paul Downing forced a fine save from Nelson to earn a corner, and Cody McDonald had to be alert to clear a shot off the line before Downing was again thwarted by the Gills number one.
A Taylor free kick was comfortably stopped before Nelson made a magnificent stop to deny Jordan Cook from close range. Ben Purkiss delivered a low cross from the right; an initial shot was blocked with the winger waiting at the far post.
With the home fans ready to celebrate a goal the keeper made himself big and got as much as he could behind it before McGlashan brought the ball clear of danger.
Another free kick, this time from Anthony Forde, cleared the frame of the goal by a matter of inches before Richard O’Donnell at the other end was called upon to smother a through pass with McDonald ready to pounce.
On 35 minutes Gillingham had their first effort at goal – Marquis retained possession inside his own half, offloaded to Pritchard and eventually the striker got it back, evaded a challenge and had a shot from 20 yards which cleared the crossbar.
With half time approaching Nelson was on hand once again to deny Tom Bradshaw inside the box before he got straight back up to palm away a powerful effort from Jordan Cook.
Gills had the first effort of the second half, a cross from deep by Gavin Hoyte found Loft at the back post whose shot was deflected before being well saved by O’Donnell.
Bradshaw then dragged a shot beyond the post before being substituted after picking up an injury, Grimes being the man to replace him who was involved almost immediately, a shot inside the area deflected for a corner.
A second was quickly awarded with Cain attempting a curling effort towards the top corner which missed the target.
Walsall’s pressure counted for nothing on 69 minutes when Gillingham unexpectedly took the lead. A long ball by Egan saw the Walsall defence switch off with many assuming an offside flag would be raised, Dack nipped in and finished brilliantly low into the opposite corner.
The visitors therefore took the lead and soon after felt they should have a penalty. McDonald was brought down inside the box with the referee judging that a recovering defender had got the crucial touch.
The striker disagreed and was booked for his protests.
Walsall sensed an opportunity to get back in the game and equalized just six minutes later. A cross from the right hand side was fizzed towards the penalty spot, Nelson got contact in amongst a host of bodies but Grimes was first to the loose ball and powered the shot into the corner to give the hosts the momentum.
Both teams went in search of a winner with Sawyers and Grimes going close, but in the end the Gills held out for a well-deserved point.
Walsall: O'Donnell, Purkiss, Taylor, Downing, A Chambers, Bradshaw (Grimes 60), Sawyers, Cain, J Chambers (O’Connor 46), Cook, Forde
Unused subs: MacGillivray, Baxendale, Flanagan, Henry, Murphy
Gills: Nelson, Hessenthaler (Galbraith 88), Ehmer, Egan, Hoyte, Pritchard (Garmston 81), Loft, McGlashan, Dack, Marquis, McDonald (Norris 89)
Unused subs: G Morris, McKain, Legge, Dickenson
Referee: Mr C Berry