Jason Demetriou nets a late winner to knock Gillingham off the top of Sky Bet League OneWalsall have replaced Gillingham at the top of Sky Bet League One following a 3-2 win at Banks’s Stadium.
Cody McDonald and Bradley Dack had fired the visitors into an early first half lead, but Walsall stormed back and netted twice in quick succession to level the score before the interval.
The match look destined for a draw but with minutes left Jason Demetriou smashed an effort home to secure all three points for the Saddlers.
Manager Justin Edinburgh made two changes to the side that drew with Southend. Doug Loft and Cody McDonald returned to the starting XI in place of Jordan Houghton and Bradley Garmston who were both on the bench.
With Luke Norris out it was Ben Williamson who provided the attacking options among the subs, with Jake Hessenthaler and Max Ehmer also available.
Walsall had the first free kick of the game which was well blocked by the Gills wall, however from this point on it was the Kent club who bossed proceedings, certainly in terms of territory, with Dack’s free kick being the visitors best chance which was fired over.
The early positivity paid off on 12 minutes, Loft spotted McDonald in a limited amount of space but still managed to produce an inch perfect pass.
The striker positioned his body well and allowed the ball to run in front of him, he ran across a retreating defender and lifted the ball over Neil Etheridge to net the opener.
This appeared to deflate Walsall slightly and the visitors continued to boss possession, and just beyond the half hour mark they were awarded a penalty when Dack’s persistence in the penalty area drew a challenge from Paul Downing which resulted in the referee pointing to the spot.
Dack dusted himself off, kept his nerve and sent Etheridge the wrong way to double the Gills advantage.
However celebrations were short lived when the Saddlers pulled one back just minutes later – Kieron Morris created space for a shot and produced a powerful effort which beat Nelson and found the corner.
With the deficit reduced the hosts immediately went in search of an equaliser and got it just seconds following the kick off. A cross from the right wasn’t cleared, Jackson couldn’t prevent Lalkovic getting a touch and the effort slowly made its way over the line with Nelson unable to do anything about it.
A late surge of pressure late in the half came to nothing as Gills resisted until the break.
The half started quietly but Gills attempted to switch the momentum in their favour, a Jermaine McGlashan effort palmed wide before Aaron Morris fired a volley into the side netting.
Romaine Sawyers found Tom Bradshaw with an excellent pass to the left wing; he cut inside only to see his shot blocked with Morris denied by Nelson moments later.
Gills made a couple of changes in the hope of finding a potential winner – the second of which, Hessenthaler on for Dickenson, very nearly sparked a third goal.
A cross to the back post was headed down by Donnelly and McDonald could only fire over from six yards.
Both teams went all out in search of a fifth and potentially crucial goal, and it came in the 91st minute for the hosts.
A cross from the left wasn’t cleared, an attempted overhead kick failed and Demetriou was well placed to smash home from close range.
Walsall replace Gills at the top of the table with Burton Albion promoted to second.
Walsall: Etheridge, Demetriou, O’Connor, Dowling, Chambers, Bradshaw, Sawyers, Henry (Taylor 90), Lalkovic (Cook 77), Morris, Evans (Flanagan 87).
Unused subs: Baxendale, Forde, MacGillivray, Preston
Gills: Nelson, Jackson (Williamson 90), Egan, Lennon, Dickenson (Hessenthaler 69), A Morris, Loft, McGlashan (Garmston 54), Dack, Donnelly, McDonald.
Unused subs: G Morris, Ehmer, Houghton, Osadebe
Attendance: 6663 (689 Gills)
Referee: Mr D Drysdale