Late Eaves goal not enough as Gills slip to narrow defeat at the Bescot.
Gillingham tasted league defeat for the first time this term as first half goals from Morgan Ferrier & Isaiah Osbourne handed the home side a 2-1 win and three points at the Banks’s Stadium on Saturday.
Despite a rally in the second half, including a late header from Tom Eaves, the Gills were to come away pointless in what was an entertaining encounter.
Gillingham made two changes from the side that lost at Millwall on Tuesday; Gabriel Zakuani replaced Alex Lacey while Billy Bingham returned in midfield, coming in for Callum Reilly. For the hosts, it was just one change as Keiron Morris replaced Zeli Ismael on the wing.
Gills, playing in their black and white anniversary kit, lined up with Josh Parker playing at the top of the diamond & Mark Byrne holding at the base and the Gills nearly made a perfect start to the game. After Regan Charles-Cook was bought down, a Luke O’Neill free-kick Was floated in and Tom o
Walsall responded though, a break on the left-hand side saw the ball fall to Josh Ginnelly on the edge of the box, but under a lot of pressure, the midfielder could only blaze over.
The game had begun at a hectic tempo and the pace down the flanks was causing the Gills defence several issues. It was to be the pace that would lead to the first goal; Mark Byrne lost possession in the middle of the park & it was pounced upon by Morgan Ferrier. The winger drove brilliantly at the Gills defence before unleashing an unstoppable effort in to the top corner. The home side ahead after 12 minutes.
Parker nearly drew Gillingham level eight minutes later, the forward superbly rolled two Walsall defenders before firing agonisingly past the post as the Gills went in search of an equaliser.
It was nearly Deja- vu for Gills, Ferrier again collected the ball down the left-hand side following an impressive first touch. The front man again cut in, luckily for Gills though, his effort was straight at Holy in the Gills goal.
It took a last-ditch block from Zakuani to keep the scores level, Jack Fitzwater’s effort looked to be heading in to the corner before the Gills skipper superbly threw himself in front of the ball to keep the score at 1-0.
Brandon Hanlan was once again causing problems and following good work from Regan Charles-Cook the forward cut back in side, and struck low, but keeper Liam Roberts was well placed in the Walsall goal to parry it away.
Walsall doubled their lead after 41 minutes. Following good hold up play from Keiron Morris the Gills did well to get bodies back but the winger cut the ball back to Isaiah Osbourne, and the number 30 stroked the ball beyond Tomas Holy to give Gills a mountain to climb going in to the second half.
Neither side made changes at half time as Gillingham went in search of a way back in to the game. It was the Saddlers who nearly went out of sight early in the second half. The ball was cut back to Andy Cook at the edge of the box and Tomas Holy pulled off a brilliant save low down to his left to keep Gills in the game & that was followed by a Kieron Morris drive that flashed past the post as the home side started the second half in a similar fashion to how they finished the first.
Gills were trying to find an equaliser and nearly found a way back in to the game after good play from Regan Charles-Cook, the midfielder skipped past a challenge but saw his shot blocked by Fitzwater.
As the game ticked in to the last quarter Steve Lovell tried to mix it up, Conor Wilkinson & Callum Reilly coming on for Brandon Hanlan & Billy Bingham. Wilkinson nearly made an immediate impact as he rose highest from a corner, but his header was easily caught by Liam Roberts in the Walsall goal.
With the game entering the final ten minutes, the Gills made their final change as Barry Fuller replaced Luke O’Neill. Wilkinson was causing the home side’s defence lots of problems and he had another header saved from a corner, a dipping header following a cross from the right looked to be landing in the top corner before a save from Roberts.
Walsall were defending for their lives and produced three blocks in a matter of moments to deny Gills. Firstly, Wilkinson was denied before both Charles-Cook and Mark Byrne both saw their shots blocked as the minutes ticked away.
Gills were to get within inches of getting a consolation as the game entered added time; a Charles-Cook corner found the head of Callum Reilly, but his goal bound effort was cleared off the line by Nicky Devlin, as It looked like not being Gills’ day
Gills were to get a consolation their second half effort deserved right at the death. As the saddlers defence sat deeper, a brilliant Wilkinson cross was headed in by Tom Eaves at the back post as the striker netted a third goal of the season in front of the Gills fans.
Despite a late rally from the visitors it wasn’t to be for the Gills as the game finished 2-1.
Walsall: Liam Roberts, Luke Leahy, George Dobson, Jon Guthrie, Nicky Devlin, Kieron Morris, Andy Cook, Josh Ginnelly, Morgan Ferrier (Josh Gordon 90), Jack Fitzwater, Isaiah Osbourne.
Unused subs: Chris Dunn, Liam Kinsella, Maz Kouhyar, Jordan Sangha, Mitch Candlin, Kane Wilson.
Gillingham: Tomas Holy, Luke O’Neill (Barry Fuller 78), Bradley Garmston, Max Ehmer, Gabriel Zakuani, Brandon Hanlan (Conor Wilkinson 66), Tom Eaves, Regan Charles-Cook, Josh Parker, Billy Bingham (Callum Reilly 66), Mark Byrne.
Unused subs: Alex Lacey, Navid Nasseri, Bradley Stevenson, Tom Hadler
Attendance: 4361 (332 away fans)
Referee: Trevor Kettle