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Gillingham 1 Walsall 1: League 2 match report from Priestfield Stadium - Isaac Hutchinson penalty opener cancelled out by Conor Masterson

Gillingham had new signings on show at Priestfield but needed a goal from defender Conor Masterson to rescue a point.

Walsall had gone in front from the penalty spot after an hour through Isaac Hutchinson but Masterson was on hand to equalise when the ball dropped to him inside the box.

Josh Walker made his first start for Gillingham on Saturday against Walsall Picture: Beau Goodwin
Josh Walker made his first start for Gillingham on Saturday against Walsall Picture: Beau Goodwin

Gillingham hadn’t beaten Walsall in any of their previous eight games at Priestfield, the last coming in 2007 thanks to a Gary Mulligan double. They struggled to look like winning the latest meeting between the sides at Priestfield, chasing the game after conceding a penalty in the second half. The Gills looked much-improved after equalising but had to settle for a point from this one after a 1-1 draw.

Josh Walker made his home debut for the Gills - one of four signings in the January transfer window - but Watford loan man Jorge Hurtado was named among the subs and giant striker Josh Andrews wasn’t in the squad, still carrying an injury from his time on loan at Accrington.

It was two of those recent signings that combined to create an early opportunity for the Gills as Remeao Hutton’s perfectly weighted ball into the path of Walker was a chance the striker couldn’t make the most of.

Walker was also second best to the Walsall defence later in the half as Scott Malone also looked to play the striker in with a fine ball forward. Aside from that, however, the Gills struggled.

Oli Hawkins nodded wide from Hutton’s cross in a half of football that struggled to ignite for the hosts. Visiting keeper Owen Evans - who the Walsall fans didn’t seem a fan of on social media - had little to do in those first 45 minutes.

Walsall made it difficult for the Gills to play it out from the back and were well organised across the park. Had Josh Gordon been more composed with his close-range effort they might have taken the lead. The striker smashed the ball over after a defensive clearance fell kindly.

Gillingham were looking more like the team that produced an uninspiring display last time at home, against Forest Green, rather than the one that impressed the week before at Stadium MK.

The Gills got going 10 minutes after the restart, inspired by Hutton hunting down a Walsall defender and forcing him into a mistake. The simple bit of enthusiasm got the home crowd fired up and the players motivated too.

The Gills twice had the chance to put Walsall under pressure from free-kicks but twice got penalised, with the linesman’s flag going up for offside.

It was Walsall who went ahead with Hutchinson scoring from the penalty spot on 61 minutes after Shad Ogie had been penalised for handball as he slid in to make a recovery tackle having initially given away possession.

Moments before the goal Hutchinson had been denied when free at the far post, Turner saving well with his legs to deny the man who scored a hat-trick when the two teams had met in Walsall earlier on in the season. Tom Knowles’ follow-up was blocked but they kept the pressure on to win a penalty and take the lead.

Clemence had his subs ready even before Hutchinson had beaten Turner from the spot, with three changes, including a first appearance for Watford loan man Hurtado.

Colombian forward Hurtado looked lively and had Walsall keeper Owen Evans backtracking to save on the line as his shot looped goalwards off a visiting defender.

The equaliser came from an Ogie throw which dropped to the feet of Masterson and he made no mistake with a strike on the turn from close range.

Masterson was in the thick of it again with a header from a corner that fell for Ogie but his chance to make amends for the penalty disappeared in a flash as he blazed over the bar.

Gillingham pushed for a winner late on with Hurtado a constant threat but had to settle for the point. With the last kick Ryan Stirk struck at goal for Walsall but birthday box Max Ehmer made the block to ensure it finished level.

Gillingham: Turner, Hutton, Malone, Ehmer, Ogie, Masterson, Coleman, Lapslie (J Williams 62mins), Mahoney (Dieng 62mins), Hawkins (Nadesan 90mins), Walker (Hurtado 62mins). Subs not used: Morris, Clark, McKenzie.

Walsall: Evans, Okagbue, L Gordon, Daniels, Farquharson, Hutchinson, Knowles, Comley, Earing (Stirk 76mins), J Gordon (Tierney 76mins), Faal (Matt 66mins). Subs not used: Smith, James-Taylor, Allen, Adegboyega.

Referee: Charles Breakspear

Attendance: 5,710 (190 away)

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