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Gillingham 0 Walsall 0 match report: League 2 clash at Priestfield ends goalless despite Gills coming close to late winner

Gillingham couldn’t find a way through as they drew at home to Walsall on Saturday in League 2.

The Gills had conceded five goals in their previous two league matches but kept a clean sheet on this occasion - but couldn’t score themselves, despite going close to grabbing a late winner.

Gillingham's Jordan Green challenges Walsall's Brandon Comley during the goalless draw. Picture: KPI
Gillingham's Jordan Green challenges Walsall's Brandon Comley during the goalless draw. Picture: KPI

The first opening came in the fifth minute as the lively Jordan Green found Gillingham team-mate Mika Mandron. Frontman Mandron tried to find Green with a return ball but his attempted pass went through to away goalkeeper Owen Evans.

Five minutes later, the home side felt they should have had a penalty. Green tried to latch on to a long ball and was met by Evans, the pair coming together inside the penalty box, but referee Robert Madely controversially decided to restart play with the Saddlers having possession.

Walsall’s first chance at Priestfield came with 14 minutes played which saw Tom Knowles blast over.

Just after the half-hour mark, Walsall, coached by Michael Flynn who had captained the Gills in a spell with the club from 2005 to 2007, had another chance. But midfielder Knowles once again failed to hit the target.

There was almost a mix-up in the home defence in the 40th minute. Goalkeeper Glenn Morris came out before changing his mind, as defender Elkan Baggott dealt with the danger.

Gillingham boss Neil Harris applauds the fans during the match against Walsall. Picture: KPI
Gillingham boss Neil Harris applauds the fans during the match against Walsall. Picture: KPI

Two minutes later, Walsall skipper Donervon Daniels had an even better chance but curled just over from the edge of the box.

But the encounter remained goalless at half-time, the greatest entertainment being the flak the officials were getting from some of the home supporters among the crowd of 3,917, which included 333 Walsall fans.

The second period was less than a minute old when Ronan Maher got the game's first booking for a foul on Gillingham skipper Stuart O’Keefe, 17-year-old Maher having signed his first professional contract a day before the match.

With 53 minutes played, home playmaker Ben Reeves bent a shot over Evans’ bar.

A fantastic save from Evans then stopped the hosts from breaking the deadlock soon after. Frenchman Mandron threaded the ball through to Max Ehmer, although the centre-back couldn’t quite stab past the visiting goalkeeper who flew to his right to make the save.

Elkan Baggott drives forward for the Gills at Priestfield. Picture: KPI
Elkan Baggott drives forward for the Gills at Priestfield. Picture: KPI

The Gills continued to push forward and, just before the hour mark, winger Hakeeb Adelakun stung the palms of Evans after Morris had set Gillingham on their way with a quick clearance.

At this stage, the home team were well on top and much-improved after a 3-0 loss at Tranmere seven days ago and a 2-0 home defeat to Harrogate on Tuesday night as a Reeves corner deflected narrowly wide off the head of a Saddlers defender.

The visitors posed a threat at the other end, though, and almost scored a lucky goal when Morris dropped a cross from substitute Liam Bennett on to his own post before the goalkeeper gratefully grabbed hold of the loose ball.

But midway through the second half, O’Keefe really should have scored but, instead, blasted over when well placed after he had won possession in midfield.

With four minutes to go, a frantic finish to the match began.

The Saddlers nearly struck when Manny Monthe headed wide Brandon Comley’s corner at the back post.

But a minute later, having just come on, Gills substitute Lewis Walker out-muscled the Walsall defence before seeing his shot hit the post and Green was clattered as he tried to follow-up but a corner was his reward, the set-piece being safely cleared.

Danny Johnson, the Saddlers’ top scorer, had a fantastic opportunity in the dying seconds, only to be thwarted by a big save from Morris as the contest ended goalless.

Gillingham manager Harris had made one change to his starting line-up which saw Cheye Alexander replace Olly Lee who dropped to the bench, allowing Alexander and Ryan Law to play in wing-back roles in front of their back three.

Midfielder Shaun Williams still seemingly was deemed not fit enough to feature having suffered a foot injury before last weekend's loss at Tranmere, but he played on anyway at Prenton Park, while Dom Jefferies also wasn’t fit enough to return just yet.

The Saddlers made three changes of their own. Knowles, Andy Williams and Maher replaced Timmy Abraham - the younger brother of England and Roma hitman Tammy Abraham - Isaac Hutchinson and Liam Bennnett.

It means Gillingham still haven’t beaten Walsall at Priestfield since a 2-1 success in September 2007 which came courtesy of a Gary Mulligan brace.

Gillingham: Morris, Alexander, Wright, Ehmer, Baggott, Law (Tutonda 86mins), O’Keefe, Green, Adelakun (Kashket 73mins), Reeves, Mandron (Walker 86mins). Subs not used: Turner, MacDonald, Lee.

Walsall: Evans, White, Daniels, Monthe, Kinsella, Knowles (Hutchinson 65mins), Williams (Abraham 65mins), Comley, Maher (Bennett 58mins), P.Clarke, Johnson. Subs not used: Przybek, James-Taylor, Earing, F.Clarke.

Attendance: 3,917 (333 away fans).

Referee: Robert Madely.

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