Published: 16:40, 19 January 2019
| Updated: 16:20, 20 January 2019
Gillingham were left empty-handed after a disappointing home showing against Walsall.
An Andy Cook first-half double put Walsall firmly in charge at Priestfield as the Gills were booed off at the break.
Cook completed his hat-trick shortly after the restart and the Gills were unable to recover.
Gillingham were facing a side without a win in seven but were up against it early on.
Returning winger Matt Jarvis, a recent addition for Walsall, proved problematic early on for the Gills defence, teeing up Cook for an early chance that was headed wide.
It wasn’t long before Cook got off the mark, however, heading home unmarked as he ran onto a free-kick from Luke Leahy. Nine minutes had gone and the Gills had barely got out of their own half.
The Gills, who would have gone above Walsall with a win, found themselves two goals down with 19 minutes played. Again it was too easy for Cook, drifting into space and heading home a cross from Jarvis, after he had got beyond Alex Lacey before picking out the striker.
Home boss Steve Lovell switched formation from 3-4-1-2 to 4-4-2, introducing leading scorer Tom Eaves from the bench in place of Lacey, who may have been carrying a knock. The Gills had a couple of opportunities from free-kicks but O’Neill’s effort from distance went just wide and Callum Reilly’s was overhit.
Jarvis threatened again just before the break, beating O’Neill but then unable to get a decent shot away as Josh Rees put him under pressure.
There was another change at the break for the Gills as Regan Charles-Cook replaced Josh Parker.
Barely 90 seconds after the restart and the Gills conceded a third, again scored by Cook. This time he finished on the turn after a throw from Leahy found its way through to him at the near post where he beat Connor Ogilvie to the ball.
The impressive Jarvis continued to be Walsall’s chief architect, picking out Josh Gordon with a pinpoint cross that the striker could only head wide.
Gillingham hadn’t beaten Walsall at home for over a decade and there seemed little chance of that changing with visiting keeper Liam Roberts remaining untroubled.
Substitute Brandon Hanlan went close to getting a goal back with 18 minutes left, connecting to an O’Neill corner at the far post, but he couldn’t direct it on target. Josh Rees drilled an effort wide moments later.
Charles-Cook had Gills’ first effort on target with 15 minutes left but the shot from outside the box was caught well by Roberts. Defender Connor Johnson almost turned a cross into his own net as the Gills made late improvements. Rees had a couple of late half chances but Walsall ran out 3-0 winners.
Gillingham: Holy, Garmston, O’Neill, Lacey (Eaves 35mins), Zakuani, Ogilvie, Byrne, Rees, Reilly (Hanlan 63mins), List, Parker (Charles-Cook 46mins). Subs not used: Hadler, Ehmer, Simpson, Oldaker.
Walsall: Roberts, Norman, Edwards, Leahy, Guthrie, Devlin, Cook, Jarvis (Laird 80mins), Johnson, Gordon (Kinsella 84mins), Osbourne. Subs not used: Dunn, Dobson, Morris, Ismail, Mussa.
Attendance: 3,975 (123 away)
More by this authorLuke Cawdell