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League 1 match report: Walsall 2 Gillingham 1

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Gillingham suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday.

A couple of quality finishes put Walsall ahead at the break, with the impressive Morgan Ferrier opening the scoring and Isaiah Osbourne making it 2-0.

Tom Eaves pulled one back for the Gills at the death but those two first half goals were enough for Walsall.

Gabriel Zakuani and Billy Bingham returned to Gillingham’s starting eleven for the match at Walsall as Steve Lovell’s men attempted to make it three wins on the spin at the start of the season.

Walsall v Gillingham action Picture: Ady Kerry (3665819)
Walsall v Gillingham action Picture: Ady Kerry (3665819)

It was the same Gills XI which had finished the game against Burton the week before.

They were facing an equally confident Walsall side, a much changed team under the management of Dean Keates and one which had shown plenty of attacking intent in their opening three games, much like the Gills.

Home striker Ferrier showed his class early on, rampaging down the left, but it was Tom Eaves who had the best chance of the opening exchanges, glancing a Luke O’Neill cross just wide of the post.

The Gills weren’t short of attacking ideas but Walsall always looked the more dangerous in the first 45 minutes, as the lively Ferrier kept the defence busy.

Walsall v Gillingham action Picture: Ady Kerry (3665823)
Walsall v Gillingham action Picture: Ady Kerry (3665823)

Walsall took the lead with 12 minutes gone. Mark Byrne’s ball forward was cut out and a pass picked out Ferrier, who still had plenty to do. He cut inside and then curled the ball into the top corner.

Josh Parker drilled a shot narrowly wide for the Gills, after a clever dummy deceived his marker, but Ferrier was never far from the action. He tried to replicate his goal, once again cutting inside of Max Ehmer, but the shot lacked precision and Tomas Holy got behind it.

It was non stop action throughout the whole half and the Gills came close to levelling as Regan Charles Cook picked out Brandon Hanlan in the box but the low shot was saved well by keeper Liam Roberts.

Walsall midfielder Kieron Morris created the second goal, three minutes before the break, breaking forward and leaving Bradley Garmston on the turf before pulling the ball back to Osbourne, whose shot from the edge of the box crept in through a crowd of bodies.

Walsall v Gillingham action Picture: Ady Kerry (3665821)
Walsall v Gillingham action Picture: Ady Kerry (3665821)

Josh Ginnelly’s pace down the left flank was causing problems for Gills early in the second half. He combined with Ferrier to create a chance for Cook which was saved at full stretch by Holy. Ginnelly was involved again as Morris dragged a shot just wide.

Gillingham sub Conor Wilkinson managed a header on target, from O’Neill’s corner, but keeper Roberts comfortably got behind the effort. Moments later home fans were calling for Wilkinson to be sent off, after a challenge with Luke Leahy left the Walsall man on the deck, but nothing was given.

Wilkinson continued to threaten, having a positive impact off the bench. He headed a Bradley Garmston cross goalwards, only for Roberts to stick out a hand to help it over the bar.

Gillingham had a great chance to get back into the game in the 90th minute but Callum Reilly’s header, from a Regan Charles-Cook corner, was cleared off the line by George Dobson.

With only seconds left the Gills did score, Eaves netting his third of the season from a Wilkinson cross, but it was too little too late.

Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill (Fuller 78mins), Garmston, Zakuani, Ehmer, Bingham (Reilly 67mins), Byrne, Charles-Cook, Parker, Eaves, Hanlan (Wilkinson 67mins). Subs not used: Lacey, Nasseri, Stevenson, Hadler.

Walsall: Roberts, Leahy, Dobson, Guthrie, Devlin, Morris, Cook, Ginnelly, Ferrier (Gordon 90mins), Fitzwater, Osbourne. Subs not used: Dunn, Kinsella, Kouhyar, Sangha, Candlin, Wilson.

Attendance: 4,361

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