Published: 16:40, 18 November 2017
Gillingham made it three away wins on the spin in the league after beating Walsall on Saturday.
Conor Wilkinson put the Gills ahead just before the half-time interval after Walsall failed to make the most of their early dominance.
Gillingham had to play the last 20 minutes with 10 men following a red card for defender Max Ehmer but fought bravely to clinch maximum points.
The game at Walsall marked his first in charge for Steve Lovell since being handed the role on a permanent basis.
Wilkinson was starting a league game for the first time in over a month as Lovell chose the big striker ahead of pacey forward Elliott List. He won plenty of headers in the opening half but most of the attacking play was coming from the hosts.
Lively pair Zeli Ismail and Erhun Oztumer were a real handful, playing a support role for their striker Amadou Bakayoko.
Gills keeper Tomas Holy had to save on the line to deny Kieron Morris and was there again to deny Bakayoko, as Ismail and Oztumer had combined to undo the defence.
Ismael had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down, after going to ground under pressure from Josh Parker. Referee Andy Haines wasn’t interested.
The Gills had blocked a number of shots and seen other efforts go wide, forcing Lovell to change his team’s shape. From a 4-1-3-2 formation they reverted to wing-backs in a bid to contain Ismail and co.
The chances began to dry up and with half-time approaching the Gills took the lead. Tom Eaves played a ball into the box and a poor touch from a Walsall defender allowed Wilkinson the chance to prod the ball home, netting his first goal for the club in the league.
Walsall were on top again at the start of the season half, with Holy coming to the Gills’ rescue to turn Bakayoko’s effort over the bar with a one-handed stop. The same Walsall player went close again moments later, shooting wide.
Lovell made changes, introducing Byrne for Eaves. Parker moved upfront, Clare dropped to left wing-back and the substitute took up his place in midfield.
The Gills were then forced into another reshuffle when Ehmer was shown a second yellow card, after a challenge on recently introduced sub Daniel Agyei. Clare switched sides as the visitors went 4-4-1.
Walsall put the pressure on. Ismail had a shot blocked after a surging run at a retreating defence and Agyei had a low shot held by Holy.
There was some brave defending from the Gills as the clock ticked down and they almost added a second at the death, with Scott Wagstaff forcing a save from the keeper with Parker waiting for a pass.
Walsall: L Roberts, Edwards (T Roberts 60mins), Leahy, Guthrie, Chambers, Oztumer, Morris (Flanagan 60mins), Kinsella, Ismail, Bakayoko (Agyei 70mins), N Roberts. Subs not used: Gillespie, Devlin, Donnellan, Kouhyar.
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill (Nugent 87mins), Ogilvie, Zakuani, Ehmer, Hessenthaler, Clare, Martin, Parker, Eaves (Byrne 60mins), Wilkinson (Wilkinson 81mins). Subs not used: Nelson, Oldaker, List, Cundle.
Attendance: 4,917 (355 away)
More by this authorLuke Cawdell