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Walsall 1 Gillingham 1 - match report

Gillingham's Bradley Dack hurdles a challenge at Walsall. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Gillingham's Bradley Dack hurdles a challenge at Walsall. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Gillingham clinched a hard-earned point at Walsall on Sunday night.

Walsall dominated the opening half but the Gills went ahead after the break through Bradley Dack.

Home substitute Ashley Grimes levelled with 15 minutes.

The draw made it four unbeaten for the Gills in all competitions.

John Marquis returned for the Gills after being cup-tied for Thursday night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match.

While the Gills exited the JPT competition in midweek, Walsall won their two-legged northern tie against Preston, to set up a Wembley final against Bristol City.

League form favoured the Gills as they went into the game on the back of two straight league wins, both at Priestfield. An inconsistent Walsall side had lost their last three at home.

But it was the hosts who bossed the opening half, thanks largely to the lively Anthony Forde, and the Gills were indebted to several good Stuart Nelson saves for keeping them in contention.

After 45 minutes of one-way traffic, Walsall almost netted in stoppage-time. Tom Bradshaw was denied by Nelson and he then made a smart reflex block to deny Jordan Cook.

Prior to that, a goal-line clearance from Cody McDonald ensured the hosts had a frustrated opening half.

Gillingham had failed to test the home keeper in the opening half, with McDonald heading well wide and Marquis getting no closer with a wild shot from distance.

Visiting fan Jon Murphy at least had some joy during the half-time break, winning the ‘crossbar challenge’ with a super effort.

The Gills did test keeper Richard O’Donnell early in the second half, with an angled drive from Doug Loft, but the home no.1 held on.

John Marquis heads towards goal for Gillingham at Walsall. Picture: Barry Goodwin
John Marquis heads towards goal for Gillingham at Walsall. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Moments later McGlashan and McDonald combined to force O’Donnell off his line but defender Andy Taylor cleared the danger.

It was a much more even start to the second half but Walsall’s hopes suffered a blow when their leading scorer Tom Bradshaw limped off on the hour.

His replacement Ashley Grimes had a good effort blocked but it was the Gills who took the lead.

With 69 minutes gone John Egan picked out a run from Dack and with just the keeper to beat, he found the net for his sixth goal of the season.

It could have been even better for the Gills moments later when McDonald went over in the box from a James O'Connor challenge. The referee, however, felt the tackle was a fair one and McDonald picked up on of five bookings for the visitors after protesting.

Just six minutes later Walsall levelled when Taylor’s free-kick caused panic in the box and Grimes pounced from close range.

The Gills survived a few scares after conceding to ensure they went home with a point.

Gills should have had a penalty says coach Darren Hare - click for his reaction.

Read Bradley Dack's reaction to scoring his sixth of the season.

Walsall: O’Donnell, Purkiss, Taylor, Downing, A Chambers, Bradshaw (Grimes 60mins), Sawyers, Cain, J Chambers (O’Connor 46mins), Cook, Forde. Subs not used: Baxendale, Flanagan, Henry, Murphy, MacGillivray.

Gillingham: Nelson, Hoyte, Egan. Ehmer, Hessenthaler (Galbraith 88mins), Pritchard (Garmston 81mins), Loft, McGlashan, Dack, Marquis, McDonald (Norris 89mins). Subs not used: Legge, Dickenson, G Morris, McKain.

Attendance: 3,951 (178 away)

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