Match Report: Gillingham 0 Walsall 3 Match Report: Gillingham 0 Walsall 3
Posted by: Bescot Banter

Match Report: Gillingham 0 Walsall 3

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and hosts, Gillingham.
The Saddlers have been in terrible form as of late and arrived at Saturday's clash with the Gills on the back of a disappointing defeat to Scunthorpe United, a result which adds to their already poor run of results.

Heading into the match Walsall manager Dean Keates added strength to his backline with the recruitment of left-back Scott Laird who has joined the club on loan from Forest Green Rovers as he looks to prove himself following a spell on the sidelines.

Walsall captain, Joe Edwards got the action underway. The saddlers started brightly, causing problems in the Gillingham box early on, and creating the first real chance of the game just three minutes in, as Connor Johnson and Edwards combined well to work the ball to Matt Jarvis, who did well to beat his man before crossing the ball to Andy Cook who saw his headed effort hacked off the line, winning a corner for his side. The ball in from the flag-kick was good, but Mark Byrne was well placed and headed clear.

The Saddlers continued to look the better side, and nine minutes in, they made their early dominance pay, winning a free-kick out on the right, which Luke Leahy whipped into the box, where Cook was waiting to head the ball into the bottom right corner to put his side a goal to the good.

Gillingham began to show signs of life after falling behind, with Callum Reilly and Bradley Garmston combining well in the thirteenth minute, though the move fizzled out once they entered the Walsall box, with the ball heading out of play for a goal-kick.

The visiting side almost found themselves through on goal for a second time in the seventeenth minute, as a back pass from Alex Lacey caught Tomas Holy off guard. The ‘keeper did well though to regain his composure and beat Josh Gordon to the ball.

With nineteen minutes on the clock, the Saddlers doubled their advantage, as Jarvis beat his man out on the left, before delivering a perfect cross to Cook, who rose well and headed a powerful effort past Holy.

The game settled into something of a midfield battle following the Saddlers second goal, with both sides enjoying time on the ball without creating much going forwards, until the Gills won a corner in the twenty-eighth minute as a low cross from Garmston was turned behind, but the chance came to nothing for the hosts, as Jon Guthrie was on hand to head clear the delivery from the flag-kick.

The Gills continued to press as they sought a route back into the game, winning another corner as we reached the half hour mark, as a ball from Luke O’Neill was deflected behind. The flag-kick was played short by Reilly to O’Neill, but the defenders cross into the box was headed clear by the Walsall defences.

The home side were forced to make an early change to their line-up in the thirty-fourth minute, with Alex Lacey forced to depart early due to an apparent injury, and Tom Eaves taking his place.

The Gills were awarded a free-kick, thirty-five yards out, in the thirty-ninth minute, for a foul on Eaves. O’Neill fired an effort goal-wards from the set-piece, but the ball sailed well wide of Liam Roberts upright, without worrying the Walsall ‘keeper. The hosts were awarded another free-kick just two minutes later, for a handball offence from Leahy. Reilly played a left-footed cross into the box, but the ball evaded everyone and headed out of play for a goal-kick.

Walsall were unlucky not to add to their tally in the forty-third minute, as Jarvis tricked his way through the Gillingham defences and into the box, but the midfielders eventual effort on goal was just a touch wide of the mark, and after two minutes of injury time were played out, the sides headed back to their respective dressing rooms with the Saddlers leading by two-goals-to-nil.

0 - 2

Gillingham opted to make a second change to their line-up as the teams returned to the field after the break, with Josh Parker being replaced by Regan Charles-Cook as his side got the second-half underway.

It was the Saddlers who got the second-half off to a flying start through, as a long throw from Leahy, just two minutes after the re-start, landed at the feet of Cook, who did well to bundle the ball over the line from a tight angle to secure the match ball and further extend the visitors advantage.

The hosts set about the difficult task of getting back into the game, winning a corner five minutes into the half, but the ball in was narrowly missed by Gills captain Gabriel Zakuani, before Gordon put it out of bounds for another corner, which was played to O’Neill who blazed the ball over the bar alleviating the pressure on the Walsall defences.

The Saddlers soon had the ball back up at the other end, where they won a corner of their own, which Jarvis played into the box for Cook, who looked to add a fourth goal to tally, with a headed effort that sailed narrowly wide of the upright.

The visitors went close again in the fifty-eighth minute, with Jarvis pulling the ball back for Gordon on the edge of the box, but the forwards downward header sailed inches wide of Holy’s upright. Walsall continued to press, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position moments later, which Leahy played towards Cook, but there was just too much height on the cross for the striker, and the ball sailed out of play for a goal-kick.

Gillingham opted to make their third and final change of the afternoon in the sixty-third minute, with Callum Reilly making way for Brandon Hanlan.

The game settled into something of a midfield battle as it continued, with both sides seeing the ball, without troubling their oppositions defences, until the Gills won a corner in the seventy-second minute, which O’Neill played to Byrne who looked to set up Hanlan at the far post, but the striker was unable to turn the ball home.

Fifteen minutes from time, Gillingham created a chance which drew a save from Roberts, as Charles-Cook but inside Nicky Devlin and unleashed an effort from twenty-five yards, but the Walsall shot-stopper was well placed and saved.

With ten minutes still to play, Walsall opted to make their first change of the afternoon, as Forest Green Rovers loanee Scott Laird made his return to the Saddlers line-up, with Matt Jarvis departing to an ovation from both sets of supporters.

Cook looked to turn provider moments after the change, with the striker putting Gordon through on goal, but Holy was alert and saved the effort comfortably.

The Saddlers opted to make their second change of the game in the eighty-fourth minute, with Josh Gordon making way for Liam Kinsella.

Two additional minutes were added to end the match, but with the points already headed back to Walsall, neither side made much use of them and the referee brought an end to the contest with a Cook hat-trick the difference on the day. A much improved performance from the Saddlers, who looked to be in control from the off, taking their chances and defending well.

0 - 3

Cook (9')
Cook (19')
Cook (47')
Attendance: TBC
Referee: Darren Drysdale
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