Gillingham 2 Walsall 2 - match report

Cody McDonald scored deep into stoppage time to deny Walsall a win at Gillingham.

Walsall Manager Dean Smith
Walsall Manager Dean Smith

Julian Gray looked to have won it for the Saddlers when he drove home in the 90th minute.

But McDonald stunned the visitors when he poked home in stoppage time and only a great save from Richard O’Donnell denied him another and the hosts the win.

McDonald had put the Gills ahead seconds into the second half when he scored an overhead kick from the edge of the box but Romaine Sawyers then levelled for the visitors.

This was a quite breathtaking game in which both sides had chances to win. In seconds the Saddlers went from the agony of letting a late lead sleep to relief as O’Donnell saved the point.

But in truth they had enough chances to win it and will look back in frustration at a first half they dominated.

Dean Smith made two changes to the side which lost 1-0 at Bristol City on Boxing Day, with Adam Chambers and Ashley Hemmings replacing Nicky Featherstone and Milan Lalkovic.

It was Hemmings who had the first attempt of the game, heading Ben Purkiss’ inviting cross wide, while he was also off target with shot from distance soon after.

The Saddlers were dominating possession and Romaine Sawyers had the first shot on target with an effort which Nelson did well to push out. So in control were the visitors, there were ironic cheers when Gillingham’s Steven Gregory touched the ball following a long period of Walsall possession.

But Nelson was remaining largely untested and the hosts fired a reminder of their threat when Chris Whelpdale struck over from 25 yards out.

Craig Westcarr should have done better than head wide after meeting an Andy Taylor free-kick five yards out, while he dragged another effort wide, while Paul Downing fired over from six yards out following a well-worked free-kick.

But for all the Saddlers dominance it was the hosts who should have taken the lead just past the half-hour when McDonald got away from Andy Butler and squared for Kedwell, who somehow shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

And less than 30 seconds in the second period the Saddlers were hit by a sucker punch as McDonald controlled the ball on the edge of the box and sent a superb overhead kick past O’Donnell and into the top corner.

The stunned Saddlers looked for an immediate response and Sam Mantom drove a left-footed shot just wide of the post from 25 yards out after the hosts had failed to clear a corner.

O’Donnell then did superbly to deny McDonald at close range after he had wriggled clear of the defence. The ball then fell to Whelpdale, who sent a lob over the Saddlers keeper but back off the crossbar.

Walsall made the most of the let-off and levelled just past the hour mark, when Sawyers put the finishing touches on an excellent move at the second attempt after his first effort from three yards out had been blocked on the line.

The Saddlers were suddenly back in their stride and only a fine saving tackle denied Hemmings a tap-in. But the hosts were still a threat and struck the woodwork for the second time when Kedwell headed a Whelpdale long throw off the top of the bar.

The chances kept coming and it was the Saddlers next to go close when Sawyers hit the side-netting from two yards out after Nelson had fumbled Sam Mantom’s long range shot. Westcarr also hit the side-netting from a tight angle following another quick break by the visitors.

Gray then sent the visiting supporters into ecstasy when he struck in the final minute but there was a sting in the tail as McDonald levelled, just moments after Westcarr had almost added a third for the Saddlers when he headed over.

McDonald was then denied a winner by O’Donnell while Westcarr went close again when he curled a shot wide.