Wal­sall now top of ta­ble

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Michael Beard­more

AN­OTHER Gillingham game, an­other de­ci­sive late goal – but this time the last-gasp spe­cial­ists were the ones with their heads in their hands.

Justin Ed­in­burgh’s side have built their road to the top of League One on late win­ners and equalis­ers, but Wal­sall beat them at their own game to re­place them at the sum­mit.

Ja­son Demetriou’s stop­page-time vol­ley capped a stir­ring come­back from the Sad­dlers, who were 2-0 down af­ter 32 min­utes but ul­ti­mately ran out de­served win­ners.

And de­lighted Wal­sall boss Dean Smith said: “We showed an aw­ful lot of char­ac­ter and I thought we just de­served it in the end as we were dom­i­nant for pe­ri­ods.

“A cou­ple of mis­takes from us let them in and I thought it was go­ing to be a moun­tain to climb with how well they have been do­ing.

“The win­ning goal came from us hav­ing both our full-backs in the box in the 92nd minute, which shows you how much we were try­ing to win the game.

“It’s al­ways pleas­ing to go top. It’s nice go­ing into the FA Cup next week as the top seeded team!

“To see our­selves, Gillingham and Bur­ton up there is great for League One, when you con­sider there are teams like Wi­gan, Sh­effield United and Coven­try in it. It shows how com­pet­i­tive the divi­sion is.”

A blood and thun­der first half was packed full of meaty chal­lenges, but there were also mo­ments of qual­ity.

It was from the first of th­ese that the Gills took a 12th-minute lead, Cody McDon­ald keep­ing his cool to poke past Sad­dlers goal­keeper Neil Etheridge from Doug Loft’s ex­cel­lent through ball.

If that goal was all about Gillingham’s class, their sec­ond on 32 min­utes was a de­fen­sive dis­as­ter show from Wal­sall cen­tre-half Paul Down­ing.

He daw­dled in deal­ing with a high ball, al­low­ing Bradley Dack to steal pos­ses­sion and then hauled him down in the area. Dack coolly tucked home his sixth league goal of the sea­son from the spot.

How­ever, amaz­ingly, Wal­sall were level by the break, with the re­vival sparked by winger Kieron Mor­ris who drilled a rocket into the bot­tom cor­ner from 25 yards.

And a minute later, it was 2-2. Mi­lan Lalkovic caught full-back Ryan Jack­son nap­ping as he stole in at the far post to poke home Man City loa­nee Ge­orge Evans’ classy cross.

Wal­sall bossed the sec­ond half and Gills keeper Stu­art Nel­son saved well from long-range ef­forts from Mor­ris and Down­ing, the former com­ing close to aton­ing for his ear­lier er­ror with a ma­raud­ing run and shot.

The Gills did have ten or 15 min­utes on top but McDon­ald blazed over on the turn, while cen­tre-half John Egan headed a cor­ner wide.

Wal­sall won it when Demetriou volleyed home the ex­cel­lent Rico Henry’s di­verted cross in the first minute of time added on, while only a fine Nel­son save from sub­sti­tute Reece Flana­gan stopped it be­ing 4-2.

Af­ter see­ing his side fall vic­tim to a late goal af­ter a three-game run in which they had sal­vaged either last-gasp lev­ellers or bagged in­jury-time win­ners, Ed­in­burgh was philo­soph­i­cal. He said: “I thought it was a fan­tas­tic ad­vert for League One, a bench­mark for the divi­sion. It was a very en­ter­tain­ing game with lots of good foot­ball and pe­ri­ods that swung from one team be­ing in con­trol to the other. We’ve in­flicted late goals on other teams this sea­son and I’ve just said to the play­ers some­times you have to take your medicine and move on.

“It’s about the re­ac­tion now from this group and I ex­pect it to be a pos­i­tive one. Late goals are cer­tainly be­com­ing a com­mon fea­ture of our games.”

KILLER BLOW: Ja­son Demetriou cel­e­brates hit­ting the win­ner for Wal­sall in stop­page time

PIC­TURE: Will Kil­patrick

MAIN MAN MI­LAN: Stu­art Nel­son can’t stop Mi­lan Lalkovic’s equaliser just be­fore half-time

LEVEL: Lalkovic wheels away to cel­e­brate af­ter mak­ing it 2-2


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