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14:34 29th December 2013
By  Andrew Poole


THE SADDLERS stepped out in bright sunshine for our final game of 2013 at Gillingham.

It was Walsall who created the first opening early on when a neat move ended with Ben Purkiss' cross from the right was met by Ashley Hemmings who was just off target.

The Saddlers looked lively in the opening exchanges and we saw plenty of the early ball.

There was a shooting chance for Romaine Sawyers who turned well inside the area only to see his strike blocked by Stuart Nelson in the home goal.

A foul on Romaine Sawyers gave Walsall a free-kick in a promising position which Andy Taylor whipped into the danger zone as Craig Westcarr headed wide.

A free-kick wide on the right for handball from Ben Purkiss' cross was well-worked and ended with Paul Downing going close.

At the other end, a rare foray forward by the home side saw Cody McDonald break into the area and feed Danny Kedwell who missed from close range. It was a let-off for Walsall.

A foul by Andy Butler on Craig Fagan gave the home side a free-kick but the danger was averted by an offside flag as the ball came in.

The Saddlers had the majority of possession during the opening period but went in at the break goalless.

HALF-TIME: Gillingham 0 Walsall 0

The Saddlers fell behind within seconds of the restart with a goal out of the blue from Cody McDonald.

A corner for Walsall won by Ashley Hemmings saw the ball fall out to Sam Mantom whose low strike dragged just wide of the target.

There was a superb save from Richard O'Donnell to deny McDonald before Chris Whelpdale rattled the crossbar as the rebound fell to him.

The Saddlers got back onto level terms just passed the hour when a ball in from the byline by James Baxendale found Sawyers whose initial effort was blocked on the line but he followed up to make no mistake.

There was a great chance for Sawyers after the 'keeper spilled a low drive by Mantom into his path, but he fired into the side-netting after taking the ball wide.

A great cross from Baxendale to the far post is headed just wide by Hemmings as The Saddlers look the most likely side once more.

Mantom cut open The Gills' back-line as Westcarr strode through only to be forced too wide by the 'keeper as he looked to turn the ball home.

There was drama in the last minute when Julian Gray lashed home to make it 2-1 to The Saddlers before in stoppage time, McDonald forced the ball home after appeals for a penalty from the home side.

Deep into stoppage time, Westcarr was inches away from scoring before The Gills broke down the other end as O'Donnell saved well to deny McDonald.

It was a breathless ending as honours finished even.

FULL-TIME: Gillingham 2 Walsall 2


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.