Gillingham celebrated Steve Lovell’s permanent appointment as Gills boss with a battling 1-0 away win at Walsall.
Striker Conor Wilkinson marked his return to the starting XI with the crucial goal of the game as Gillingham led at the break, then battle through the final 18 minutes of the game with 10 men after the dismissal of centre-half Max Ehmer.
It was a performance full of grit and stubbornness, as Gillingham stayed resolute in defence, repelling Walsall’s attacks and throwing bodies in the way of shots as a determined Gills back line refused to wilt under the home side’s pressure.
Overall, Walsall had 21 shots, but struggled to find the target, with just six in danger of troubling Gills keeper Tomas Holy between the sticks.
By contrast, Gillingham’s chances were few and far between, with Wilkinson putting away one of only two Gills efforts on target during the 90 minutes.
The goal arrived at the perfect time to sucker-punch the hosts when, after a period of sustained Walsall pressure, Wilkinson latched onto Walsall defender Liam Kinsella’s 44th-minute mistake to stab home and give the visitors a priceless lead at the break.
And in the second half the Gills showed stubborn resistance in defence, with returning centre-half Gabriel Zakuani to the fore as the Gills held off the Saddlers’ attacks.
And even when Ehmer was dismissed for a second yellow card in the 72nd minute, Lovell’s rejuvenated Gills refused to fold as they held on for a hard-earned 1-0 victory, their fourth away win in a row.
The win saw Gillingham lift themselves out of the relegation zone, as Walsall dropped ever closer to the bottom four.
Gills XI va Walsall
Holy, Ehmer, Zakuani, Ogilvie, Clare, O’Neill (Nugent 87), Hessenthaler, Parker, Martin, Wilkinson (Wagstaff 82), Eaves (Byrne 60)
Unused subs: Nelson, Oldaker, List, Cundle