Walsall 2-1 Gillingham Player Ratings: Ferrier shines

Morgan Ferrier – what a performance! expressandstar.co.uk

Walsall were excellent value for a 2-1 win over Gillingham that continues their bright start to the 2018-19 League One campaign. Here’s  our Player Ratings from the game.

Walsall

Liam Roberts – the 23-year-old is progressing well, considering he’s only played 27 EFL games and most goalkeepers do not peak until much later in their careers. Appears to have benefited from various non-league loan stints, based on his largely impressive direct distribution to Cook and good second half stops from Wilkinson, even if in injury-time, he was denied the clean sheet he deserved. 7

Nicky Devlin – the Scot has some leadership qualities having captained Ayr United, but normally looks better going forward than he does defensively. Here, he looked more than capable in both phases of play; made some good overlapping runs in the first half, even if he was forced back at times by Garmston’s second half runs. 7
Jack Fitzwater – the West Brom centre-back return on loan was a significant boost for the Saddlers, following some promising performances in the second half of last season. The 20-year-old reads the game well and was sufficiently comfortable in possession to play some lovely forward passes in the first half. If there was to be one criticism of his game, it’s that he does not appear to want to attack the ball, in either box, when it travels at pace, while his wiry frame means he isn’t the type to physically compete with his opposing striker and that was at times problematic in the latter stages, when Gillingham had two target men up top. 7
Jon Guthrie – Guthrie is the most experienced defender at Walsall and while he can be a tad braver than his partner at times, his schooling at Crewe meant he wasn’t uncomfortable in possession either. The 26-year-old put in something very close to the complete centre-back performance. 9
Luke Leahy – the left-back always has the capacity to produce a pin-point delivery and his free-kick winner against Plymouth two weeks ago was evidence of his dead ball specialism, even if he could only find the wall on this occasion. Didn’t break beyond Ginnelly with too much gusto but still offered a useful option in possession. 7

Kieron Morris – although, perhaps, not quite as skilful or technically refined as the injured Zeli Ismail, Morris offered bags of energy down that right hand-side. He stuck to the task defensively and played a part in the second goal. Could do with becoming more comfortable on his right foot if he were to develop even further. 6
Isaiah Osbourne – the Aston Villa academy graduate, who was handed his debut by Martin O’Neill, adds an experienced head in midfield which means 37-year-old Adam Chambers does not have to start every week as he has done in recent seasons. Osbourne showed great desire to close off spaces, he is a great role model for Dobson and thoroughly deserved his side-footed goal just before the break. 8
George Dobson – not only does former West Ham man excel at pressing opposition due to his high energy levels, he also has a cool head on his shoulders: Dobson invariably found himself in the right position to intercept loose balls and picked his passes very wisely. Given that he’s still only 20, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that the midfielder’s long-term future lies above League One. 9
Josh Ginnelly – the 21-year-old, comfortable on either flank, is two-footed and offers bags of pace. We certainly saw glimpses of that here from the 21-year-old, but with Ferrier doing much of the counter-attacks down the left, he sometimes undertook more modest, defensive duties. Has been part of successful Lincoln and Tranmere sides and his determination to prove himself at this level was evident. 7

Andy Cook – after scoring 51 goals for Tranmere over the last two seasons, the industrious target man has certainly not looked out of place at this level. Didn’t do as much of the glamourous work as Ferrier, but won a lot of headers from direct balls including Roberts’ goal-kicks and because defenders had to battle so hard in those aerial duels, space often opened up for others. He wasn’t the star of the show, but was nonetheless fundamental to the overall team performance. 8
Morgan Ferrier – the 23-year-old had an excellent season in the National League with Boreham Wood; as well as bringing power to the table, he also offers a hint of pace which perhaps isn’t quite Cook’s game. Picked up spaces in wide areas brilliantly all afternoon and took his goal with genuine class. The clear choice for the man-of-the-match award. 9

Josh Gordon (on 90+1) – this is the 23-year-old’s first taste of the EFL, after stints with a series of non-league clubs preceded a year with Leicester’s Development Squad; he didn’t have much time here, but still enough to produce one or two flicks and tricks as well as a long-range efforts that was blocked. 6

Gillingham

Tomas Holy – since the start of last season, the Czech has been arguably the most consistent goalkeeper in League One. Denied Ferrier a couple of times in the first half and could do nothing about the forward’s stunning opener, before excellent second half saves from Dobson and Cook. Shouldn’t be blamed too much for Walsall’s second. 7

Luke O’Neill – the ex-Southend man is an honest grafter and, as we saw in his free-kick against Burton last week, he can bring a touch of quality too. While he produced one or two accurate deliveries from deep in the first half, his lack of pace was an enduring problem due to the midfield’s narrow setup and he was often caught out of position defensively, too; most notably for the opening goal. 4
Max Ehmer – having made his Gills debut back in 2014, Ehmer is the team’s longest-serving player at 26. Can be very strong in the air but here, the lack of cover meant he was asked to defend one-on-one against speedy forwards, a task that didn’t necessarily suit his skillset. 4
Gabriel Zakuani – the Congolese centre-back is very brave in the air and will never shy away from making a crucial block; we saw evidence of that in the first half here. While Zakuani needed bailing out by Bingham on one or two occasions, this was not too bad a performance from him. 5
Bradley Garmston – the West Brom academy graduate is seen as one of the best left-backs in the division when fit, but has had difficulties with injuries, meaning just five appearances across the previous two seasons. He made one bold run in the first half and perhaps should have been used by his teammates more often, because his more regular forward forays late on contributed to Gillingham’s attempts at a comeback. 6

Regan Charles-Cook – the 21-year-old didn’t get too much of a chance at Charlton, but has benefited from various loan spells in the National League. He is undoubtedly a good athlete and his direct runs bore some fruit late on, when he had more space in front of him, but he lacked the subtlety of mind to influence things in tight areas in the first half. 5
Billy Bingham – the Welling-born midfielder has been hampered by injuries since joining from Crewe, but he has made a real difference since coming into the side. Bingham played one or two nice balls over the top from deep in the first half but was also overrun at times and came off midway through the second period. 4
Mark Byrne – the experienced midfielder, who made his name at Newport, is often a vital cog in this Gills machine but his influence on the midfield didn’t become apparent until the latter stages, when he was given more time to pick his passes. Capable of better. 4
Josh Parker – the versatile forward has become a fan favourite since breaking into the side at the end of the 2016-17 campaign and he was given the licence to drift into channels here; arguably one of the away side’s livelier first half performers. Despite looking a bit like Thierry Henry – and wearing the number 14 shirt – the similarities ended there! 5

Brandon Hanlan – the 21-year-old, who is enjoying arguably the best football of his career to date, looked a real threat last week with his direct runs at the back-four. Here though, he faced better organized opposition and thus, a bit like Charles-Cook, we didn’t get to see the full force of his speed. 4
Tom Eaves – the striker was left on the bench against Burton last week but after bagging a brace as a substitute, he was always unlikely to stay there – especially with Dean Parrett still out. Eaves was ineffective for three-quarters of the contest due to the lack of support and the service coming from deep areas; however, he looked far more effective when Wilkinson came on and was one of two targets to aim for rather than the main man. 5

Substitutes


Conor Wilkinson (on 66) – the Irishman has been involved with 10 different clubs yet is only 23. One hopes that the 6’3″ striker can settle in Kent, but it will be a challenge for him to dislodge Eaves. 8
Callum Reilly (on 67) – the Birmingham academy graduate is popular with Gillingham fans due to his work rate and he certainly injected some raw energy to proceedings here. 7
Barry Fuller (on 78) – the veteran has won the many hearts and minds of fans of almost every club he’s been at due to his determination, work rate and leadership qualities; the fact that Steve Lovell chose the honest right-back as his final substitution when losing might, however, imply a dearth of alternative game-changers. 5