The Gills win for the third time in 10 days against bottom club Colchester United
Dominic Samuel's third goal in as many games earned Gillingham a hard-fought 1-0 victory against bottom club Colchester United at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium today.
Samuel struck 20 minutes from time following good play from Ryan Jackson and John Egan to consign the visitors to their ninth-consecutive league defeat. The Gills stay third in Sky Bet League One.
Defender Max Ehmer replaced Cardiff loanee Deji Oshilaja for his first league start since October in the only change to the 11 who began Boxing Day's win at Swindon Town.
Striker Rory Donnelly had the Gills' first chance on six minutes, heading onto the roof of the net from Josh Wright's deep cross from the right wing.
After Stuart Nelson made his first save of the match, a routine one from Chris Porter's low shot on the turn, Jake Hessenthaler came close to getting his second goal in as many games.
Ten minutes in, Jackson surged forward into the box, his cross was flicked towards the back post but the Gills midfielder was unable to convert.
Good work by Aaron Morris on the left wing created half a chance for Hessenthaler on 22 minutes, before Marvin Sordell's powerful shot was kept out by Nelson at the other end.
Neither side managed a notable shot on target for the remainder of the half, although the increasingly-confident United came close when a break involving Sordell resulted in Porter shooting just wide under pressure from Ehmer.
Gavin Massey curled a low effort past the post four minutes before the break, and George Moncur twice shot over the bar in the half's final seconds; once from a 40-yard free kick, the other a curling attempt that Nelson tipped onto the roof of the net.
Luke Norris and Doug Loft replaced Donnelly and Wright at half time, although it was the former's strike partner Samuel who created the Gills' opening chance, a driven aerial cross that U's goalkeeper Elliott Parish was equal to.
Ten yards from goal, Norris volleyed into the side netting seven minutes after coming on. It appeared that Parish tipped the effort wide, alas no corner was given by referee Iain Williamson.
However, United's contribution to the game was far from over: only a brilliant Ehmer block denied Tom Eastman from slotting home on the hour and, seconds later, striker Porter headed against the break.
Norris's free kick on 64 minutes deflected off a U's defender and wide, and Bradley Garmston's low attempt provided Eastman with a comfortable save on the dive.
The pressure was mounting on the struggling visitors, and it was no surprise when the Gills took the lead on 70 minutes.
In a patient passage of play that also saw a committed Joe Edwards block thwart Dack, Jackson's deep cross was headed down by John Egan, and Samuel tapped into the net.
Gills almost added a second on 75 minutes in what would have potentially been the goal of the season. Seeing the United goalkeeper off his line, Egan shot from 45 yards, an effort that cannoned off the bar. Last-ditch defending denied Norris from converting the rebound.
Nelson made sure of the three points late on, producing two of his best saves of the campaign. First he denied Sordell from heading in from point-blank range after Moncur had created space for a cross, then rushed of his line attentively to again deny the striker after he had been played through.
The Gills return to action at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday (January 2nd) against Bradford City, in a 3pm kick off.
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson, Egan, Ehmer, Garmston, Wright (Loft 45), A Morris, Hessenthaler, Dack (McGlashan 80), Donnelly (Norris 45), Samuel
Unused substitutes: G Morris, Oshilaja, Osadebe, List
Colchester United: Parish, Brindley, Eastman, Elokobi, Briggs, Edwards (Garvan 80), Gilbey, Massey (Harriott 76), Sordell, Moncur, Porter (Wright 80)
Unusued substitutes: Barnes, Wynter, Ambrose, Bonne
Referee: Mr I Williamson