Gills beaten at Priestfield.
Two goals in three minutes in the second-half from Simon Cox condemned the Gills to a 2-0 defeat against Southend United in League One at the Medway Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.
After a goalless first-half, the Shrimpers roared out of the blocks with two quickfire goals from Cox, the first a deflected effort from inside the box and the second a tidy finish after he was slipped through in on goal.
The Gills battled to get back into the game with Mark Byrne having the pick of the chances but were unable to breach the visitor’s defence on the new Priestfield pitch.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell named one change from the side that beat table-topping Portsmouth last week, with Elliott List replacing the injured Brandon Hanlan.
The first chance came the way of the hosts with Max Ehmer getting up well to flick on a throw in towards the middle of the box but Tom Eaves couldn’t generate enough pace on the ball to trouble Oxley from the penalty spot.
The Southend goalkeeper was called into action after 10 minutes to make a save from Callum Reilly as the Gills midfielder burst into the box, cutting on to his right foot to get a shot away but from a tight angle Oxley made the stop.
However, Gillingham were indebted to Barry Fuller for keeping the scores level as a Shrimper’s breakaway found Bwumono in the space in the box but Fuller got back to make a superb block.
Throws were causing Southend troubled – after 16 minutes Mark Byrne found Ehmer in space with a set piece on the right flank and the defender turned to guide the ball towards goal, but caught the wind and floated over the bar.
The Gills were dominating possession but struggling to break down the five-man Southend defence. Set pieces appeared the best bet of breaking the deadlock with the Gills delivering a number of corners into the visiting box but failing to test Oxley.
Tomas Holy was called into the action for the first time just after the mid-point of the half as Mantom found space 25 yards from goal but the Gills stopper got down well to hoover up the ball.
Half an hour into the game, Oxley was again forced to keep Southend level as Eaves span 30 yards form goal and unleashed a piledriver which Oxley just about managed to get enough on to tip the ball over.
The Gillingham pressure was mounting and soon after Reilly drove at the heart of the visitor’s defence and shot narrowly over from slightly closer in than Eaves with Oxley stranded.
A rare attack from Southend left the Gills exposed with Bwumono on the overlap pulling the ball back to Cox who shot first time from the edge of the box but again it was too close to the giant Gills keeper who was able to make the save.
Chances were at a premium for the final quarter of an hour with both sides cancelling each other as they entered the break all level.
H/T: 0 – 0
Both sides were unchanged after the interval with the game starting off in much the same manner with Gilingham dominating possession and the visitors looking to play on the counter.
An early corner from Southend was cleared by the Gills but only as far as Moore who managed to volley his shot over the away end.
But the Gills were not so lucky after 50 minutes with Cox collecting the ball on the edge of the box after a slick move, before jinking around the defence and getting a shot away that beat Holy via a deflection to nestle in the corner.
And three minutes later Cox doubled the visitors advantage as the Shrimpers broke quickly through Yearwood who slipped in the striker to place his finish past Holy.
Confidence was flowing through the Southend defence through a succession of corners but the Gills defence stood firm.
Lovell responded through a double substitution with Bradley Stevenson and Bradley Garmston both entering the fray just before the hour.
The move got the desired reaction with an instant Gillingham attack led by Stevenson but List’s shot as he was slipped in down the right hand side of the box flew over the bar.
However Southend were still looking the stronger of the sides and as a misplaced pass set Robinson free on the left hand side. His driving run resulted in a dangerous ball across the line that was bundled behind by Gaby Zakuani before Holy made saved a header from the resulting corner.
Zakuani appeared to sustain an injury in the process and was replaced by Conor Wilkinson as Steve Lovell sent on attacking reinforcements to try and get the Gills back into the game.
Byrne had a great chance to grab a goal for the Gills after 75 minutes. A Dean Parrett corner was cleared and recycled by Luke O’Neill finding Eaves who headed across goal towards Byrne but his header was acrobatically kept out by Oxley.
The Gills were now starting to apply pressure on the Southend goal with a Stevenson shot tipped around the post after the youngster found a pocket of space just outside the area.
Eaves then ha a good opportunity when he had space in the box and his shot across goal beat the keeper but was tipped past the post before the Gills’ top scorer headed over from the resulting corner.
Southend should have sealed the game through a slick counter which result in Coker in acres of space in the box after deceiving Ehmer but his shot took a deflection and rebounded off the bar.
The fourth official indicated seven additional minutes to be played at the end of the game but the Gills were struggling to break down Southend and were unable to create any more chances.
F/T: 0 – 2
Gillingham’s next match is away at Doncaster next Saturday as the team go in search of back-to-back away victories.
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Zakuani (Wilkinson, 67), Ehmer, Fuller; Lacey (Stevenson, 58), Byrne, Reilly (Garmston, 58), Parrett; Eaves, List
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Ogilvie, Rees, Oldaker
Southend United: Oxley; Bwomono, Turner, Hendrie, Moore, Coker; Yearwood (Lennon, 88), Mantom, Dieng; Cox, Robinson (McCoulsky, 79)
Unused subs: Bishop (GK), Kightly, McLaughlin, Klass, Hutchinson
Referee: Mr John Busby
Attendance: 5,584 (1,037)