Controversy at Roots Hall as Gills lose out in first game of 2019.
Gillingham were controversially denied a last gasp equaliser at Roots Hall on New Year’s Day with Southend eventually prevailing 2-0 in Essex.
After Sam Mantom had put the hosts ahead in the first half keeper Nathan Bishop had to be at his very best to deny Tom Eaves and Mark Byrne, but with just seconds left Alex Lacey headed a cross back into the path of Connor Ogilvie who thought he had scored, only for the referee and linesman to halt celebrations in the away end with neither thinking the ball had crossed the line.
Steve Lovell’s side were left empty handed despite a good performance at Roots Hall, a game which could have been so different. Theo Robinson was also sent off for Southend late on.
Gills had chances throughout the game but found themselves up against a goalkeeper in top form. Tom Eaves, Mark Byrne and Josh Rees all came close to getting on the scoresheet but Mantom’s free-kick was enough as an improved Gills performance went unrewarded.
Gillingham made four changes to the side that lost out to Doncaster on Saturday. Luke O’Neill, Bradley Garmston, Billy Bingham and Tom Eaves coming in for injured pair Dean Parrett and Barry Fuller while Brandon Hanlan and Elliott List dropped to the bench. For the hosts Isaac Hutchinson made his debut for the Shrimpers.
Despite Southend having a lot of the ball early on, Gillingham won the first corner of the game when a driving Luke O’Neill run was cleared behind. From the resulting Reilly corner, Tom Eaves headed wide at the back post before Theo Robinson had a low effort comfortably saved by Tomas Holy.
After nine minutes Timothee Dieng had the first real chance of note for Southend, the midfielder heading wide of Tomas Holy’s goal following a corner from the right-hand side.
Gills were looking threatening going forward and Callum Reilly was the next man to try his luck – this time seeing his volley flash past the post and out for a goal-kick before Mantom fired over for Southend following neat football in the build-up.
In the 19th minute Harry Bunn drove at the Gills defence before seeing his shot comfortably saved by Tomas Holy before Reilly was fouled 20 yards from goal. Luke O’Neill took aim with a free-kick and saw his curling effort palmed away by Nathan Bishop.
With half an hour on the clock at Roots Hall Bunn again came close, this time the midfielder struck powerfully, but much to the relief of the Gills defence, the effort went just wide. At the other end, Mark Byrne couldn’t quite connect with a Connor Ogilvie cross from the left.
Following a rare misjudgement from Gabriel Zakuani at the back, Hutchinson, who was impressing on his debut, pounced but saw his low effort pushed behind by Tomas Holy before Dieng again climbed highest, and again headed over.
Gills responded though and following neat build up between Billy Bingham and Bradley Garmston down the left hand-side, Luke O’Neill sliced over the bar, in an effort that was never really testing Bishop.
In the 39th minute, Mantom opened the scoring for Southend. After Bingham had brought down Harry Bunn wide on the left-hand side, Mantom stepped up and delivered a cross that evaded everyone and went straight in at the back post to put the shrimpers ahead. 1-0.
Gills should have responded immediately. A Luke O’Neill free-kick found its way to Tom Eaves at the back post, but the forward headed over. Then just moments later Eaves found himself through on goal but was denied by a strong hand from Bishop.
Both sides remained unchanged at the beginning of the second half and started brightly, Garmston doing well to win a corner. Mark Byrne won the flick on, but it just evaded everyone at the back post.
Bingham was replaced early in the second half by Essex schoolboy Josh Rees. The Gills had started brightly and won a succession of early corners but a low drive from Rees was easily caught by Bishop.
Following the Rees chance Southend had probably their best spell of the game, a number of corners came to nothing as the Gills survived without a scare. In the 62nd minute Bradley Garmston recycled possession to find Tom Eaves, Eaves floated a cross to the back post, but fell agonisingly over the head of Josh Parker, who would have surely scored had he been able to connect.
Mark Byrne was the next man to come close for Gills. The ball fell invitingly for the midfielder around 25 yards out and let fly but again was denied by Bishop.
Moments later and with Gills upping the tempo Eaves glanced a Byrne cross goal bound but was unable to place it in the bottom corner and it was turned away. Gillingham were throwing everything at the Southend backline but were missing a goal to show for their efforts.
Next to try his luck was Connor Ogilvie but the full-back cleared the crossbar comfortably after collecting the ball 30 yards out. Theo Robinson came within inches of sealing the game in the 83rd minute but his curling effort went over Holy’s bar.
The striker was sent off eight minutes later when he was booked a second time following a late challenge on Garmston.
Following the resulting free-kick, Gills thought they had levelled – after a ball in was bundled, many believing over the line. Gills players and fans went off celebrating but referee Keith Stroud didn’t agree and so play resumed. With all the Gills players celebrating Southend went up the other end and netted a second, Taylor Moore rounding off a move to seal the game.
Southend: Nathan Bishop, Elvis Bwomono, Taylor Moore, Michael Turner, Stephen Hendrie, Sam Mantom (C), Dru Yearwood (Simon Cox 75), Timothee Dieng, Harry Bunn (John White 84), Theo Robinson, Isaac Hutchinson (Luke Hyam 60)
Unused subs: Ted Smith, , Michael Kightly, Stephen Mclaughlin, Shawn McCoulsky
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Zakuani, Lacey, Garmston, Ogilvie, Oldaker, Byrne, Bingham (Josh Rees 50), Reilly (Elliott List 84), Parker, Eaves.
Unused subs: Hadler, Simpson, Oldaker, Nasseri, Hanlan
Referee: Mr Keith Stroud
Attendance 7093 (518 away fans)