Gillingham returned to winning ways with a 3-1 win over Southend United at Priestfield.
The Gills went 2-0 up with goals either side of half-time from Alfie Jones and Stuart O’Keefe. Southend pulled one back through Simon Cox, before they were reduced to ten men when substitute Emile Acquan was sent off.
The hosts missed two penalties, both from Mikael Ndjoli, before Brandon Hanlan scored to seal all three points.
Gillingham manager Steve Evans made three changes to the side that were beaten at Oxford United last weekend. Jack Tucker, Ben Pringle and Alex Jakubiak all dropped out of the XI, with Stuart O’Keefe, Olly Lee and Mikael Ndjoli taking their places.
The home side made the better start, and had the first chance when Ndjoli took aim from outside the box, and saw his shot turned round the post by Mark Oxley. At the other end, Southend came close when Jason Demetriou picked out Simon Cox in the area, but he saw his effort blocked by Connor Ogilvie.
It was end to end stuff in the opening minutes, as Gills came forward again, with Stuart O’Keefe finding Brandon Hanlan, but again Oxley turned it round the post. The Gills pressure continued, and Oxley was called into action again as Alfie Jones pulled the ball back to Olly Lee, but the ‘keeper made another good save.
The Gills had another chance just before the half hour mark, as Lee’s free-kick from the left picked out Hanlan, only for his header to go wide of the post. They had the ball in the back of the net moments later, only for the flag to go up as Mark Byrne turned in from Max Ehmer’s header.
Southend came close when Cox played in Isaac Hutchinson, but Jack Bonham closed down well, and gathered the ball before the forward could make contact. Just seconds later, the Gills got the goal their first half display deserved. Ndjoli’s cross was cleared out as far as Alfie Jones, and his deflected volley from the edge of the box found the net for 1-0.
The Gills’ pressure continued, and they came within inches of doubling their lead when the ball dropped to Olly Lee in the area, but he thundered an effort against the bar.
H/T- Gillingham 1-0 Southend United
Within a minute of the second half getting underway, the Gills had a second. Hanlan found Lee in the middle, and he set it up for Stuart O’Keefe to find the far corner, and make it 2-0. It was so nearly three soon after, as Ndjoli set up Hanlan, but Oxley saved well with his feet.
With 57 minutes on the clock, Southend pulled one back. Stephen McLaughin’s free-kick found Simon Cox in the area, and he hit a low shot beyond Bonham and into the net to make it 2-1. Almost immediately the Gills looked to restore their two-goal advantage, as Byrne set up Ndjoli, who couldn’t get his header on target.
Just following the hour mark, Steve Evans made his first change, with Mark Marshall coming on to replace Olly Lee.
After 65 minutes, Southend were reduced to ten men. Substitute Emile Acquan caught Barry Fuller with a late challenge, and just 11 minutes after coming on, he was shown his second yellow card, and given his marching orders.
Gillingham came close moments later, as Ndjoli set up Hanlan, who curled his shot just wide of the post. Moments later, the pair combined again, with this time Hanlan finding Ndjoli, who was bought down in the area, and the Gills were awarded a penalty. It was Ndjoli who stepped up, only to pull his effort onto the outside of the post.
After 72 minutes, the referee awarded the Gills another spot kick, this time after Max Ehmer was sent to ground in the box. Again, Ndjoli stepped up, but this time it was Oxley who denied him, diving to his left.
At the other end, Southend came forward with Stephen Humphrys, and his cross was headed wide by substitute, Joe Shaughnessy. With four minutes left on the clock, the Gills sealed victory. Mark Marshall’s shot from the edge of the box was parried by Oxley to the feet of Hanlan, and he turned it home to make it 3-1.
The hosts made their second change as the game headed towards its conclusion, as Alex Jakubiak replaced Brandon Hanlan. They made their third and final change just before the final whistle as Jack Tucker replaced Barry Fuller.
Mark Marshall looked to add a fourth deep into stoppage time, but his effort from range flew wide of the post.
F/T: Gillingham 3-1 Southend United
Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller (Tucker 94), Ehmer, Ogilvie, O’Connor, Byrne, Jones, O’Keefe, Lee (Marshall 63), Hanlan (Jakubiak 91), Ndjoli
Unused subs: Walsh, Mandron, Charles-Cook, Pringle
Southend United: Oxley, Demetriou (Shaughnessy 54), Kiernan, Lennon, Bwomono, Hutchinson (Acquan 54), Milligan, Hamilton, McLaughlin, Humphrys, Cox.
Unused subs: Bishop, Hyam, Dieng, Ndukwu, Taylor
Referee: Mr L Doughty
Attendance: 5,091 (704 away)