By Rhys Ellingham
Southend United suffered a 1-0 defeat to league leaders Gillingham at Roots Hall this afternoon in the first encounter of the New Year.
Chris Whelpdale early goal gave Gills all three points as Blues failed to find their way back into the game.
The away side took the lead with the first real chance in the third minute through Whelpdale’s calm first time finish six yards out from Joe Martin’s free-kick.
The defender floated the set piece towards the back post which was met by Whelpdale who toe poked the ball past the standstill Paul Smith in goal for Southend.
Blues fought back and nearly equalised in the seventh minute with Tamika Mkandawire seeing his effort blocked on the line after Deon Burton’s clearance fell straight to the
midfielder in a promising position.
The away side nearly extended their lead in the 16th minute after a defensive mix up gave Myles Weston a clear run of goal as his attempted lob from 20 yards was tipped wide
by Smith as he ran back towards his goal line.
Former Southend captain Adam Barrett nearly doubled Gills’ advantage with a curling left footed effort which Smith was equal to, parrying the ball away with Leon Legge’s
rebound going wide.
Kevan Hurst took matters into his own hands as he tried in vain to find Blues an equaliser, charging at the Gillingham defence before seeing his 25 yard strike fizz past the post.
With 40 minutes onto the clock the away side nearly got their second of the match with Martin’s left footed effort inches away from finding the back of the net with Smith
sprawling across goal.
With the scores still the same at half time Southend brought on Barry Corr for Marc Laird who had picked up an eye injury in the opening minutes of the match.
The new look home side pressed Gills and nearly pulled a goal back with Assombalonga’s effort superbly blocked by the outstretched leg of Martin before Hurst tried his luck
from distance only to be denied by the hands of Stuart Nelson who saved excellently.
Blues somehow didn’t equalise in the 57th minute after Tomlin weaved his way through the away sides defence before crossing for Corr who managed to miss the target from
under the crossbar after pressure from Matt Fish.
Gillingham changed to a defensive formation as they looked to hold onto their lead which gave Southend the opportunity to press with Hurst’s left footed volley just rising over
the bar in the 74th minute from 12 yards out.
On the counter attack, Gills were a foot of the post away from extending their advantage after Weston’s left footed effort rebounded off the inside of the woodwork and
fortunately into the arms of Smith.
With less than 10 minutes remaining Ryan Cresswell saw his header go wide of the post from Luke Prosser’s chipped cross as Southend piled on the pressure in search of an
The Gills resilient defensive display continued with Martin clearing Corr’s effort off the line with the ball looking destined for the net in injury time as the away side held on to victory giving Southend their second defeat in consecutive games.