REPORT | Gillingham 2-1 Southend
Josh Wright’s quickfire double was enough to sink 10-man Southend at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
After a lacklustre opening in windy conditions, Wright put the home side in front from the penalty spot after Jason Demetriou brought down Cody McDonald.
Wright then bundled in a second after a great run into the area by McDonald before Ryan Inniss was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Josh Parker in first half injury time.
Nile Ranger was introduced at half time and the striker gave Southend a glimmer of hope when he headed in Theo Robinson’s cross in the final 10 minutes of the game.
But despite being roared on by over 1,700 Blues fans behind the goal Southend weren’t able to force an equaliser as Ady Pennock secured his first win as Gillingham boss.
Going into the game Southend, unsurprisingly, were unchanged from the midweek win over Peterborough, with Will Atkinson returning from suspension to take a place on the bench.
Gillingham had yet to win a league game in 2017 but they had an impressive record against The Blues, only losing three times in the club’s last 15 meetings.
Jermaine McGlashan returned back to his old club and felt that he should have had a penalty early on when he went over in the box, only for referee Dean Whitestone to wave the appeal away.
Despite not winning a game since December 17th, Gillingham haven’t lost many either, drawing five of their last six, and they had a couple of decent opportunities from corners.
New signing Zesh Rehman had a volley on goal that was easily cleared, minutes before Rehman had a penalty appeal waved off when he thought his header bounced off Ryan Inniss’ arm.
Inniss was booked for a foul on Rory Donnelly, which ended his game, and up the other end the Blues centre-half had a great chance to open the scoring when the ball fell to him inside the area, but he was unable to dig out a shot.
The large contingent of travelling Southend fans were getting increasingly frustrated by a number of decisions going against their side by referee Whitestone.
And their mood wouldn’t have been lifted when the Gills were awarded a penalty for a foul by Jason Demetriou on Cody McDonald. Josh Wright took the spot kick and calmly sent Ted Smith the wrong way to put the home side in front just before the break.
Five minutes added on time were shown after the injury to Donnelly and Southend’s half went from bad to worse, then worse to terrible as the Gills doubled their lead and Southend were reduced to 10-men.
Gillingham grabbed their second three minutes into injury time after a superb run from McDonald allowed the striker to cut the ball back across the face of goal, being bundled over the line by Wright.
Southend were then faced with having to go the entire second half with 10-men as Inniss brought down Josh Parker. After a long discussion between the ref and his linesman, Inniss was given his marching orders with a second yellow card as the half time whistle blew.
Phil Brown made a double change at half time, bringing on Nile Ranger and John White for Marc-Antoine Fortune and McGlashasn, in an attempt to try and salvage something from Priestfield.
With the extra man, Gillingham were happy to sit back and counter and sub Parker had a couple of great chances, one flying inches past the post before forcing a save from the feet of Smith.
Frustrations were starting to show but with the vociferous backing of over 1,700 Southend fans behind the goal, Southend kept pushing for a goal to get them back in the game.
Anthony Wordsworth had an effort from outside the area narrowly defect wide before Ranger and Simon Cox played a lovely one-two to put Cox through on goal only for Stuart Nelson to save.
With 20 minutes left Theo Robinson was brought on as a final throw of the dice from Brown and with less than 10 to play the Blues were back in it through Ranger.
Robinson managed to get some space on the right and his cross flew perfectly onto the head of Ranger to score and set up a barnstorming finish.
Gillingham were made to hang on as three minutes of added on time were shown, but despite Southend's best efforts Gillingham survived the onslaught to pick up a vital three points in their attempt to avoid relegation.
Gillingham XI | Nelson, Jackson, Ehmer (C), Wagstaff, Donnelly (Parker 28’), McDonald, Martin, Osadebe, Quigley, Rehman, Wright. Subs Not Used: Holy, Hessenthaler, Parker, List, Dickenson, Muldoon, Mbo
Blues XI | Smith, Coker, Wordsworth (Robinson 73’), Thompson, Timlin, Cox, Fortune (Ranger 46’), McGlashan (White 46’), Leonard (C), Demetriou, Inniss. Subs Not Used: Bexon, Atkinson, Amos, Nouble
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Assistants: Carl Fitch-Jackson, & George Warren
Fourth Official: Adrian Waters
Gillingham: Josh Wright (p)41’, 45+3’
Southend United: Nile Ranger 83’
Southend United: Ryan Inniss 27’, Michael Timlin 75’, Ben Coker 90+2’
Southend United: Ryan Inniss 45+6’