Published: 16:40, 25 February 2017
Gillingham’s long wait for a win is over.
A Josh Wright double clinched the points for the Gills against Southend on Saturday.
It was a tense finish at Priestfield but the Gills took maximum points to end an 11-match winless run.
It was a first win for head coach Ady Pennock.
Two goals at the end of the first half by Wright put the Gills in charge.
And visitors Southend had to play the whole of the second half with 10 men after Ryan Innis received his marching orders in stoppage-time.
Southend pulled a goal back late on through Nile Ranger but the Gills hung on for the win.
There were five changes for the Gills as injuries led Pennock into making big changes to his starting XI.
Bradley Dack – who looked back to his best in midweek – was missing after picking up a hamstring injury in training on Friday.
Chris Herd and Mark Byrne were also new additions an injury list which included Deji Oshilaja (groin) and Bradley Garmston (hamstring), who both went off early against Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Gillingham started the season with wins against Southend in the league and league cup and were aiming for the triple.
It was hard to pick a winner in the early stages, with neither keeper properly tested.
Former Gills man Jermaine McGlashan received a warm reception before the match but quickly took on the role of villain, taking a dive early on for an attempt at a penalty and leaving his foot in on Scott Wagstaff following a coming together.
But it was to be another former Gills player, Innis, who was vying to take centre-stage for Southend. Rory Donnelly limped off injured after being left on the deck by the towering defender, earning the Southend man a yellow card.
The Gills took the lead on 41 minutes and it was Wright who got the goal, from the penalty spot. Cody McDonald was fouled by Jason Demetriou and the visiting keeper was sent the wrong way from 12 yards.
Gillingham made it 2-0 in the fourth minute of stoppage-time. Returning striker Joe Quigley did well on the left and fed Wright, who in turn found McDonald. The Gills striker surged into the box and crossed the ball in for Wright to score his ninth of the season.
Southend’s troubled deepened when Innis was booked for the second time, this time after fouling Josh Parker. The visitors made a double change at the break to try and get back into the game. McGlashan was one of those to leave the field.
Parker went close to getting Gills’ third early in the second half, turning two defenders before firing narrowly wide and then got in again moments later. He found the target but was unable to beat the outstretched leg of keeper Ted Smith.
Southend had gone with a physical approach from the start and it led to a heated game on the pitch. Simon Cox’s over-the-top challenge on Max Ehmer led to a fracas.
Stuart Nelson had to make a good save to deny Cox after he was sent clear by Ranger. Ten-man Southend were a constant threat but the Gills refused to buckle.
Wagstaff had a shot saved for the Gills and Parker was also denied before Ranger halved the deficit. He headed home at the far post from a Theo Robinson cross to make for a nervy finale.
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson, Ehmer, Rehman, Wagstaff, Osadebe, Martin, Wright, Donnelly (Parker 28mins), McDonald, Quigley. Subs not used: Holy, Hessenthaler, List, Dickenson, Muldoon, Mbo.
Southend: Smith, Coker, Wordsworth (Robinson 74mins), Thompson, Timlin, Cox, Fortune (Ranger 46mins), McGlashan (White 46mins), Leonard, Demetriou, Innis. Subs not used: Bexon, Atkinson, Amos, Nouble.
Attendance: 6,542 (1,716 away)