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Gillingham 3 Southend United 1: Alfie Jones, Stuart O’Keefe and Brandon Hanlan on target for the Gills

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Gillingham missed two penalties but still managed to convincingly beat struggling Southend United.

The Gills deservedly led at the break through Alfie Jones and doubled the lead early in the second half with a goal from Stuart O’Keefe.

Gillingham celebrate their opening goal Picture: Andy Jones
Gillingham celebrate their opening goal Picture: Andy Jones

Simon Cox pulled one back for the visitors, who finished with 10 men, and although Mikael Ndjoli twice missed the chance to score from the penalty spot, strike partner Brandon Hanlan found the target.

Gillingham boss Steve Evans made three changes to his starting eleven as Olly Lee, Ndjoli and O’Keefe all came in.

Evans’ side were keen to make amends following a poor showing against Oxford the week before. They did just that, flying out of the traps with a vocal Rainham End behind them.

Visiting keeper Mark Oxley had to make three top saves in the first eight minutes. Ndjoli’s low effort was turned wide in the opening moments.

Mark Byrne had an effort ruled out for offside Picture: Andy Jones
Mark Byrne had an effort ruled out for offside Picture: Andy Jones

Southend rarely threatened and a blocked shot from Cox wasn’t the start of anything meaningful as the Gills continued to lead the charge.

Hanlan’s angled shot was tipped over and Oxley did well to keep out a vicious effort from Lee.

Striker Hanlan then headed a Lee free-kick wide, with Max Ehmer lurking unmarked behind him, but Gills’ set-piece man Lee couldn’t keep his free-kick down from just outside the box.

Southend’s best chance of the first half came when Cox looked to thread the ball through to Stephen Humphrys - the striker sporting a face mask after suffering multiple fractures in a horror injury back in February - but keeper Jack Bonham was quickly off his line to mop up the trouble.

Brandon Hanlan in the thick of the action Picture: Andy Jones
Brandon Hanlan in the thick of the action Picture: Andy Jones

Gillingham’s deserved opener came on 43 minutes when Ndjoli’s ball in came out to Jones and his deflected shot beat Oxley.

Moments later Lee smashed a shot off the underside of the bar after Byrne’s header at the back post was cleared into his path.

Southend trudged off without a proper shot on target. They hadn’t managed one in their previous two games either. The Gills were infront and well on top.

They got a second goal shortly after the restart when O’Keefe bent an effort in from just inside the area after Lee laid the ball off to him.

Hanlan almost got their third soon after but Oxley saved with his feet.

Mikael Ndjoli on the ball for Gillingham Picture: Andy Jones
Mikael Ndjoli on the ball for Gillingham Picture: Andy Jones

Just as the Gills looked like they might go on and get a few, Southend hit back. A low free-kick from Stephen McLaughlin was met by Cox and he shot on the turn to beat Bonham with 58 minutes played.

Humphrys came close to a quick second but his powerful effort was blocked.

Southend youngster Emile Acquah was on the field for just 11 minutes. The big forward looked a handful but couldn’t stop fouling, and picked up two cautions.

Gillingham should have then finished the game off after being awarded two penalties, in the space of three minutes, after fouls on Ndjoli and Ehmer. Ndjoli took the both. His first went wide and his second was saved.

Prior to that drama Hanlan had a great chance to score but fired wide. He did, however, eventually get on the scoresheet with three minutes left, prodding the ball home after Oxley spilled Mark Marshall’s shot.

Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller (Tucker 90mins), O'Connor, Ehmer, Ogilvie, Jones, O'Keefe, Byrne, Lee (Marshall 65mins), Hanlan (Jakubiak 90mins), Ndjoli. Subs not used: Walsh, Mandron, Charles-Cook, Pringle.

Southend: Oxley, Bwomono, Milligan, Lennon, Humphrys, Cox, McLaughlin, Kiernan, Hamilton, Demetriou (Shaughnessy 55mins), Hutchinson (Acquah 55mins). Subs not used: Bishop, Hyam, Dieng, Ndukwu, Taylor.

Attendance: 5,091 (704 away)

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