Published: 16:40, 01 January 2019
| Updated: 22:36, 01 January 2019
Gillingham were denied a share of the spoils in a dramatic climax at Southend.
The Gills thought they had levelled the game at the death but after having an equaliser ruled out, Southend broke and scored a stoppage-time second.
Sam Mantom had put the hosts ahead in the first half but right at the death the Gills thought they had forced the ball over the line through Connor Ogilvie, after Alex Lacey's initial header had been blocked. The officials said no and Southend ran away to seal the win.
Boss Steve Lovell made four changes to his starting eleven and also made a switch in formation, reverting to wing-backs.
Bradley Garmston made his first league start since the end of September while Luke O’Neill returned to face his former club. Leading scorer Tom Eaves was also a starter as fellow forwards Brandon Hanlan and Elliott List dropped to the bench.
Eaves had a number of chances to score for the Gills during the first half, heading wide from a corner in the opening minutes. He put a better chance wide just before the break after O’Neill picked him out at the far post with a free-kick.
Home keeper Nathan Bishop also made an outstanding save to deny Gills’ leading scorer, after he had spun away from his marker to get in on goal. Eaves’ effort was blocked and Southend maintained their slender advantage at the break.
The home side’s goal had come from a Mantom free-kick, scoring on 40 minutes after his ball in missed everyone in the box, deceived keeper Tomas Holy and nestled into the far side of the net.
It was the only goal from a fairly even half, with no shortage of chances. Harry Bunn went close for the hosts with a couple of shots from the edge of the box while Holy had little trouble saving from Theo Robinson and Isaac Hutchinson.
Aside from Eaves, the Gills had other opportunities. Mark Byrne came close to guiding Connor Ogilvie’s cross goalwards while O’Neill fired just over after meeting Garmston’s deep cross on the edge of the box.
Byrne headed wide early in the second half for the Gills and substitute Josh Rees - on for injured Billy Bingham - forced a save from Bishop.
Byrne also made Bishop work, with a dipping effort that the keeper got a hand to and tipped over the bar and the Southend stopper made an even better save when he saved point-blank from Eaves.
Chances kept falling for the Gills, with Ogilvie shooting wide but Southend held out.
Southend finished with 10 men after Robinson picked up two bookings for fouls in the space of five minutes.
That wasn't the last of the drama as the Gills thought they had levelled following a goalmouth scramble. The linesman said the ball hadn't crossed the line, Southend broke away and Taylor Moore netted. Gillingham's protests led to yellow cards for Lovell and assistant Mark Patterson.
Southend: Bishop, Bwomono, Moore, Turner, Hendrie, Mantom, Yearwood (Cox 75mins), Dieng, Bunn (White 85mins), Hutchinson (Hyam 60mins), Robinson. Subs not used: Smith, Kightly, McLaughlin, McCoulsky.
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Garmston, Ogilvie, Lacey, Zakuani, Byrne. Bingham (Rees 50mins), Reilly (List 84mins), Eaves, Parker. Subs not used: Hadler, Simpson, Nasseri, Oldaker, Hanlan, List.
Attendance: 7,093 (518 away)