Blues come unstuck against Gillingham

Southend United 0 – 1 Gillingham

Kevin Maher’s Shrimpers’ unbeaten pre-season record ended after Mikel Mandron’s easy second-half winner sent the Kent side home happy, on Saturday.

In an entertaining opening period, Southend did everything but score, with Callum Powell heavily involved, as Gillingham’s jittery defence struggled to cope with the Shrimpers’ neat inter-passing.

Powell – having seen several on-target efforts blocked – forced a busy Jake Turner into fine 19th minute save.

The Gills rarely threatened, but Jordan Green’s 22nd minute pot-shot beat Steve Arnold, but Ollie Kensdale was on hand to clear from literally under his goal frame.

Two minutes later the busy David Tutonda fed former Orient man, Scott Kashket, and his close range effort hit the base of Arnold’s post, but the keeper recovered to bravely save at Mandron’s feet.

Seven minutes before the interval, the Shrimpers’ were again out of luck, as a fine, slick passing move ended with Oli Coker bringing out the best from a point-blank Turner tip-over.

Having seen the lively Jason Demetriou miss his kick, after fine Powell work, Gills exacted punishment by taking a 56th minute lead when Mandron bagged his first pre-season strike, easily nodding home, with Kashket’s put-on-a-plate cross completely fooling the Trialist substitute goalkeeper.

Gillingham turned the screw and the Shrimpers enjoyed a 63rd minute let-off when Green’s skimmed drive hit the woodwork.

Numerous substitutions predictably interrupted the flow of this contest, but Gillingham fared the better and Kashket was inches away from doubling the Kentish’s side advantage with a dipping 84th minute volley, before lashing wide two minutes into stoppage time.

Maher said: “We took another step, today, towards being ready for the new season. It was a good workout against a team in a league above us and I thought we dominated, especially in the first-half.”

With injuries mounting up, with the likes of Rhys Murphy out: “Realistically, we are looking to bring in another couple of players, with only a fortnight to go until the new season.”

Maher concluded: “I’ve been impressed with the players. The fitness levels are good and we’ve done well against two teams in divisions above us – Colchester and Gillingham.”

New signing, Harry Taylor added: “It was a good game against a good side. It’s obviously disappointing with the result, but pre-season is all about getting to know each other.”

Gills’ boss and former Southend striker, Neil Harris said: “We were terrible for twenty first-half minutes, but we kept a clean sheet and won the game.”

He revealed: “But, it has been a tough and challenging pre-season – we’ve brought in eleven players and four more are to come in. With what has gone on at the Club in the last eighteen months, a top seven spot in league two is a realistic aim for the new season.”

Matchwinner, Mandron said: “Obviously, I’m happy. Scoring a goal and the team keeping a clean sheet. What more could you want?”

The Shrimpers travel to Ipswich Town this Tuesday (kick-off 7pm), entertain Crystal Palace under 21s, this Friday (kick-off 7-30pm) and visit Concord Rangers this Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

Southend United: Steve Arnold (trialist 46), Jason Demetriou (Jack Wood 78), Shaun Hobson (Luke Reeve 78), Ollie Kensdale (Tommy Davis 78), Nathan Ralph (Jaden Crowhurst 78), Callum Powell, Cavaghn Miley (Harry Taylor 78), Wesley Fonguck (Noor Husin 70), Oli Coker (Jon Benton 60), Tom Clifford (Louie Arrowsmith 78), Sam Dalby (Jack Bridge 70).

Gillingham: Jake Turner, Will Wright, Max Ehmer, Elkan Baggot, David Tutonda (Ryan Law 46), Jordan Green (Cheye Alexander 84), Dom Jefferies, Shawn Williams, Ben Reeves (Olly Lee 71), Scott Kashket, Mikel Mandron (Joe Gbode 71).

Referee: Callum Winchester
Assistants: Ryan Head & Jamie Pope
Fourth official: Alex Shipp

Attendance: 1,374


Rowland Lyons