Chris Whelpdale's early strike was enough for Gillingham to beat Southend and return to the top of League Two.

Midfielder Whelpdale netted his fifth goal of the season, converting Joe Martin's free-kick to put the Gills ahead inside three minutes.

Myles Weston missed three opportunities to extend the lead, while Tamika Mkandawire and Gavin Tomlin had goal-bound efforts blocked for Southend.

Barry Corr wasted the hosts' best second-half chance from close range.

A run of one win in six matches, as well as two postponements during the festive period, had stalled Gillingham's push for automatic promotion and allowed Port Vale to move above them at the top of the table.

But Vale's home defeat by Fleetwood means Martin Allen's men are two points clear at the summit and they also have a game in hand on their nearest challengers.

VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM

Southend United manager Paul Sturrock told BBC Essex:

"The first half was very disappointing. We were nowhere near the standard we've been achieving.

"Give credit to Gillingham, they came out flying, got their early goal and it seemed to settle them down.

"In the second half I thought we got more and more around their box. On another day I think we could have nicked the game.

"There are many other occasions where we've got back into it, but today we didn't."

Gillingham manager Martin Allen told BBC Radio Kent:

"In the last few games it hasn't gone very well but we won't all climb on that bandwagon.

"The team were back to their best and it certainly helps when you can call on a centre-back that we've just signed [Leon Legge].

"He was immense, but everybody was fantastic. It's a great day for our travelling supporters.

"There was going to be some part of the game where Southend came back into it, but all the players have put in a tremendous performance."

Lineup, Bookings (1) & Substitutions (6)

Southend

  • 01 Smith
  • 02 Clohessy
  • 06 Cresswell
  • 16 Prosser
  • 23 Barker
  • 27 Mkandawire (Donnelly - 80' )
  • 08 Timlin
  • 14 Hurst
  • 26 Laird (Corr - 46' )
  • 20 Assombalonga (Eastwood - 75' )
  • 21 Tomlin

Substitutes

  • 17 Bentley
  • 03 Straker
  • 15 Phillips
  • 11 Martin
  • 12 Donnelly
  • 07 Eastwood
  • 10 Corr

Gillingham

  • 01 Nelson
  • 02 Fish
  • 03 Martin Booked
  • 06 Legge
  • 12 Frampton
  • 26 Barrett
  • 04 Payne
  • 07 Whelpdale (Lee - 63' )
  • 24 Weston
  • 17 Birchall (Jackman - 64' )
  • 20 Burton (Kedwell - 86' )

Substitutes

  • 21 Forecast
  • 11 Jackman
  • 15 Davies
  • 08 Lee
  • 14 Allen
  • 18 Dack
  • 09 Kedwell
Ref: Woolmer
Att: 7,498

Match Stats

Shots

18 14

On target

7 4

Corners

12 5

Fouls

14 6

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +3:43 Full time

Full Time The referee brings the game to a close.

90:00 +2:28

Michael Timlin gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Joe Martin. Danny Jackman restarts play with the free kick.

90:00 +1:47

Short corner taken by Danny Jackman from the left by-line.

90:00 +0:50

Barry Corr gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Joe Martin. Stuart Nelson takes the direct free kick.

90:00 +0:22

Centre by Gavin Tomlin, clearance by Adam Barrett.

89:50

Freddy Eastwood crosses the ball, Barry Corr takes a shot. Save by Stuart Nelson.

88:52

Outswinging corner taken by Danny Jackman from the left by-line played to the near post, Danny Kedwell produces a header from inside the area that goes over the bar.

88:08

Barry Corr concedes a free kick for a foul on Joe Martin. Direct free kick taken by Stuart Nelson.

86:31

Luke Prosser concedes a free kick for a foul on Danny Kedwell. Stuart Nelson takes the free kick.

86:04

Foul by Andy Frampton on Barry Corr, free kick awarded. Kevan Hurst takes the direct free kick.

85:09

Free kick taken by Paul Smith.

85:09 Substitution

Substitution Danny Kedwell is brought on as a substitute for Deon Burton.

85:09

The assistant referee signals for offside against Danny Jackman.

84:22

Barry Corr gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Andy Frampton. Stuart Nelson takes the free kick.

83:22

The ball is crossed by Kevan Hurst, save by Stuart Nelson.

83:13

Gavin Tomlin sends in a cross, clearance made by Leon Legge.

82:34

Headed effort from close range by Ryan Cresswell goes wide left of the target.

82:20

The ball is sent over by Kevan Hurst, clearance made by Matt Fish.

81:37

A cross is delivered by Sean Clohessy. Handball decision goes against Joe Martin. Kevan Hurst crosses the ball in from the free kick, clearance by Leon Legge.

79:45

Joe Martin takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line to the near post, Adam Barrett produces a header from inside the area that goes over the bar.

79:05 Substitution

Substitution Scott Donnelly replaces Tamika Mkandawire.

78:11

Freddy Eastwood has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.

76:05

Effort from the edge of the penalty area by Myles Weston strikes the post.

75:05

Luke Prosser fouled by Deon Burton, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Michael Timlin.

74:18 Substitution

Substitution Freddy Eastwood joins the action as a substitute, replacing Britt Assombalonga.

73:54

Shot from deep inside the area by Kevan Hurst goes over the bar.

72:49

Ryan Cresswell fouled by Myles Weston, the ref awards a free kick. Michael Timlin takes the free kick.

71:17

Corner taken by Kevan Hurst, clearance by Deon Burton.

71:03

The ball is sent over by Chris Barker, clearance made by Joe Martin.

70:22 Booking

Booking Joe Martin booked.

69:02

Free kick awarded for a foul by Adam Barrett on Gavin Tomlin. Direct free kick taken by Michael Timlin.

67:49

Charlie Lee takes a shot from a long way out clearing the bar.

67:12

Britt Assombalonga challenges Leon Legge unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stuart Nelson takes the direct free kick.

65:56

Unfair challenge on Myles Weston by Luke Prosser results in a free kick. Stuart Nelson takes the direct free kick.

65:09

The official flags Myles Weston offside. Free kick taken by Ryan Cresswell.

63:13 Substitution

Substitution Danny Jackman joins the action as a substitute, replacing Adam Birchall.

63:00 Substitution

Substitution Chris Whelpdale goes off and Charlie Lee comes on.

62:10

Long range shot from Adam Barrett misses to the left of the goal.

61:51

The ball is crossed by Jack Payne, clearance made by Sean Clohessy.

59:58

Kevan Hurst takes the outswinging corner, Headed effort on goal by Ryan Cresswell from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.

59:46

Kevan Hurst takes a shot. Blocked by Andy Frampton.

59:23

Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Kevan Hurst, Leon Legge makes a clearance.

59:10

A cross is delivered by Gavin Tomlin, clearance by Deon Burton.

58:27

Kevan Hurst takes a inswinging corner.

58:09

Deon Burton handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Free kick taken by Luke Prosser.

57:24

Barry Corr produces a right-footed shot from close range that goes over the bar.

56:38

The ball is crossed by Kevan Hurst, clearance made by Joe Martin.

56:27

Short corner worked by Gavin Tomlin.

56:14

Kevan Hurst takes a shot. Save by Stuart Nelson.

55:15

Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Kevan Hurst from the left by-line to the near post, clearance made by Deon Burton.

55:00

Britt Assombalonga has a drilled shot. Blocked by Joe Martin.

54:11

A cross is delivered by Sean Clohessy, Leon Legge manages to make a clearance. Shot from outside the box by Chris Barker misses to the left of the target.

50:54

Unfair challenge on Deon Burton by Ryan Cresswell results in a free kick. Joe Martin takes the direct free kick. Deon Burton takes a shot. Save by Paul Smith.

47:27

Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Kevan Hurst, Headed effort on goal by Luke Prosser from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.

45:01

The referee gets the second half underway.

45:01 Substitution

Substitution Barry Corr is brought on as a substitute for Marc Laird.

45:00 +2:37 Half time

Half Time The referee calls an end to the first half.

45:00 +0:09

Free kick awarded for a foul by Britt Assombalonga on Leon Legge. Direct free kick taken by Leon Legge.

44:21

Corner taken by Kevan Hurst from the right by-line to the near post, Michael Timlin produces a right-footed shot from close range which goes wide of the right-hand post.

44:04

The ball is delivered by Sean Clohessy, Adam Barrett makes a clearance. The ball is sent over by Kevan Hurst, Andy Frampton makes a clearance.

43:39

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Chris Barker by Deon Burton. Free kick taken by Paul Smith.

39:32

Effort from outside the penalty box by Joe Martin goes wide right of the goal.

37:36

Shot from outside the penalty box by Kevan Hurst goes wide right of the goal.

37:12

The ball is swung over by Jack Payne, clearance by Sean Clohessy.

35:34

Myles Weston produces a left-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the goal.

34:35

Outswinging corner taken by Kevan Hurst, Ryan Cresswell produces a header from close range which goes wide of the left-hand post.

34:13

Outswinging corner taken by Kevan Hurst from the right by-line.

33:41

Corner taken right-footed by Kevan Hurst from the left by-line, save made by Stuart Nelson.

33:31

Centre by Kevan Hurst, Adam Barrett makes a clearance.

33:17

Centre by Chris Barker, Adam Barrett makes a clearance.

30:08

Myles Weston takes a shot. Blocked by Chris Barker. Sean Clohessy gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Myles Weston. Chris Whelpdale takes the direct free kick.

28:48

Marc Laird takes a shot. Save by Stuart Nelson. Ryan Cresswell takes a shot. Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Joe Martin played to the near post, clearance made by Chris Barker.

23:27

The ball is crossed by Michael Timlin, Adam Barrett makes a clearance.

22:34

Centre by Chris Whelpdale, clearance made by Marc Laird. Jack Payne has a shot on goal from outside the area which misses right.

20:43

Centre by Joe Martin, clearance by Luke Prosser.

19:26

Marc Laird challenges Deon Burton unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Adam Birchall.

16:52

Michael Timlin challenges Jack Payne unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stuart Nelson restarts play with the free kick.

15:55

Adam Birchall takes a shot from just outside the penalty area clears the crossbar.

15:33

Shot by Myles Weston from 18 yards. Save by Paul Smith.

15:03

Centre by Sean Clohessy, Matt Fish gets a block in.

14:06

Outswinging corner taken by Chris Whelpdale from the right by-line played to the near post, Michael Timlin manages to make a clearance.

11:25

Adam Birchall is penalised for a handball. Paul Smith restarts play with the free kick.

10:01

Adam Birchall is ruled offside. Paul Smith restarts play with the free kick.

7:34

Gavin Tomlin takes a shot. Blocked by Chris Whelpdale. Kevan Hurst concedes a free kick for a foul on Deon Burton. Direct free kick taken by Stuart Nelson.

6:30

Corner taken right-footed by Kevan Hurst, Tamika Mkandawire takes a shot. Deon Burton gets a block in.

6:07

Chris Whelpdale handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Kevan Hurst restarts play with the free kick.

5:10

Unfair challenge on Chris Barker by Chris Whelpdale results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Paul Smith.

4:36

The referee gives a free kick against Britt Assombalonga for handball. Free kick taken by Stuart Nelson.

3:53

Effort from the edge of the penalty area by Adam Barrett goes wide of the left-hand post.

3:28

Handball decision goes against Ryan Cresswell. Free kick taken by Joe Martin.

2:25

Joe Martin provided the assist for the goal.

2:25 Goal scored

Goal! - Chris Whelpdale - Southend 0 - 1 Gillingham Chris Whelpdale gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the six-yard box low into the middle of the goal. Southend 0-1 Gillingham.

1:44

Adam Birchall fouled by Ryan Cresswell, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Joe Martin.

0:38

Chris Whelpdale sends in a cross, Tamika Mkandawire manages to make a clearance. The ball is swung over by Joe Martin, Ryan Cresswell makes a clearance.

0:00

The game kicks-off.

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