SOUTHEND United started 2019 with an eventful 2-0 win against Gillingham at Roots Hall this afternoon.

Goals from Sam Mantom and Taylor Moore saw the Shrimpers secure all three points.

But Blues – who had striker Theo Robinson sent off in stoppage time – were grateful to goalkeeper Nathan Bishop who pulled off a string of superb saves to shut out the Gills.

The visitors carved opened the game’s first chance with top goalscorer Tom Eaves heading Callum Reilly’s right wing corner wide of the left post.

Moments later, Theo Robinson scuffed a low shot straight at Gillingham goalkeeper Tomas Holy before Timothee Dieng headed Sam Mantom’s corner wide of the left post.

In reply, former Blues right-back Luke O’Neill saw a 25 yard free-kick well saved by Nathan Bishop low down to his right hand side but the Shrimpers threatened next with Bunn sending a scorching effort inches wide of the right post.

Issac Hutchinson, who was making his first League start, then saw a 20 yard shot tipped wide of the right post by Holy but, with 40 minutes on the clock, Blues made the breakthrough with Mantom on target for the fifth time this season.

The Shrimpers skipper delivered an inswinging free-kick from the left flank which missed a cluster of players in the penalty area before nestling in the right hand side of the net.

However, the Gills hit back with Eaves wasting two clear cut chances to score before the break.

The forward headed over O’Neill’s left wing free-kick from close range before seeing his shot pushed wide of the target by Bishop when clean through on goal.

After the break, Gills were forced into making a change with former Southend High School pupil Josh Rees replacing the injured Billy Bingham in the centre of the park.

Rees soon saw a 20 yard shot smothered by Bishop before Blues boss Chris Powell made his first change of the game on the hour mark with Luke Hyam replacing Hutchinson.

But Gills continued to look the more dangerous of the two teams with Mark Byrne having 20 yard shot impressively tipped over by Bishop.

The Shrimpers shot-stopper then did well to keep out Eaves’ close range header before the hosts hit back with Theo Robinson turning sharply before seeing his effort saved by Holy.

With 75 minutes on the clock, Southend made their second change with Simon Cox replacing Dru Yearwood and, shortly after the change, Mantom sent a long range effort straight at Holy before the game exploded into life in stoppage time.

Robinson was shown a soft second yellow card by referee Keith Stroud before the Gills were adamant Connor Ogilvie’s effort had crossed the line.

But, with the visitors protesting, Bishop throw the ball forward to Cox who was completely alone in the opposition half.

However, the Shrimpers striker opted to unselfishly square the ball to Moore who tapped home into an open goal to spark wild celebrations from boss Powell and the home-side’s fans.