Neale Cooper has resigned as manager of Coca-Cola League One strugglers Gillingham.

The former Hartlepool boss leaves the Priestfield Stadium after just five months in charge with the Gills languishing in the relegation zone.

His departure comes just days before he was due to face his former club at the Priestfield Stadium.

Last Saturday's defeat at Walsall left the Gills still searching for a first away win of the season, and came hot on the heels of the FA Cup first-round humiliation at the hands of Burscough.

Assistant boss Ronnie Jepson takes temporary charge of first-team affairs.

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally revealed he did not want Cooper to leave, and laid the blame for his departure on the club's under-achieving players.

''Neale has been a credit to his profession and to this club,'' Scally said. ''It has been a pleasure working with him and I am distressed at his departure.

''One or two people need to take a hard look at themselves at this club, as there is no doubt he was let down in certain areas. I wish Neale every success in the future.''

Cooper took over at Gillingham after their relegation from the Championship following the departure of Stan Ternent.