Plymouth Argyle overpowered by League Two leaders Gillingham at Priestfield Stadium
ARGYLE'S dismal record at the Priestfield Stadium continued as they were overpowered by table-topping Gillingham on Saturday.
It was their seventh successive defeat in all competitions by the shores of the Medway.
The last time Argyle won an away game at Gillingham was in February 1981, when they triumphed 1-0.
Apart from a promising early start, Argyle never looked like ending their Priestfield Stadium losing streak on Saturday.
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Gillingham have been built for success in League Two and are set to achieve it.
They were taller and stronger all over the pitch than Argyle, and it was no more evident than when the home side had attacking set pieces.
Whether it was from corners or free-kicks, or the long throw-ins from midfielder Chris Whelpdale, Gillingham caused all sorts of trouble with their sheer size.
Their style of football is not particularly pleasing on the eye, but it is proving successful and should take them into League One for next season.
That is what was expected of Martin Allen when he was appointed as the Gills' boss last summer.
Argyle, under former manager Carl Fletcher, set out this season with the intention of trying to play attractive, fluent football.
Apart from occasional spells, the Pilgrims lacked the consistency to do that.
Now, with John Sheridan at the helm, it is going to take grit and determination to win their fight for Football League survival.
Life in League Two can be very unforgiving unless you can scrap with the rest of them.
Argyle are also going to need more goals. They have scored only six in the last seven games, and four of them have come from Jason Banton.
The on-loan Crystal Palace winger was the Pilgrims' only goal threat against Gillingham.
Banton was starved of the ball for much of the match, but still scored in the 76th minute to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The talented 21-year-old even had a couple of late chances to earn Argyle an unlikely point.
Sheridan must be concerned, though, by the lack of firepower throughout the rest of the team.
Striker Reuben Reid, on loan from Yeovil Town, has started eight games and has yet to score.
He led Argyle's attack in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Gillingham but was easily contained by the centre-back pairing of Adam Barrett and Leon Legge.
Barrett, the 33-year-old former Pilgrims defender, put in a typically solid performance.
While Reid did not contribute much, the same could be said for Andres Gurrieri and Ronan Murray, the loanee from Ipswich Town.
Gurrieri started the match in a central role behind Reid, with Murray on the right.
Argyle got the ball to Gurrieri in the early stages and, without creating a clearcut chance, they did work the Gillingham defence.
That attacking threat soon faded, though, and it led to Gurrieri and Murray swapping positions before half-time.
There was no noticeable difference after that, however, as Gillingham keeper Stuart Nelson was not called into any action.
It was only when, belatedly, Banton started to see more of the ball that Argyle did pose some problems for the home side.
Sheridan started the match with the same side from the 2-1 victory over Barnet at Home Park the previous Saturday.
Although the formation differed, it was still a sign of attacking intent from the Pilgrims boss.
Gillingham had lost two of their previous three games at the Priestfield Stadium so would not have been brimming with confidence, despite sitting on top of the table.
Sheridan must have hoped Argyle could get the first goal of the game and unsettle the home side, and their supporters.
It soon became clear, however, that Gillingham's physical strength would be a telling factor.
Whelpdale should have scored in only the fourth minute but headed over the crossbar from close range after a right-wing cross from Bradley Dack.
The trio of Dack, Whelpdale and Anton Robinson in the centre of midfield were dominant for Gillingham.
Gurrieri headed wide from a corner in the seventh minute but that was a rare threat from Argyle.
In contrast, on-loan Brentford striker Antonio German made his first start for Gillingham and his pace and power was impressive.
German crashed one 30-yard shot narrowly wide of the right post in the 14th minute.
He later raced into the Pilgrims penalty area to get on the end of a pass from Robinson and his shot was blocked behind for a corner by centre-back Guy Branston.
Robinson fired into the side netting from a narrow angle before Gillingham took the lead in the 31st minute.
Whelpdale headed down a free-kick from Dack and when Branston failed to clear his lines German hooked the ball past keeper Jake Cole from six yards out.
Dack could have put Gillingham further ahead shortly before half-time but his diving header from left-back Joe Martin's excellent cross was aimed straight at Cole.
Nelson's first save of the match came in the 55th minute when Banton's deflected, looping shot had to be pushed over the bar.
Murray was replaced by striker Gozie Ugwu soon afterwards as Argyle switched to 4-4-2.
Gillingham then tightened their grip on the game in the 62nd minute with Whelpdale getting their second goal.
German latched onto a defence-splitting pass from Whelpdale and had only Cole to beat.
German was forced wide by Cole and his shot was touched onto the left post by the Argyle keeper.
The ball rebounded out to Whelpdale, who had followed up, and he slotted into the net before Pilgrims left-back Onismor Bhasera could stop him.
Midfielder Luke Young was a 73rd minute substitute for Argyle and, from one of his first touches of the ball, his 30-yard free-kick was pushed wide by Nelson.
Young aimed the corner deep into the penalty area and Legge appeared to handle the ball.
Referee Craig Pawson thought otherwise and allowed play to continue as Gillingham tried to clear their lines.
They could only get it out as far as Banton who was lurking outside the penalty area.
The 21-year-old cut onto his left foot and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner of the net, with the aid of a slight touch off one of Nelson's gloves.
Banton did have a couple of late chances to equalise, the first when he cut inside right-back Matt Fish but completely miscued his attempt on goal.
Then, in stoppage time, Banton created space for a shot but could only find the side netting from a tight angle.