Threat of Banton alone fails to spark Argyle as shot-shy attack is kept in check by Gills
Plymouth Argyle's dismal record at Priestfield 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 the Pilgrims won an away game against Gillingham was in February 1981, when they triumphed 1-0.
Apart from a promising early start, Plymouth never looked like ending their Priestfield losing streak on Saturday. Argyle have scored only six in the last seven games, and four of them have come from Jason Banton.
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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.
The talented 21-year-old even had a couple of late chances to earn Argyle an unlikely point, but their 2-1 defeat sent them back to the foot of npower League Two.
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.
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 Priestfield, 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.
Chris 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 the hosts.
Andres 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 goalkeeper 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.
Ronan 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 on to a defence-splitting pass from Whelpdale and had only Cole to beat. German was forced wide by Cole and his shot was touched on to the left post by the Argyle goalkeeper. The ball rebounded out to Whelpdale, who had followed up, and he slotted into the net before visiting' 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 on to 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.