Plymouth Argyle back at the bottom of the table after defeat at Gillingham
GILLINGHAM 2 PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 1
PLYMOUTH Argyle returned to the bottom of League Two after defeat by table-topping Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.
The Pilgrims were overtaken by AFC Wimbledon, who were 3-2 winners at home to York City.
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Gillingham took the lead in the 31st minute when on-loan Reading striker Antonio German netted from close range.
Midfielder Chris Whelpdale put the hosts further ahead in the 63rd minute with a simple tap-in when the ball broke to him after a shot from German hit a post.
Argyle's on-loan Crystal Palace winger Jason Banton then reduced the deficit in the 76th minute.
Banton scored with a low 18-yard shot as he netted his fourth goal in seven games for the Pilgrims.
They could not come up with an equaliser though as they slipped to a ninth away defeat in League Two this season.
Argyle's starting line-up was the same as for their 2-1 win against relegation rivals Barnet at Home Park last Saturday.
It was a different formation, though, with manager John Sheridan opting for a 4-2-3-1.
Andres Gurrieri played in a central role behind striker Reuben Reid, with Banton and Ronan Murray either side of him.
That meant Lee Cox and captain Conor Hourihane had to play deeper roles.
Gillingham, who had lost two of their previous three games at Priestfield Stadium, gave a first start to German.
The game was played on a badly scarred pitch it was the League Two leaders who had the first scoring chance.
It came in only the fourth minute when Whelpdale headed over the bar after a cross from Bradley Dack.
That was a real let-off for the Pilgrims because Whelpdale was unmarked and only six yards out.
Whelpdale had another opportunity in the 13th minute when he broke into the box but Argyle left-back Onismor Bhasera made a perfectly-timed tackle.
Moments later, a powerful 30-yard drive from German flashed narrowly wide of the right post.
German then had a shot superbly blocked behind for a corner by Argyle centre-back Guy Branston inside the penalty area.
The Gills had another near miss in the 26th minute when midfielder Anton Robinson fired into the side netting.
Argyle had to defend a series of set pieces and it was a free-kick from Dack which led to Gillingham taking the lead in the 31st minute.
The visitors could not clear their lines and German hooked the ball into the net from close range.
Argyle could not come up with any response to conceding that goal and Gillingham had chances to extend their lead before the break.
Dack got on the end of an excellent cross from left-back Joe Martin but his diving header was straight at 'keeper Jake Cole.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, Dack was fouled by Bhasera only inches outside the penalty area.
The resulting free-kick was rolled short to Whelpdale but, from a good position, he sliced the ball high into the air rather than towards the target.
The sheer size of Gillingham's players, especially at attacking set pieces, had proved difficult for the Pilgrims to cope with in the first half.
At the other end of the pitch, despite one or two promising attacks, Gills' keeper Stuart Nelson had not been forced into any saves.
There was a scrappy start to the second half with Argyle repeatedly giving the ball away.
Banton did have a chance, though, in the 55th minute when his deflected, looping shot was pushed over the bar by Nelson at full stretch.
Before the corner was taken Murray was replaced by substitute Gozie Ugwu.
Gillingham went 2-0 up in the 62nd minute when Whelpdale slotted into the net from close range after a shot from German hit the left post.
German had raced onto a defence-splitting pass and took the ball around Cole.
With the goal at his mercy, German shot against the left post but the ball rebounded to Whelpdale and he tucked it away.
Before play restarted, injured Argyle centre-back Anthony Charles was taken off, with Paris Cowan-Hall sent on as the substitute for him.
Maxime Blanchard moved into the centre of defence after the departure of Charles, with Cox switching to right-back.
Argyle's third substitution came in the 73rd minute when Hourihane made way in midfield for Luke Young.
Gillingham's former Argyle defender Adam Barrett shot narrowly wide soon afterwards after a corner was not cleared.
Young had a 30-yard free-kick pushed away for a corner by Nelson before Banton reduced the deficit for the visitors.
He created some space for a low shot and from 18 yards drilled the ball low into the net.
Banton had a couple of late chances to grab an equaliser, shooting way off target from a promising position in the 86th minute.
Then, in stoppage time, he fired into the side netting although it was from a tight angle and Nelson probably had it covered.
GILLINGHAM: Stuart Nelson; Matt Fish, Leon Legge, Adam Barrett, Joe Martin; Steven Gregory; Chris Whelpdale (Michael Richardson 68 mins), Anton Robinson, Bradley Dack (Danny East 73 mins); Danny Kedwell, Antonio German (Deon Burton 63 mins).
Substitutes (not used): Charlie Lee, Callum Davies, Adam Birchall, Tommy Forecast (gk).
ARGYLE: Jake Cole; Maxime Blanchard, Anthony Charles (Paris Cowan-Hall 63 mins), Guy Branston, Onismor Bhasera; Lee Cox, Conor Hourihane (Luke Young 73 mins); Ronan Murray (Gozie Ugwu 56 mins), Andres Gurrieri, Jason Banton; Reuben Reid.
Substitutes (not used): Nick Chadwick, Ollie Chenoweth (gk), Paul Wotton, Jamie Richards.
REFEREE: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)
ATTENDANCE: 10,260 (404)
GOALS – Gillingham: German 31 mins, Whelpdale 63 mins; Argyle: Banton 76 mins