Port Vale came from behind to beat the Gills 2-1 on a sunny day at Vale Park in Sky Bet League One on Saturday.
Gillingham took a first-half lead through Josh Wright, after great build-up play from Bradley Dack and Cody McDonald, but late goals from Remie Streete and Alex Jones secured all three points for Vale.
Justin Edinburgh made three changes to the XI that drew with Bradford on Saturday, with Dack and Josh Pask replacing Ryan Jackson and Rory Donnelly, and Scott Wagstaff making his full debut in place of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
The Gills had the first effort of the match in the third minute, after good build-up play down the right-wing. Dack played a through-ball to McDonald, who cut the ball back to Emmanuel Osadebe, but the midfielder’s effort flew well over the bar.
Paulo Tavares’s 15th minute free-kick could have caused problems for the Gills, as it eluded the away defenders on the six-yard line, but didn’t trouble the alert Jonathan Bond in goal. The Reading loanee handled well, despite the ball bouncing right in front of him.
Wagstaff hadn’t seen much of the ball in the opening minutes, but created an opportunity with his first of his subsequent mazy runs in the game. The winger set up McDonald, whose shot was deflected behind.
From the resulting corner, the Gills took the lead on 25 minutes. Just as had been the case at Southend on the opening day of the season, the Gills scored from a set-piece straight that came straight from the training ground.
Dack played the corner short to McDonald, who fired across goal, where captain Wright was waiting and scored from a yard out. The goal silenced the home fans, who were jeering Dack’s short corner, as they thought it was a mis-kick.
Just two minutes later Dack and Mcdonald linked up again, after an inch-perfect through-ball from the former, but McDonald’s shot was cleared off the line by Ben Purkiss.
Deji Oshilaja was next to go close for the visitors during a spell of domination from the Gills, meeting Dack’s corner. The unmarked defender’s powerful header, however, was saved by Jak Alnwick.
On the half hour-mark, Dack looked to replicate his spectacular free-kick against Sheffield United a fortnight ago, however the midfielder’s curling effort went just wide after leaving Alnwick stranded in the Vale goal.
With just one minute of the opening 45 remaining, Bond made a world-class save to deny Sam Foley. The midfielder held his run, before unleashing a powerful downward header, but Bond spread both his arms and legs to make an instinctive stop while diving the opposite way to the ball to make sure the Gills went into the break a goal to the good.
Oshilaja was replaced by Elliott List at the start of the second-half after picking up a booking in the first 45. Wagstaff moved back to the right-back position, with List occupying the left-wing.
The Valiants had the first chance of the half. Tavares’s corner was met by the head of Foley, but the header sailed high over the bar and into the stand.
With 58 minutes played, Wagstaff went into the referee’s book after what was deemed to be a deliberate handball just five yards from the edge of the box.
Tavares, who seemed to be involved in every Vale attack, rolled the resulting free-kick to Streete. The defender struck low to rattle Bond’s upright in a nervy spell for the Gills defence.
With just over an hour played Mark Byrne took advantage mis-placed pass in the middle of the park and took a speculative effort that was dipping, but always going over the bar by about a foot.
The introduction of List had injected some more pace down the wing, and the substitute was being used as an outlet when the Gills were under a bit of pressure.
Edinburgh’s side looked in trouble on 70 minutes with the ball bouncing in and around the six-yard following a corner. Port Vale had the big men up from the back, but their headers were well-defended by the Gills, before goal scorer Wright had to clear off the line to cancel out more goal scoring opportunities for the home side.
Osadebe pulled off a piece of trickery that Lionel Messi would have been proud of on 71 minutes, beating two men before getting a shot away that was blocked on the edge of the box.
On 76 minutes Port Vale were level. Bond did well to deny substitute Gezim Shalaj from 10-yards, but Streete made no mistake in burying the rebound to equalise for the home side.
Emmanuel-Thomas came on to replace Dack on 79 minutes, with the Gills needing a different option in attack.
Bond made yet another unbelievable save just one minute later to deny Anthony Grant. The midfielder was played through by Cicilia and should have scored, but the goalkeeper tipped his powerful goal-bound shot over the bar.
With 84 minutes played, Vale completed the turnaround. Jones had possession 20-yards from goal, cut on to his left foot shot low past Bond to make it 2-1.
Cicilia should have made it 3-1 on 89 minutes, but Bond was equal to the low effort and held on well.
The Valiants held on through four minutes of injury time to take all three points.
The Gills return to action at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday (September 24), as Coventry City visit Kent. Tickets for the 3pm kick-off are available from the club’s online ticketing service, by calling the Customer Service Centre on (01634) 300000 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, or by visiting the stadium ticket office.
Port Vale: Alnwick, Purkiss, Streete, Knops, Tavares (Shalaj, 64), Foley, Paterson (Cicilia, 74), Thomas (Brown, 86), Smith, Jones, Grant
Unused subs: Macintosch, Pereira, Santos, Hart
Gillingham: Bond, Ehmer, Oshilaja (List, 45), Wagstaff, McDonald, Konchesky, Osadebe, Pask, Dack (Emmanuel-Thomas, 79) Byrne, Wright
Unused subs: Nelson, Hessenthaler, Knott, Oldaker, Dickenson
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Attendance: 4,719 (197 away)