Kedwell pen 74, pen 90, Rooney 86,
by RICK COWDERY
DEFEAT and a (not unconnected) red card for Ben Gibson - Argyle's woes continued unchecked at Priestfield.
Defender Gibson was sent off after handling Danny Kedwell's header, allowing the Gills' striker to score from the penalty spot and set up the Pilgrims' fourth straight defeat of their 125th anniversary season.
A late second from substitute Luke Rooney followed by a second Kedwell penalty in injury-time, after Simon Walton had fouled Charlie Lee, condemned Peter Reid's men to remain entrenched at the bottom end of npower League 2.
The crucial, first, penalty decision was a soft one, but the assistant referee - who gave it - was in no doubt, and it earned Middlesbrough loan player Gibson a second yellow card.
It was enough to irrevocably tilt the outcome of a game in which the Pilgrims defended well and were never outperformed by their hosts but always looked second favourites, mainly because they rarely threatened the opposition goal.
Indeed, it is difficult to remember home goalkeeper Ross Flitney having to make a save.
The Argyle starting line-up prominently featured two Frenchman, with Romain Larrieu being recalled to arms for his first competitive start since being sent off against Leyton Orient on the last day of last season.
Le Keeper, who played 14 games for the Gills - and kept six clean sheets - midway through the 2006-07 season, was also reinstated as team captain having made only one senior appearance for the Pilgrims in pre-season.
Elsewhere, manager Peter Reid had opted for a more defensive formation, employing Ladji Soukouna as a shielding link-man between the back and midfield fours and using Warren Feeney as a lone forward.
Through it all, the rangy Frenchman offered the Pilgrims' defenders protection while providing back-up to an engine-room still bereft of the experience of injured Carl Fletcher and Robbie Williams.
Gillingham manager Andy Hessenthaler had resisted the temptation to re-introduce Rooney, available after a three-match suspension, to the starting line-up of the previously undefeated Gills.
Larrieu was soon back in swing of things, getting down to keep out a none too threatening shot from Lewis Montrose as Argyle initially struggled to get the ball out of their own half.
As soon as they did, it was nearly to devastating effect, with Luke Daley nipping into the Gills' area and directing a first-time shot from Feeney's pass narrowly wide of the post. He won the booby-prize of a corner, despite having had the last touch.
The missed opportunity also signalled a period of Greens' pressure which was relieved only when referee Rob Lewis had to intervene between Gillingham skipper Andy Frampton and Stéphane Zubar following some all too familiar penalty-area jostling.
Frampton was soon deep in conversation with Lewis again after Will Atkinson floored Lee, the precursor to some more tasty tackles by both sides
Argyle flitted in and out of the game, at times - notably when Daley was in full flow - looking sharp; at others, when Walton sent an attacking free-kick straight out of play, less so.
Soukouna enjoyed a Patrick Vieria moment, striding forward purposely out of defence, riding tackles with ungainly ease and unleashing a shot from long range that Matt Lawrence did well to block before Zubar was booked for tripping and Gibson picked up his third yellow of the season for felling Lee.
From the free-kick for the second of the bookings, the Argyle wall repelled Danny Spiller's shot and set up a breakaway that promised much before it was ended only by another well-timed Lawrence intervention.
Kedwell then won a wrestling match with Zubar to get off a shot on goal that went wide thanks to his previous grappling exertions having left him weakened and off-balance.
The Pilgrims reached half-time with no more real concerns, the mixture of bright sunshine and a heavy shower that greeted Lewis's whistle somehow being an appropriate metaphor for their first-half efforts.
It was all sunshine straight after the break from an Argyle perspective, although in actuality, not metaphorically.
Indeed, they survived going behind by only a few inches when the admirable Lawrence powered a header from Spiller's right-wing corner goalwards only for the ball to hit the crossbar plumb centre and rebound into play.
Argyle responded with another mazy Soukouna run that took him out of trouble on the edge of his own penalty area and into trouble on the edge of the Gills' box before Conor Hourihane's improving radar saw a shot from the midfielder fly just wide of the target.
Larrieu was forced in to his first save of note when Weston cushioned a header from Lee's far-post cross into the path of Kedwell, whose on-target stab was turned round the post by Le Keeper.
Gillingham immediately introduced Rooney and Dennis Oti to increase their forward options, and Weston joined in the assault on the Pilgrims' goal with another shot from distance that did not truly trouble Larrieu.
An injury to Soukouna interrupted the flow of the game, probably to the benefit of Argyle, before Gillingham took the lead.
Now with the momentum, the home side came close to doubling their advantage when Lee fired past Larrieu only for Durrell Berry to block his powerful shot on the goal-line.
Berry was unable to help out his custodian moments later, when Rooney brushed past him on the Pilgrims' right-hand side and fired home off the underside of the crossbar, before Kedwell delivered the coup de grace.
Gillingham (4-1-4-1): 1 Ross Flitney; 2 Barry Fuller, 15 Matt Lawrence, 3 Andy Frampton (capt), 12 Joe Martin; 8 Jack Payne; 10 Curtis Weston (18 Danny Jackman 87), 4 Charlie Lee, 19 Lewis Montrose (11 Dennis Oti), 17 Danny Spiller (14 Luke Rooney 60); 9 Danny Kedwell. Substitutes (not used): 6 Gerry Richards, 28 Paulo Gazzainga.
Booked: Spiller 45, Rooney 77.
Argyle (4-1-4-1): 1 Romain Larrieu (capt); 2 Durrell Berry, 6 Curtis Nelson, 5 Stéphane Zubar, 19 Ben Gibson; 13 Ladji Soukouna; 7 Luke Daley (27 Matt Lecointe 78), 8 Simon Walton, 20 Conor Hourihane, 21 Will Atkinson; 11 Warren Feeney. Substitutes (not used): 10 Tom Hitchcock, 15 Luke Young, 18 Jordan Copp, 23 Jake Cole.
Sent off: Gibson 73.
Booked: Zubar 32, Gibson 34.
Referee: Rob Lewis.
Attendance: 5,053 (315 away).