Gillingham’s unbeaten league run has come to an end as they finished their second home game in a row with 10 men.
But the Gills remain top of League Two after a 2-1 defeat to Rochdale, with top scorer Danny Kedwell scoring his fifth penalty of the season.
The Gills, featuring the first unchanged starting XI of the season, struggled to get into the game, and Rochdale looked firm favourites to win from the first few minutes.
It took less than 15 minutes for the visitors to take the lead, with Andrew Tutte firing home in front of Rochdale’s 99 travelling fans.
Last season’s fans’ favourite Danny Jackman then hit Tutte hard in winning the ball, and received a controversial straight red, while Deon Burton saw yellow for voicing his concern against the decision.
It then left Gillingham, already playing below their recent form, with an uphill struggle to salvage even one point.
By the start of the second half, Martin Allen had already made three changes to his side, and the blues started to work harder for possession, but were dealt a further blow when Bobby Grant doubled the Dales’ lead just before the hour.
Allen’s men were then offered a lifeline when Chris Whelpdale was fouled in the box and Danny Kedwell converted the penalty with 20 minutes left to play.
But, despite a valiant effort in the last 20 minutes, the Gills could not find an equaliser and recorded their first defeat of the campaign.
The result leaves Gillingham top of League Two, with Port Vale narrowing the gap to 3 points after their 1-0 win away to Bradford.