RAPHAEL Branco was the unlikely hero as Swindon earned a point after twice going behind in a pulsating match at Priestfield.
The Brazilian’s cross late in the game looked harmless but Stephen Bywater spilled it into his own net to give Town a share of the points, sending the visiting fans and the away technical area into raptures.
Bradley Smith was the surprise inclusion in Mark Cooper’s starting XI as he made an earlier than expected return from injury to slot back in for Jack Barthram on the left. Andy Williams came in as the Town boss shuffled his side, with Louis Thompson suspended Ben Gladwin moved from number 10 into a more traditional central midfield role.
Town dominated the ball all of the opening 45 but conceded in the ninth minute through a freak accident. Yaser Kasim losing possession in midfield to Bradley Dack who played a harmless looking through ball into the path of Danny Kedwell. Then disaster, Wes Foderingham’s clearance struck the covering Jordan Turnbull and looped into Kedwell’s path, leaving the striker an easy finish into an empty net.
As on Saturday, Town refused to stop playing but much of the passing was benign and hardly troubled the Gills' backline.
In fact it was the Peter Taylor’s men who next came closest, Gavin Hoyte, on debut almost getting on to a Kedwell knock down after a smart set-piece move. Though the flag went up and Town breathed again.
Gladwin looked lively in the midfield and he was next to go close. A series of square passes across the top of the Gills' box ended with Kasim feeding the former Marlow man, he tried a low curler to the far post but Bywater got down to save.
Town’s equaliser eventually came but only when Gillingham made a rare burst forward. In the 43rd minute a quick Swindon break found Michael Smith’s feet and he played in Williams through the left channel. Williams burst into the box and chopped instinctively on to his right and found the inside of the far post to restore parity.
It stayed that way until half time after which the Gills showed far more adventure. Dack got on the ball again and wrong-footed Branco with a cute pass. Kortney Hause was rampaging forward from the back, he latched on to Dack's ball and powered home from 18 yards into the roof of the net to put his side ahead again.
Town reasserted themselves after the goal as their hosts sat back once more. However for all of Swindon’s control again they struggled to create anything clear-cut.
Town looked dangerous without creating anything more than shots from distance and it was Gillingham who almost put the game beyond reach late on. Brennan Dickenson's drive striking the bar after Michael Smith failed to clear a corner.
It stayed that way until very late in the piece as Branco made his unlikely intervention via Bywater’s poor error.