STUART McCall didn’t sound like a manager whose team had just maintained their perfect league start.

Wins at Priestfield – for the Bantams at least, if not their gaffer – have been as rare as hen’s teeth.

Saturday was only the fourth in 26 visits to this distant corner of Kent.

But there was a slightly curmudgeonly air about McCall’s post-match verdict. So too the muted reaction of chairman Edin Rahic.

It was the little things that niggled away. Victory had been more uncomfortable than it should have been.

Peter Taylor, now director of football at Gillingham, feels his team should be okay for a mid-table finish this year after scraping up on the final day last season.

On this evidence, the former Bantams boss is being a tad optimistic.

He was right on one count – their new-found aerial threat. Seven of the eight summer signings are six-footers, transforming a side who were previously perceived as weak at crosses and set-pieces into one that concentrates almost entirely on them.

That was what was bugging McCall afterwards.

A first clean sheet was suitable reward for a defence currently at full stretch through injury and suspension.

But they didn’t half make it hard for themselves by conceding a string of needless fouls late on to offer Gillingham, who were down to ten men by that point, a potential lifeline they had not warranted.

“When you’re getting tired in games, don’t throw a lazy leg at it,” said McCall. “Stay on your feet, just jockey.

“When you go to ground, you’re invariably running the risk of giving away a free-kick and that’s their strengths.

“Our game management wasn’t great. We also had lots of good opportunities but took the wrong options.”

McCall won’t let it go and you can be sure those careless incidents will be highlighted with the individuals concerned in the video debrief at training tomorrow.

But for all the quibbles, he will have been chuffed to see his team dig out another three points while only showing flashes of what they are capable of.

City remain a side very much in transition. Newer, younger faces are still trying to find their place in the team and forge reputations; established ones are building on getting the right blend.

There is still no Charlie Wyke, who continues to step up his recovery but is unlikely to be ready for Blackburn next Saturday.

So the patchy nature of the early performances is understandable. And for all the nit-picking, the Bantams boast two wins on their record – 18 other clubs in League One would happily swap for that.

A Saturday morning text had suggested the bookies had not done their homework.

Gillingham were a juicy 3/1 for the win against a side who traditionally struggled down there and were facing defensive issues. It sounded too tempting.

But then when are the bookies ever wrong? The Gills are also tipped heavily for the drop.

Once again, City were faced with opponents playing three centre halves. McCall’s response was to put three strikers up against them.

He added Alex Jones to the budding partnership of Dominic Poleon and Omari Patrick and urged the trio to press away, forcing the hurried mistakes and exploiting any gaps with their pace.

Jones had taken his goal well against Doncaster but still looks to be lacking something from last season.

It was another quiet performance although he did play a part with the well-worked assist for Poleon’s goal.

Jones spun off his marker before cutting the ball back from the right. Poleon was alert to the possibility and found a yard to steady himself with a first-time side-foot into the bottom corner.

Gillingham’s response revolved around Mark Byrne’s long throw-ins creating panic in the penalty area.

But what City might have lacked in overall inches in comparison to the hosts, they made up for by hoovering up the second ball. When one was kept alive, Colin Doyle made up for a nervy opening by showing strong hands to deny Josh Parker’s fierce drive.

The visitors should have had the luxury of a second goal as half-time approached. Max Ehmer was caught dawdling on the ball and Poleon whisked it away.

Suddenly he was clean through on goal, casually side-stepping keeper Thomas Holy to leave a gaping net to aim at. But to his horror – and that of 521 disbelieving City fans at the far end – Poleon rolled it the wrong side of the post with his weaker left foot.

Poleon’s “hero to zero” moment left him wanting the ground to open up. He was visibly beating himself up in the minutes before the break.

McCally typically defused any simmering frustration during the interval with some humour.

“I told him that if we defend properly, he’s got the winning goal. And nobody will talk about that horrendous, unbelievable, blooper of a miss!”

But it kept the game in the balance when City could have been in cruise control.

Gillingham had almost cashed in their unexpected life right on half-time when Alex Lacey missed with a free header.

City’s slender advantage was exposed again midway through the second half as Parker jabbed wide from Luke O’Neill’s cross.

Then Josh Wright failed to hit the target after finding himself unmarked at a corner. McCall looked fit to burst on the sideline.

The introduction of Paul Taylor swung the balance back in City’s favour.

He kept the ball well on the left side and prompted some promising forages as they looked to put the game to bed.

That should have been the case when Wilkinson was sent for an early bath after a rash challenge on Timothee Dieng by the corner flag.

The home fans on the spot angrily disputed referee John Busby’s call but it was the reckless manner of the striker’s lunge rather than the contact that had swayed the officials.

But City continued to make their afternoon more troublesome than it should have been.

A couple of wrong decisions on the counter-attack combined with some weary misjudged challenges in defence.

It added up to give Gillingham’s depleted numbers late hope, to the extent that Tom Eaves bundled the ball home from a Lee Martin free-kick deep into stoppage time.

Fortunately the scorer was clearly offside, as was Scott Wagstaff who had set him up, but it was a nail-gnawing reminder for City not to slacken off.

A lesson, no doubt, that will be hammered home over the coming days.