CITY charged back into the play-off places after a month out - and delivered an ominous warning to the teams around them in the promotion race.

They brushed aside a Gillingham side who were one of the division’s form teams with the minimum of fuss to jump up to sixth spot.

Mark Hughes’ men followed up their Doncaster triumph with an even better display in deepest Kent, clinching the points with a header from captain Richie Smallwood and an absolute belter from the irresistible force that is Andy Cook.

As expected, Hughes named the same line-up that had done such a decent job at Doncaster three days earlier. The subs were also unchanged - with Vadaine Oliver’s knee problem keeping him out of a reunion with his previous club.

Former Bantam Timothee Dieng, one of the many January arrivals, was missing from the home side with concussion.

Had the game been played on its original December date, Gillingham were stuck in a rut of one point from six games to send them spiralling to the bottom of the table.

The Gills hit the halfway stage of their season five points adrift with just two wins.

But after the squad’s extensive and expensive January makeover, they went into City’s rearranged visit on the back of winning six out of eight since, including four in a row at home.

Gillingham started at a fair lick but Harry Lewis saved comfortably from Dom Jefferies and then showed a cool head to nick the ball away from an advancing Aiden O’Brien.

Jamie Walker fired high and wide for City before Andy Cook fed Dara Costelloe for an angled effort smothered by Glenn Morris.

Shaun Williams launched a curving pass over the top that saw O’Brien get momentarily goal-side of Matty Platt. He laid it back to George Apslie who lost his balance before able to shoot.

Gillingham left back Tutonda then whistled a 25-yarder into the open terrace, which was empty bar a half-dozen hardy City fans, as the contest continued at a lively tempo.

The majority of the travelling fans were housed under cover in the corner. But they were making themselves heard - especially when City went in front on 27 minutes.

Brad Halliday whipped in a teasing cross and Smallwood lost his marker Cheye Alexander to head home despite Morris getting a hand on it as he scrambled to keep the ball out.

Sam Stubbs threw himself in the way of an O’Brien effort as Gillingham pushed for a quick response.

But City were getting a lot of joy down their right side with Halliday a willing runner in the space being created out wide. Costelloe was also looking to stretch the home defence as he done with Doncaster.

City threatened again through the busy Walker, who pinged one from distance that Morris did well to palm away.

It had been a very good half for the visitors, defending strongly but also breaking in numbers to offer a threat on the break.

Cook had an early sight of goal after the break but got his sights wrong with a scissor volley that ended up nearer the corner flag.

But you can’t keep the big man down for long.

The City support had a bird’s eye view of his latest goal as he won the ball back right in front of them off a dithering Max Ehmer on the touchline, turned fellow centre half Conor Masterson one way then the other and finished with a sublime dink over Morris.

It was an exquisite individual effort from a player clearly bursting with confidence - and put the visitors in a commanding position.

Gillingham had looked a bit shell-shocked since the break and threw on striker Tom Nichols in a desperate bid to salvage something.

Lewis tipped over George Lapslie’s header but Cheye Alexander fluffed his volley from the resulting corner.

O’Brien went close with a glancing header past the far post but City still looked to maintain a presence at the other end.

Costelloe was still trying for that first goal in senior football. Having thrashed one shot high onto the terrace he met Halliday’s cross with a first-time connection that Morris turned away.

Halliday then produced another precise ball into the box for Cook to swivel and fire hard but straight at Morris.

Emmanuel Osadebe got the chance for a few more minutes in his legs late on as City enjoyed another fruitful road trip.