Gillingham were denied victory by a stubborn AFC Wimbledon side on Tuesday night, drawing 2-2 at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium despite leading at the break.
The visitors took the lead through a smart 17th-minute Lyle Taylor finish, before goals from the superb Bradley Dack
and Josh Wright put the Gills into a half time lead. However, the home side were pegged back when ex-Gillingham winger Andy Barcham levelled the score on 69 minutes.
Gillingham Head Coach Ady Pennock named new signing Ollie Muldoon in the matchday squad, with the former-Charlton man taking his place on the bench. Josh Parker and Lee Martin made their first starts for the Gills in place of Cody McDonald
and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, while Scott Wagstaff overcame his knock against Chesterfield last Tuesday to make the bench.
The home side had the first effort of the game following good battling forward play from Rory Donnelly. His resilience led to a hopeful flick forward from Dack, which Deji Oshilaja lashed just wide with just one minute on the clock.
AFC Wimbledon were looking to launch the ball towards target-man Tom Elliott at every opportunity, but the Gills defensive back line did well to deal with the threat in the early exchanges, especially in windy conditions.
However, the Gills defence was breached after 16 minutes as Elliott nodded a deep free-kick back across goal into the centre of the box and Taylor swivelled to volley home for the visitors.
Gillingham hit back almost immediately with a fantastic goal from Dack. The Gills midfielder turned two Wimbledon defenders on the corner of the box and drove towards goal, cutting inside another defender and curling a left-footed shot into the bottom corner of the goal to level the scores.
The Wimbledon attack were looking threatening when the ball was played over the top and Elliott should have restored the lead when he was played clean through on goal, but Ryan Jackson did brilliantly to make up the distance and do enough, in tandem with Stuart Nelson
, to put the striker off.
Just before the hour-mark Elliott had another chance as he got ahead of Chris Herd to flick a cross towards goal, but his header whistled past the post and into the side netting, amid claims that the ball had crossed the by-line as the cross came in.
Gillingham took the lead after 37 minutes through Wright following a great counter attack from the Gills. Dack, again, was at the centre of the move driving forward before slipping Jackson in down the right, who played a first time ball into the centre of the box, which the on-rushing Wright powered home through a melee of players on the goal line.
The referee consulted his linesman following a furious reaction from the Wimbledon defence and management before awarding the goal and booking James Shea for his reaction.
The home side scented blood and Jackson nearly extended the lead after a great touch from the influential Dack in the box, but his left-footed shot was wayward and curled into the Wimbledon fans sat in the Brian Moore Stand.
Wimbledon won a free-kick in a dangerous area 25-yards from goal with half-time imminent, but wasted the chance. The set play was the final meaningful action of the half and the Gills went into the break with their one goal advantage intact.
H/T: 2 – 1
The Gills began the second half in a similar vein to the opening period with Parker nodding towards goal but failing to get enough power to trouble the keeper.
The game was bitty with neither side managing to get hold of the ball in the midfield, while a nasty looking injury to Taylor also led to a prolonged break. Will Nightingale should have equalised for the Wombles, but he headed wide from a corner when unmarked five-yards from goal.
Wimbledon gained the upper hand and started to exert some sustained pressure on the Gillingham defence.
However, it was the Gills who nearly scored their third and it was Dack who was denied. Parker broke into a forward area, before the ball found Wright just outside the penalty area; the midfielder cushioned a ball into the box and Dack volleyed on the swivel but was denied by an acrobatic save by the Dons ‘keeper.
Minutes later Donnelly should have extended Gillingham’s lead but he was denied by Shea when clean through on goal. The Gills immediately suffered, as former-player Barcham struck home from inside the box to level the scores.
Despite the setback, Gillingham continued to attack with Mark Byrne seeing his shot deflected over from 25-yards after beating his man in the middle of the park. Dominic Poleon shot wide for the visitors just one minute later, with the game very much in the balance.
If anything, Wimbledon were looking the more likely victors, but Byrne nearly squeezed a Dack cross into the near post only to hit the side netting. The Irishman went eve closer on 90 minutes after Dack skinned his man on the by-line but his header hit the post and went behind.
The Gills were piling on the pressure but just unable to find the final ball that would produce the winner, and both sides were forced to settle for a point.
F/T: 2 – 2
The Gills return to MEMS Priestfield
for the fourth time in a fortnight this Saturday afternoon as they face Phil Brown's Southend United.
Gillingham: Nelson; Jackson, Ehmer, Herd, Oshilaja (Garmston, 54, Wagstaff, 80); Wright, Byrne, Martin, Dack; Donnelly (McDonald, 77), Parker
Unused subs: Holy (GK), Osadebe, Muldoon, Hessenthaler
AFC Wimbledon: Shea; Kelly (Nightingale, 45), Robinson, Charles, Fitzpatrick (Poleon, 65); Barcham, Reeves, Soares, Francomb; Elliott (Barnett, 75), Taylor
Unused subs: McDonnell (GK), Bulman, Parrett, Owens
Attendance: 4,956 (512)
Referee: Darren Deadman