The Gills were unable to stage another memorable comeback on Saturday, as they lost 2-0 to AFC Wimbledon at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Dom Poleon and Dean Parrett's first-half strikes proved enough for AFC and, despite trying, the Gills were unable to find their scoring touch for only the second league game this season.
A magnificent 801 Gills fans travelled to south west London to cheer on their team, and saw manager Justin Edinburgh hand 17-year-old Darren Oldaker the second league start of his career in the centre of midfielder. Playing at left wing-back in a 3-5-2, Paul Konchesky returned after missing the midweek game at Chesterfield due to injury.
Dons striker Tom Elliott had the first attempt of the match, rising highest to get a header towards goal, but his effort went comfortably wide and didn’t trouble captain-for-the-day Stuart Nelson.
There were early worries for the Gills fans who packed the away stand behind the dugouts on 14 minutes, as Bradley Dack went down with a hamstring injury. Rory Donnelly came on to replace Dack in a straight swap, partnering Jay Emmanuel-Thomas up front.
Ex-Gill Barry Fuller found space to shoot just a minute later, but his effort flew high and wide much to the delight of the travelling fans.
However, the Dons took the lead on 20 minutes after being gifted a goal. Donnelly’s back-pass lacked pace, and left Poleon in a dream situation with just Nelson to beat. The striker took the ball round the ‘keeper and rolled it into an empty net.
Max Ehmer showed his defensive capabilities 120 seconds later, calmly coming away with the ball following a foot-race with Andy Barcham. Had Ehmer not made the challenge, there would have been another one-on-one situation, similar to the opening goal, and the Dons could have doubled their advantage.
Billy Knott tried his luck with a speculative half-volley on 29 minutes. The midfielder struck the ball well, however his shot was deflected and away to safety by the Dons defence.
The home side looked dangerous with the ball on the flanks, and were looking to cross to target man Elliott to attack on every occasion.
Tom Beere went on a mazy run on 36 minutes, beating three Gills players but he couldn’t provide an end product as his cross eluded the onrushing attackers.
Elliot nearly took advantage of another slow back-pass on 40 minutes. Deji Oshilaja played the ball back to Nelson, who did really well to meet the ball and clear his lines, especially with the striker ready to pounce and running at speed. The goalkeeper took a knock after a collision with the Dons forward, but was able to carry on.
Konchesky is well-known for the long-range goals he has scored in his career, and the left-back looked to get off the mark for the Gills with a 25-yard strike on 43 minutes, but James Shea was able to smother the ball in the Dons goal.
The Dons were gifted a chance to double their advantage just before half-time. Josh Pask bundled over Paul Robinson, after the defender got the wrong side of the West Ham loanee from a corner kick, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Parrett stepped up to take the spot-kick and coolly converted down the middle of the goal.
Elliott List came on to replace Jay Emmanuel-Thomas for the restart, with manager Edinburgh looking for a response.
But it was the Dons who had the first opportunity of the second-half from a free-kick. Goal scorer Parrett swung the ball in low, but Robinson couldn’t get enough on the ball to direct it on target.
Elliott had been giving the Gills defence a tough time all game, and nearly scored on 55 minutes. The tall forward got in front of his man from a Jon Meades cross and powered a header just over Nelson’s bar.
The Gills were given a free-kick in shooting territory on 59 minutes after a foul on List. Donnelly stepped up and curled the ball over the wall, but it went inches wide of the post.
Birthday boy Emmanuel Osadebe looked to get forward on every opportunity and set up Billy Knott after some great individual play on 62 minutes. The midfielder began on the left, before taking on three AFC players and laying the ball to former Dons loanee Knott, whose 18-yard effort went just over the bar.
As the game wore on AFC began to look comfortable on the ball and the home fans found their voice with the clock running down.
The introduction of List at half-time added more directness and pace, but the Gills couldn’t find the ball in behind the Dons defence to release him and create a goal scoring opportunity.
The Gills were reduced to 10 men with just one minute of normal time remaining. Donnelly felt as though he should have had a foul after being pushed in the area, and was shown a straight red for unsporting behaviour in frustration.
Nelson made a fantastic save in what was the last piece of action of the match. Parrett played in another ex-Gill, Andy Barcham, left of the penalty area and the goalkeeper was quick off his line to deny a third AFC goal.
The Gills travel to The Den in midweek, hosting Millwall in a Checkatrade Trophy game, before hosting Oldham at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium in Sky Bet League One on Saturday, October 8.
AFC Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robinson, Charles, Meades (Kelly, 83), Beere (Bulman, 73), Parrett, Elliott, Poleon (Taylor, 66), Barcham
Unused subs: McDonnell, Whelpdale, Barnett, Robertson
Gillingham: Nelson, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Byrne, Knott, Dack (Donnelly, 14), Emmanuel-Thomas (List, 45), Osadebe, Oldaker, Konchesky, Pask
Unused subs: Hadler, Hessenthaler, Dickenson, Wright, Stevenson
Referee: David England
Attendance: 4,653 (801 away)