Gills slip to a 4-2 defeat at the hands of MK Dons on opening day of the 2014/15 Sky Bet League One Season
MK Dons came from two goals down to defeat Gillingham 4-2 at stadium:mk on Saturday.
Cody McDonald, who had to be subbed due to injury early in the second half, had put the visitors in front before Danny Kedwell doubled the advantage from the penalty spot.
An own goal by Kortney Hause gave Dons a lifeline just before the interval, with Stuart Nelson being replaced in the process by Glenn Morris due to a thumb injury.
The departure of McDonald sparked a period of dominance for the hosts and they scored three times in the space of five minutes to turn the game on its head.
Will Grigg, Kyle McFadzean and another own goal, this time from Leon Legge, completed the scoring for the hosts who dominated the second half to clinch all three points on the opening day of the season.
Five players made their debuts for Gills as Peter Taylor went with a 4-4-2 formation. John Egan started at right back with Legge partnered by Hause in the centre.
Aaron Morris joined Jake Hessenthaler in the centre of midfield with new skipper Doug Loft on the left – Jermaine McGlashan providing support to McDonald and Kedwell on the other flank.
The visitors started well and had slightly more possession in the opening exchanges – McGlashan looking lively and stretching the legs of Dean Lewington at left back.
As MK Dons began to take back some control Gills went in front - McDonald pouncing on a loss of control from defender McFadzean, and the striker wriggled clear and clinically drove the ball past David Martin.
MK Dons wanted a free kick for a foul during the build up but the referee waved it clear and McDonald made no mistake in beating the advancing goalkeeper.
This kick started the hosts into action and they progressively began to control proceedings – Danny Green and Dean Bowditch looking particularly threatening, the former drilling a shot narrowly wide of the post before McDonald was caught offside following a through ball by McGlashan.
On 19 minutes Dele Alli tried his luck at chipping Nelson – the keeper had come forward but had to quickly retreat, however the effort was off target with Stuart in a good position to tip over if need be.
Three minutes later the Gills stopper had to be alert when Ben Reeves played a delicate through ball to Bowdtich on the left side of the penalty area.
Nelson had already spotted the move and smothered the ball before the striker could get a touch.
With Karl Robinson’s men in the ascendency McDonald, played in by Egan on the right flank, sprinted through on goal again having got the better of Antony Kay and rounded the advancing Martin.
The striker went down under a challenge and the referee had little choice but to point to the spot.
The keeper only received a booking before Kedwell sent him the wrong way from 12 yards.
Despite falling further behind the hosts continued to play in the same way and eventually started to ask more questions of the Gills back five – most notably a header from Green which was spectacularly saved by Nelson on 37 minutes.
With the half time break just minutes away MK Dons finally did find a way through via a corner kick.
Nelson tried to guide it away from danger but couldn’t get enough contact to do so, and Hause was in the wrong place at the wrong time to inadvertently put the ball in his own net.
The home crowd got behind their team as they looked to make it a level game before the break, but Gills stood firm and ensured they had the advantage at the interval.
Gills made a surprise change at the break with Glenn Morris coming on to replace Stuart Nelson in goal.
This was later put down to a thumb injury which the Gills number one had picked up during the course of the first half and as a result Morris was called into action during his first league outing with the club.
Nelson wouldn’t be the only one who was forced off with Peter Taylor having to make another change on 53 minutes when McDonald was carried off with a serious leg injury – Antonio German was the man to replace him.
Cody returned to the bench later in the half but the seriousness of his injury won’t be known until a full scan is carried out.
MK Dons seemed to take heart from the fact Gills had lost two of their key players and stayed in control for large periods – Morris making a great save on 63 minutes from Alli when he was put through one on one.
However four minutes later Dons finally gained parity when Green’s cross was met by the head of Grigg who did well to guide the ball beyond Morris who was helpless to do anything about it – the power and accuracy beating him at full stretch.
And within just a couple of minutes he was beaten again. Green turned provider once more and this time it was McFadzean with the header who beat Morris.
Gillingham were starting to show defensive frailties but remained in the game, that was until the 72nd minute when a corner, taken by Green, was whipped in towards the danger zone and the last touch appeared to come off Legge, who guided the ball past Morris who had only been on the pitch for less than half an hour.
The centre back was credited with the goal, however he later revealed he had not got the vital touch.
More chances were created by the hosts, the best of which falling to Reeves and substitute Tom Hitchcock. The first fired off target before Legge put in a great tackle to deny the striker a shot.
Due to the injury sustained by McDonald there were eight minutes of stoppage time at the end of the half, and MK Dons were satisfied just to retain possession until the final whistle sounded.
Gills had a solitary chance to force a nail biting finish, but Aaron Morris’s free kick was easily gathered by Martin.
MK Dons FC: Martin, Hodson, Lewington, McFadzean, Kay, Green, Potter, Bowditch (Powell 83), Reeves (Hitchcock 86), Grigg (Afobe 76), Alli.
Unused subs: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Randall, Baldock
Gills: Nelson (G Morris HT), Egan, Legge, Hause, Martin, A Morris, Hessenthaler (Dickenson 77) , Loft, McGlashan, Kedwell, McDonald (German 53)
Unused subs: Hare, Davies, Dack, Norris
Referee: Mr T Robinson
Att: 7,595 (1048 Gills)
Bookings: D Martin (29), Kay (32), Kedwell (79).