GILLINGHAM 1-0 MK DONS: MATCH REPORT
Gillingham bounced back from the midweek defeat to claim a narrow victory against MK Dons at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium and rise to 12th in Sky Bet League One on Saturday.
The sides went in level at the break thanks to a brilliant Stuart Nelson penalty save in stoppage time, and a second-half Cody McDonald header gave the Gills all three points. It marked a second consecutive clean sheet on home soil and three wins on the bounce at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Justin Edinburgh named an unchanged starting XI from the side that lost at Bolton while Darren Oldaker recovered from a knock to return to the matchday squad in place of Brad Stevenson.
MK Dons had the first attempt of the game and it was nearly a spectacular opener as Samir Carruthers latched on to a loose bouncing ball and belted a first time volley from 25-yards just wide of the post, rocketing into the stanchion.
The Gills attacked immediately and were denied by a great goal-line clearance. Scott Wagstaff did brilliantly to get to the by-line and stand a ball up to the back post where the onrushing Bradley Dack nodded towards goal, however Dean Lewington was in the right place to acrobatically clear, and Frank Nouble could only blast the rebound into the side netting.
Both sides were operating a high pressing style with neither team able to dominate possession or territory for substantial periods. McDonald was Gillingham’s main threat with a number of neat touches including one fantastic run, beating two MK Dons’ defender before his cross was blocked behind.
The visitors were looking dangerous on the break and a whipped in free-kick from just inside the corner area narrowly avoided everybody waiting in the box, fizzing past Nelson’s post before a counter attack ended with the ball being played through to Ben Reeves, but the number 10 blasted high into the Rainham End.
Nouble did brilliantly well after 29 minutes to beat his man down the left-hand side of the box but his chipped cross was headed behind for a corner, with McDonald ready to pounce, and the set piece was headed wide by Baily Cargill.
The home fans thought that the Gills had taken the lead just before half-time as Nouble cut in off the flank, beating his man all ends up, and drilled a low shot at goal. Dack ghosted in to slide the ball home but the linesman’s flag was up and the ball shot just wide of the post.
MK Dons had the game’s best chance of the half in the very last minute when Paul Konchesky brought down Kieran Agard in the box and the referee awarded a penalty. Dean Bowditch took the responsibility but Nelson blocked his blasted shot down the middle of the goal with his legs much to the relief of the Gillingham fans and the teams went into the break all square.
MK Dons started the half brightly and Max Ehmer had to be alert to block Carruthers’ shot over the bar with Cargill heading the resulting corner firmly away.
It took until the hour for Gillingham to burst into action, but when they did they worked a flurry of chances. The first effort from the Gills came as Ehmer tried to flick a Dack cross towards goal but the German defender failed to trouble the visiting keeper.
Soon after, Jake Hessenthaler made the overlapping run beyond Wagstaff and his cross just evaded McDonald in the centre of the box, and David Martin in the MK Dons goal got down well to save Cargill’s header from the following corner.
Nouble tested Martin again minutes later when he cut in from the left, but a defensive challenge took the sting out of his shot allowing the keeper to make an easy save.
Gillingham took the lead after 71 minutes through a McDonald header. Nouble did superbly well to beat his man with a sublime bit of skill before galloping 70-yards forward with the ball, winning a corner; Dack played a quick one-two with Konchesky and swung in a great cross, which McDonald nodded home from five yards.
The Gills were still threatening the MK Dons defence with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas heading towards goal, but into the keepers arms from another Dack corner. Josh Wright had a golden chance to double the home side’s advantage, breaking through after a defensive mix up but his placed shot was saved.
Carruthers gave Gillingham a reminder that the visitors were still a threat as he got in down the right hand side of the box but his powerful shot cleared the bar. However, the Gills defended resolutely and saw out the remaining minutes with no further alarms to secure all three points.
F/T: 1 – 0
The Gills return to action on Boxing Day when they travel to the ABAX Stadium to take on Peterborough United and their final fixture of 2016 is away to Millwall at The New Den on New Years’ Eve.
Gillingham: Nelson; Wagstaff, Ehmer, Cargill, Konchesky; Wright, Hessenthaler, Dack; Nouble (Jackson, 79), Emmanuel-Thomas, McDonald
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Oshilaja, Byrne, Oldaker, Donnelly, Cundle
MK Dons: Martin; Baldock (Hendry, 54), Lewington, Downing, Williams; Upson, Potter, Carruthers, Reeves; Agard (Colclough, 80), Bowditch (Maynard, 64)
Unused Subs: Nicholls (GK), Williams, Powell, Aneke
Attendance: 5,682 (350)
Referee: Brett Huxtable