Joe Pigott scores the only goal of the game as Gills suffer second home defeat of the season.
A goal from Joe Pigott early on in the second half condemns Gillingham to defeat against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday afternoon at the Medway Priestfield Stadium.
After a goalless first half, former Gillingham loanee Pigott latched on to a ball over the top of the host’s defence rounded Tomas Holy and chipped home to take the points.
The home side’s best chance came in the final minute of extra time when Luke O’Neill curled a free-kick towards goal from 30 yards but the keeper managed to get across his goal well to tip it wide and deny the Gills a point.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell shuffled his starting XI for the visit of the Dons as Conor Wilkinson and Alex Lacey made their first league starts of the season with Gaby Zakuani and Josh Parker out injured and on international duty, respectively.
Summer signing Josh Rees also made his home debut after picking up minutes both at Barnsley and midweek against Portsmouth with Elliott List dropping to the bench. Ex-Wimbledon captain Barry Fuller retained his position while several familiar faces lined up against the Gills with former players Deji Oshilaja, Scott Wagstaff, Andy Barcham and Pigott all making the Wombles’ XI.
The Gills created the first opening with Wilkinson getting on the ball out wide on the right and drifting a ball towards Tom Eaves but the striker couldn’t generate enough power on the header to trouble King in the visitors goal.
Another ball in from Captain Callum Reilly after 13 minutes presented Eaves with another chance but his header was directed straight at King.
The Wombles weren’t happy with a couple of the referees decision in the first quarter of an hour as Brandon Hanlan was only given a yellow for a robust challenge on Oshilaja and then waved away claims for a penalty when Wagstaff went down after contact with Reilly in the box.
The game was a combative affair with both teams fighting hard to gain a foothold in the game but unable to carve out any clear cut openings.
The Dons went inches from taking the lead after 25 minutes though as Hanson unleashed a piledriver from 25 yards that cannoned back off the bar. Barcham followed up but his shot was blocked before Tomas Holy got down to make a save from Pigott.
A free-kick delivered by Wagstaff was then met by Oshilaja, as the Gills defence started to come under pressure, but the defender's header floated harmlessly over the bar,
In a rare attack from the hosts a neat bit of skill from Wilkinson earnt Gillingham a corner which Reilly took. His low ball caused trouble in the Dons box but was eventually hacked clear.
Wimbledon were given another opportunity when Reilly conceded a foul 25 yards from goal, receiving a yellow for the offence. Pigott stood over the ball but his curled effort cleared the bar much to the relief of the Rainham End.
The referee was the centre of attention again just before the break as a dangerous corner from Wimbledon was cleared with the referee waving away claims for a penalty as a visiting player hit the turf.
H/T: 0 – 0
Steve Lovell made two changes at the break after the disappointing first half performance. Luke O’Neill and Elliott List were both introduced in place of Rees and Hanlan.
The substitutes seemed to make an instant impact with O’Neill, playing on the right of a flat-four midfield, whipped in a great ball less than two minutes into the half which was met by Eaves but headed over the bar.
A breakaway attack from the Dons opened up the Gills after 50 minutes but Hanson’s control let him down at the vital moment and he had to set up Trotter instead who blazed over.
Two minutes later and Wimbledon finally did take the lead. A ball over the defence found Pigott who got the better of Lacey, rounded Holy and chipped past Ehmer and into the net.
A loose ball from List set Pigott free again but his speculative chipped effort never looked in danger of finding the net. Yet another ball over the top looked to have got Pigott in on goal and he went down claiming he had been clipped but the referee disagreed much to the disgruntlement of the Wimbledon fans and management team.
The Gills responded by winning a free-kick on the right side of the penalty area after great work from O’Neill. He stepped up and whipped a great ball in but Wimbledon defended it well and cleared the danger.
Gillingham were starting to put the Dons under pressure with O’Neill looking dangerous down the right. A cute one-two between him and Byrne gave O’Neill a shooting opportunity but on his weaker foot from 30 yards the shot never threatened.
But Wimbledon were still dangerous going forward with Pigott a constant menace. The Gills defence did well to get a block on his 75th minute shot before Trotter slashed a shot miles wide after the corner was only partly cleared.
List was the main danger for the Gills on the left of midfield. After 80 minutes he darted past Pinnock on the left and jinked his way into the box but his shot was blocked to Ehmer who won a free-kick 30 yards out. Wilkinson took the honours but his shot blasted Pigott’s head in the wall and away to safety.
A great ball from Garmston eked out another half chance for the Gills as he got Eaves in down the left hand side of the Dons box. His cross looped up to Byrne in space who tried a miraculous bicycle kick but skewed it wide.
The pressure had subsided for the most part with Wimbledon seeing the game out in a professional manner and into the six minutes of added time.
There was late drama as the referee waved away some desperate Gillingham appeals as first Ehmer then Reilly went down in the area under challenges before Ehmer won a free-kick 30 yards to give the hosts one final chance. O’Neill curled a beauty over the wall but King got down to push it away and win the game for the Dons despite Holy coming up for one last corner.
F/T: 0 – 1
Gillingham travel to Rochdale next weekend as they look to get back to winning ways on the road at Spotland.
Gillingham: Holy; Fuller, Ehmer, Lacey, Garmston; Reilly, Rees (O’Neill, 46), Byrne, WIlkinson; Hanlan (List, 46), Eaves
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Ogilvie, Nasseri, Mbo, Oldaker
AFC Wimbledon: King; Watson, Oshilaja, McDonald, Purrignton; Barcham, Soares (Wordsworth, 69), Trotter, Wagstaff (Pinnock, 74); Hanson (Appiah, 59), Pigott
Unused subs: McDonnell (GK), Nightingale, Jervis, Pinnock
Referee: Mr Nicholas Kinseley
Attendance: 5,246 (963)