Report by Ali Bunker Paul Ince's MK Dons continued their impressive start to the League One campaign with a deserved 2-0 victory over Gillingham at stadiummk.
Goals from strike duo Jermaine Easter and Aaron Wilbraham sealed the result with manager Ince watching from the stands after starting a two-match ban following an FA improper conduct charge. The win lifted the Dons up to third in the table as they climbed above Colchester and became the nearest challengers to top two Leeds and Charlton. In a first-half lacking in genuine goal-mouth action it was the visitors who worked the first opening in the early exchanges - Curtis Weston testing Willy Gueret in the Dons goal with a low shot from just outside the area before Andy Barcham did the same moments later.
Wilbraham and Easter have forged an impressive attacking partnership for the Dons this season and it was the Welshman who stole in behind the Gills defence on 16 minutes only to be denied by a brilliant last-ditched challenge by on-loan West Ham defender Matt Fry, making his debut.
Easter, back from international duty with Wales, soon turned provider as he played in Aaron Doran down the right, but the Blackburn loanee's shot curled wide of Simon Royce's goal. The Dons were now well on top and after Easter's shot had been deflected for a corner David McCracken came close with a header from inside the six-yard box but was denied by Royce.
It proved to be an unhappy debut for Gillingham striker Scott Vernon after a knee injury forced him off before the interval, the striker moving from League One rivals Colchester United on loan. The home fans almost had something to cheer about just before the half-time break as another set-piece presented the Dons with a decent goal-scoring chance. Doran's free-kick from the left evaded everybody in a crowded area except Mathias Doumbe, the defender's deft header hitting the post and back into play, taking the sides in level at the break.
The game continued in much the same vein after the sides emerged for the second half. Both teams were threatening without really creating too many clear-cut chances. That changed, however, after some neat work by Jason Puncheon paid off down the left on the hour mark - the midfielder taking the ball past two defenders before seeing his shot blocked by the outstretched leg of Fry. Puncheon was alive to the loose ball though, and his perfectly placed lay-off provided Easter with the easiest of finishes from inside the six-yard box.
It was Easter's 10th strike in all competitions this season after joining from Plymouth Argyle in the summer. The Dons were now seemingly in complete control with Puncheon causing havoc down the left and Lewis Gobern, on for Doran after 56 minutes, making in-roads down the right. And the lead was almost extended when Puncheon's corner was headed down by David McCracken in the box, but skipper Dean Lewington was unable to make decent contact with the ball to force it home.
Wilbraham almost got in on the act when his volley was gathered by Royce on 77 minutes before Gobern fired wide from long-range with the Dons looking to close the match out. Barcham worked a rare second-half opening for the visitors on 82 minutes with a shot that flew over Gueret's bar as the visitors pushed for an equaliser.
But it was Wilbraham, denied moments earlier by an offside flag from the assistant referee, who smashed in his first goal of the season from just inside the box after Puncheon's lay-off to double the Dons' lead and clinch a well-deserved victory.
MK Dons (4-4-2): Gueret; Howell, Doumbe, McCracken, Lewington (c); Doran (L. Gobern 56), Gleeson, Leven (O. Gobern 90), Puncheon; Easter (Johnson 76), Wilbraham.
Subs not used: Baldock, Searle, Morgan, Swailes.
Gillingham (4-4-2): Royce; Fuller (c), Gowling, Fry, Nutter; Bentley, Lewis (Rooney 87), Weston, Barcham; Vernon (Oli 42), Jackson.
Subs not used: Maher, Palmer, Julian, Yussuff, Payne.
Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands)