Karl Robinson believes his players should walk away from Gillingham with their ‘heads held high’ despite slipping to their second League defeat of the season.
In what was a frantic first half at Priestfield Stadium, the Dons found themselves two goals down inside 13 minutes courtesy of a pair of penalties from Gills’ Danny Kedwell, only for loanee striker Patrick Bamford to draw the ten-man visitors level with a five minute brace.
However, it wasn’t to be for the Dons as Danny Hollands second-half header condemned them to their second straight away defeat, much to the frustration of boss Robinson, who had nothing but praise for his courageous players after the game.
Speaking to the media, the 33-year-old said: “I thought we deserved a point but as we all know all too well, you don’t always get what you deserve in football.
“I don’t think I could have asked anything more from the players and I can’t be critical of the effort and the appetite they showed. We’ll go away with our heads held high because the players couldn’t have put anything more into it.
“For the last twenty minutes we outplayed them. We passed it, we created chances and we looked fit and so I want to take the positives out of today. Yes we lost and you can’t hide from that but we weren’t outplayed.”
Things could have been different for the Dons had defender Tom Flanagan not been sent off inside the opening quarter of an hour for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, which subsequently led to the Gills’ second goal. Flanagan, lining up against his former side and in his first League start of the season, was evidently disappointed as he headed back to the dressing room.
Robinson, though, is confident his young defender will bounce back but insists he must do it quickly, with his side now paper thin after injuries to Jon Otsemobor and David Martin this afternoon. He added: “The problem, sometimes, with these young players is they want to impress so much and and it’s cost us the first penalty.
“Tom then made a mistake with a pass for the second and tried to rectify with a rush of blood. It’s a learning curve for him but he’s got to learn quickly because we find ourself in a very difficult position.
“We’ll now be without Tom Flanagan, without Jon Otsemobor who picked up an injury in the warm-up, without David Martin, without Dele Alli, without Dean Bowditch, without Antony Kay and without Danny Green who goes back.
“I’ve got at least seven players now out for this week. Like I said at the top of the season, this is going to be the hardest year I’ve ever had but I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got a difficult game away at Stevenage but it’s important for us to roll our sleeves up and get up for it.”
Finally, Robinson reserved special mentions for duo Alan Smith and David Martin, the former for playing out of position for the majority of the game and the latter for playing the final quarter of an hour on one leg having picked up a knock.