Report: Gillingham 4-2 Dons
Devante Cole and the returning Ben Reeves drew the men from MK1 level at 1-1 and 2-2 respectively, however, further goals from Bradley Garmston and Jon Marquis ensured a frustrating afternoon in Kent.
The only saving grace for Robinson’s men was that they didn’t lose any ground in the promotion race with Bristol City and Swindon Town also losing.
There were four changes to the Dons’ starting XI with Ian McLoughlin, Samir Carruthers, Daniel Powell and Cole replaced David Martin (thigh), Lee Hodson, Danny Green and Jonson Clarke-Harris.
The men from MK1 started brightly and put their hosts on the back foot from the first whistle – Carl Baker firing a free-kick just past the right-hand post five minutes in.
However, it was Justin Edinburgh’s side who broke the deadlock four minutes later when Cody McDonald shot low past McLoughlin from 25 yards after Bradley Dack had laid off the set-piece. 1-0
Antony Kay was presented with a chance to level matters on 13 minutes but he directed his header, from Baker’s teasing free-kick, just over the top of Stuart Nelson’s crossbar.
At the other end, Kay did brilliant defensively to block John Marquis’ shot as the Dons came under real pressure from the Gills as the clock ticked past the 20-minute mark.
Robinson’s men regrouped and only a top save from Nelson, diving away to his left, denied the arriving-Carruthers finding the bottom corner from Jordan Spence’s clever cut-back midway through the half.
A Nelson fumble from Baker’s low cross gave Cole a glimpse of goal on 25 minutes but the keeper was able to smother at the second attempt.
The Dons’ attacking threat was growing and Cole drew them level on 37 minutes, receiving the ball from Powell after good work from Dele Alli and impeccably finding the bottom right-hand corner from 15 yards. 1-1
Their lead lasted just 60 seconds, though, as Justin Hoyte’s pinpoint cross was controlled and then finished nicely by Bradley Dack. 2-1
Alli forced a save from a Baker delivery and Dean Lewington fired over as the Dons began the second half in the ascendancy, but the Gills fought back and a McDonald shot was just about turned on to the post by McLoughlin.
Reeves’ return to action lifted the Dons, who then went close through a header from Baker, before Powell charged down a clearance but couldn’t make the most of the opportunity when the shooting chance came.
Reeves arrowed an effort just over the top on the hour-mark from 22 yards and then saw a shot saved by Nelson as Robinson’s team threatened on a quick counter-attack, but the equaliser was still proving elusive with 25 minutes remaining.
However, their pressure finally told on 68 minutes when Reeves found the net from the penalty spot after Baker had been brought down by Hoyte who, despite denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, was even booked by referee Keith Stroud. 2-2
Reeves, who sparked the turnaround, had a goal-bound shot well blocked before he drove not too far past the bottom right-hand corner as they went in search of the lead.
Against the run of play, the Gills went back in front on 75 minutes when they broke quickly down the left and Garmston’s effort deflected home past McLoughlin. 3-2
The Dons had strong penalty appeals waved away shortly afterwards when a Gillingham defender appeared to handle the ball in the area but, instead, a free-kick was given the opposite way.
A frustrating spell was compounded on 81 minutes as the Gills grabbed themselves a fourth – Marquis slotting the ball under the on-rushing McLoughlin after another quick counter. 4-2
Robinson’s men refused to give up but, apart from a Baker shot, they failed to really test Nelson and they left Kent empty-handed.
The Dons have the chance to bounce back at Colchester United on Tuesday night.
MK Dons: McLoughlin; Spence, Kay, Andrews, Lewington (c); Potter (Hitchcock 85), Alli; Powell, Baker, Carruthers (Reeves 56); Cole (Grigg 71).
Unused subs: Burns, Hodson, Green, Clarke-Harris.
Bookings: Potter, Carruthers, Kay.
Goals: Cole (37), Reeves (68).
Attendance: 5,107 (321 Dons fans)