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Match Reports

Report: Gillingham 2-1 MK Dons

7 October 2023

Match Reports

Report: Gillingham 2-1 MK Dons

7 October 2023

MK Dons fell to defeat at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium as they were beaten 2-1 by Gillingham.

Graham Alexander’s men were punished for two defensive lapses with goals from Macauley Bonne and Scott Malone establishing a 2-0 lead for the home side.

Ellis Harrison reduced the deficit with his first MK Dons goal eight minutes from time, but neither he nor his teammates could find a way to salvage a result in Kent.

Head Coach Alexander made one change to the side which drew with Walsall in midweek, with Matthew Dennis replacing Ellis Harrison in attack. Tommy Smith was back from injury and included amongst the substitutes while Dawson Devoy also returned to the squad.

The Dons worked the first shooting opportunity of the game on three minutes – a free-kick, taken short, which was eventually played to Alex Gilbey, whose low, 20-yard try was blocked by a defender.

Mo Eisa also had early attempt blocked – this one inside the penalty area but from a much tougher angle. Joe Tomlinson then surged forward down the left before smashing a ball across the face of goal – a delivery that went through untouched.

Spotting Jake Turner off his line and with little in the way of options ahead of him, Eisa went for goal with an ambitious long-range effort but his shot from inside the centre-circle flew over the crossbar.

Eisa tested Turner just before the quarter-hour mark after Dennis had latched onto Alex Gilbey’s through pass. Dennis broke into the box an then pulled play back for his strike partner, who wasn’t able to muster the power required to truly trouble the Gills goalkeeper.

The home side threatened for the first time on 20 minutes as substitute Macauley Bonne dragged an effort wide from 15 yards. Craig MacGillivray was then called into action to keep out Ethan Coleman’s stinging drive, with Dom Jeffries then blazing over on the rebound.

MacGillivray, again, came to his side’s rescue when he denied Bonne, who had broken clear of the Dons’ backline. He was then at full stretch from Connor Mahoney’s strike moments later, as that flew wide of his post.

Gillingham made their dominant spell count, taking the lead on 26 minutes through BONNE, who got behind the Dons’ defence and kept his composure to beat MacGillivray when one-on-one. 1-0.

Coleman went close to doubling the home side’s advantage on the half-hour but his fierce 20-yard strike landed wide of the post.

The Dons then had the ball in the back of the net for what they thought was the leveller but Stewart was adjudged to be offside when heading home, after Eisa’s initial header from Payne’s free-kick was only parried.

Alexander’s men worked their way into the penalty area with five minutes remaining in the first half but Eisa was unable to get Tomlinson’s cross under control and his chance at a shot on goal went begging.

Tomlinson and Norman both got themselves in the way of Gillingham efforts as the home side threatened from a corner in the closing stages of the first period. At the other end, Dennis worked his way to the by-line but couldn’t connect with a teammate as he looked to provide an assist.
In the first of six additional first-half minutes, MacGillivray saved from a curling 20-yard shot by Tom Nichols to keep the deficit at one. Gilbey tried his luck at a stoppage-time equaliser shortly after but couldn’t keep his bending attempt from rising over the bar.

Eisa went closest to levelling the scores before half-time with a 20-yard strike which was brilliantly saved by a diving Turner. Gilbey then saw an attempt deflect wide, shortly before the referee’s whistle sent both teams in for the interval.

The Dons returned for the second half with two changes to their line-up as Alexander opted to introduce both Ellis Harrison and Jonathan Leko in place of Joe Tomlinson and Jack Payne.

Harrison was involved right, getting a head to Norman’s cross, though it was blocked by a Gills defender. Bonne, too, registered an early header on goal – fortunately for the Dons, the striker glanced his attempt over the bar.

Gillingham, however, were able to double their lead with 55 minutes played after Nichols won possession deep inside the MK Dons half and, one-on-one with MacGillivray, was able to tee up MALONE for a simple finish into an empty net. 2-0.

Bonne had an opportunity to extend the home team’s lead but he wasn’t able to find the target from 15 yards, with just MacGillivray to beat. Alexander was then forced into a change, as Dennis limped off to be replaced by Max Dean.

Leko got behind the Gillingham backline on 68 minutes but by the time he was able to pull the trigger, defenders were back to block. From the resulting corner, he had another effort on goal – this one was deflected into the arms of Turner.

A free-kick allowed Gilbey to send a ball into the mix but, from it, Stewart’s looping header was claimed by the goalkeeper. Moments later, Dean tried his luck from the left apex of the penalty area but Turner was, again, there to foil the Dons.

Harrison headed wide of the target from Gilbey’s 76th-minute cross, shortly before Eisa blazed over with an attempt from range. MacGillivray then produced an excellent one-on-one stop to prevent Mahoney from making it three.

Gilbey, O’Hora and Dean all had shots blocked in the space of just a few seconds as the Dons looked to cut the deficit in half from a corner. They did just with eight minutes to play, as HARRISON got his head to Leko’s cross and directed his effort into the top corner. 2-1.

The striker’s first goal in an MK Dons shirt lifted his side, who went immediately in search of an equaliser. He was involved in an 84th-minute scramble from which Dean had two bites at a leveller – his first was blocked and his second crashed into the side netting.

Turner denied Gilbey what would have been a stunning volley with three minutes remaining in the 90 – the MK Dons number eight connected brilliantly with Leko’s cross but his strike was plucked away from goal by the Gillingham goalkeeper.

The Dons had six further minutes, once the clock moved past 90, to salvage a result from their trip to Kent. They had to do so with ten men, however, after Harvie was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Cheye Alexander.

Still, they pushed forward and there was a moment where Norman’s low 93rd-minute drive looked to have wrong-footed Turner after taking a deflection but the Gills stopper managed to get down to save on his goalline.

That was the closest the Dons came to getting themselves a dramatic late goal. Defeat, in the end, for Alexander’s men.

MK Dons: MacGillivray, Norman, Hora, Williams, Gilbey, Eisa, Payne (Leko 46), Tomlinson (Harrison 46), Harvie, Stewart, Dennis (Dean 65).

Subs: Kelly, Tucker, Smith, Devoy.

Goal: Harrison (82)

Booked: Williams, Harvie, Dean, Stewart

Sent off: Harvie

Gillingham: Turner, Alexander, Masterson, Nichols (Ehmer 76), Nadesan (Bonne 18), Jeffries, Malone, Clarke (Clark 76), Coleman, Ogie, Mahoney (McKenzie 88).

Subs: Morris, Macarthur, Sithole.

Goals: Bonne (26), Malone (55)

Booked: Coleman, Turner

Referee: D Drysdale

Attendance: 6,119 (323 away)


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