Gillingham 3-2 MK Dons: Flanagan’s Gillingham return ends in nightmare

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Tom Flanagan had a day to forget on his return to Priestfield, giving away two penalties and getting sent off inside 12 minutes as Dons went down 3-2 to Gillingham.

The defender, who spent time on loan at Gillingham last season, fouled Cody McDonald twice in two minutes in his return to the first team - the second earning him his marching orders. Danny Kedwell made no mistakes with either spot kick to put Gillingham 2-0 up.

But a brace from Patrick Bamford saw Dons equalise in dramatic fashion to go in level at the break. In a much calmer second period, Danny Hollands headed in Gillingham’s winner on the hour mark.

Karl Robinson was dealt two big injury blows during the week. First, Antony Kay went for a long-overdue surgery on a troublesome hip injury, ruling him out for 12 weeks. And then it was revealed teenager Dele Alli injured his ankle ligaments in the 4-1 win over Stevenage, keeping him on the sidelines for 10 weeks. Samir Carruthers and former Gillingham loanee Tom Flanagan replaced the duo.

And it was a cruel return to Priestfield for Flanagan as he gave away the penalty after 10 minutes which put Gillingham into the lead. Cody McDonald showed quick feet to shift the ball just out of Flanagan’s reach, bringing down the striker. Danny Kedwell made no mistakes in firing Gillingham into the lead.

But it got worse for Flanagan and MK Dons just two minutes later. As McDonald broke in behind the defence, Flanagan slid in and cleared out the striker. This time, referee James Linington had no choice but to send the defender off. Kedwell took no chances again, lashing home his second penalty in as many minutes to give Gillingham an early 2-0 lead.

Robinson rolled the dice in making two first half substitutions to reshuffle his pack. Alan Smith replaced Samir Carruthers and Izale McLeod came on for Lee Hodson.

Dons though barely looked like they’d lost a man. They continued to pass neatly, and saw more of the ball than the home side as they desperately looked for a lifeline. And it came on 26 minutes when Danny Green took the free kick he won on the touchline, picking out Patrick Bamford to power home a header from five yards out.

And the comeback was sensationally completed four minutes later when Shaun Williams sliced the Gillingham defence in half for Bamford to race on. Shrugging off Callum Davies’ challenge, Bamford neatly slid the ball under keeper Stuart Nelson to equalise.

The game continued to ebb and flow from end-to-end, and within a minute, both sides should have taken the lead 10 minutes before the break. First, Charlie Lee will be kicking himself for missing an absolute sitter six yards out, hammering his free header straight at David Martin, who tipped over. The keeper easily collected the resultant corner, and sent McLeod clear down the right. The striker paced into the penalty area but skidded his shot just side of the mark.

And the action didn’t stop right up to the half time whistle. McLeod, breaking down the left this time, skinned Michael Harriman easily and brilliantly teed up Bamford about 10 yards out. But the striker duffed his lines with the goal looming, missing the ball completely. Gillingham broke straight up the other end, and Kedwell returned the favour by missing a great chance of his own to complete a hat-trick, heading wide from five yards out.

Both sides set out for a much calmer second half, but it was still end-to-end as both fancied their chances of picking up all three points.

Gillingham were playing much more patient football, and should have retaken the lead when Chris Whelpdale found himself unmarked at the far post 10 minutes after the restart, but unchallenged, he played the ball across the face of goal expecting a team-mate to tap in. But one didn’t arrive.

The home side did retake the lead three minutes later though as Danny Hollands rose highest at the far post to nod home Whelpdale’s cross.

It could have been game over for Dons after 65 minutes when Smith called for Williams to leave a long ball over the top, but then left it himself allowing Myles Weston to get in behind. Rounding keeper Martin, it all got a bit too much for the striker as he blasted the ball in to the stands behind the goal.

Bamford, who last week said he needed to work on his heading technique, forced Nelson into a fine stop as he out-jumped Gills captain Adam Barrett, sending his header darting towards the bottom corner - the keeper did well to keep it out though.

Things threatened to go from bad to worse for Dons with 18 minutes to go when David Martin went down injured with no-one around him. After receiving treatment for the second time in the game, he battled on, but was significantly less mobile than usual.

With the danger of an immobile goalkeeper, Dons became far more aware at the back. Smith, Williams and Lewington were sitting far deeper to protect their stricken stopper, but it made their attacking responsibilities neigh on impossible in the closing stages.

That being said though, Williams had the best chance in the dying minutes, firing a long-range effort in, but it was comfortably saved by Nelson.

Despite a desperate final few minutes for Dons, it wasn’t enough to seek out another equaliser as Dons lost their second consecutive game on the road.

Referee: James Linington

Attendance:

Gillingham: Nelson, Joe Martin, Davies, Whelpdale, Kedwell, McDonald (Weston 55), Gregory, Lee, Hollands, Harriman, Barrett

Subs not used: Linganzi, Legge, Akinfenwa, Allen, Dack, Howard

MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Flanagan, Hodson (McLeod 23), Williams, Gleeson, Potter, Carruthers (Smith 14), Green, Chadwick (Powell 61), Bamford

Subs not used: Otsemobor, Reeves, McLoughlin, Banton

Booked: Green, Joe Martin, Williams

Sent off: Flanagan