Dons' run ends with defeat at Gillingham

MK Dons will remain in the League One relegation zone at Christmas after losing 3-1 to Gillingham at Priestfield.

Saturday, 21st December 2019, 3:03 pm
Updated Saturday, 21st December 2019, 3:05 pm

Not a happy hunting ground for Dons down the years, two goals in two minutes - from Mikael Mandron and the excellent Brandon Hanlan - left Dons toiling as they went in at half-time. Alex Gilbey's third goal of the season nine minutes after the restart threatened to turn the game around again, but Max Ehmer's tap-in two minutes later put the game beyond the reach of Russell Martin's side.

For a third game in a row, Martin named the same side, with the only changes coming on the substitutes' bench, where Sam Nombe returned after illness, while Rhys Healey was not in the squad.

Kicking off at the earlier time of 1pm, Dons knew a point would lift them out of the relegation zone for a few hours at the very least. The home side though were looking for a third home win in a row, and started brightly with Ollie Lee getting a shot away inside the opening minute, only to see it blocked by Dean Lewington. The home side continued to look the better in possession in the first half hour, with Dons barely out of their own half.

The game though would get turned on it's head within the space of two minutes. Afforded too much space on the right, Ollie Lee picked out Mikael Mandron to flick a header over the top of Lee Nicholls to open the scoring. And two minutes later, Brandon Hanlan fired in their second from close range despite appearing offside when he was put through on goal.

Martin made two changes at the break in a bid to get back into the game, with Jordan Bowery and Sam Nombe coming on to replace Kieran Agard and Hiram Boateng – neither of which made much of an impact in the opening 45 minutes.

And the changes appeared to make an immediate impact when Alex Gilbey fired home his third goal of the season nine minutes after the restart, flicking the ball over defender Barry Fuller before lashing it past keeper Jack Bonham.

But their head of steam would last just two minutes though as Gillingham would fire in a third. A soft free kick on the edge of the box afforded Tom O'Connor a decent chance to test Nicholls, but the keeper could only parry the free-kick into the path of the excellent Max Ehmer to fire home and restore Gillingham's two goal advantage.

With the fizz taken out of the affair as a result of that third goal, Dons did look a much better outfit in the second period compared to the first. While Mason and Gilbey both got shots away, neither really tested the keeper.

Nombe though was the man making the difference for the visitors. His physical approach added what Dons had lacked in the first half, and but for a bad bounce, may have pulled one back for Dons with 10 minutes remaining but he could not get on the end of his own flick over keeper Bonham.

Bowery would miss a sitter late in the day when he missed the ball after Gilbey's shot was parried into his path by Bonham with two minutes remaining, leaving Dons in the relegation zone this Christmas.

Referee: Nick Kinesley

Gillingham: Bonham, O'Keefe, Ehmer, Ogilvie, Hanlan (Jakubiak 90), Mandron, Fuller, Jones, Lee (Charles-Cook 80), O'Connor (Marshall 88), Tucker

Subs not used: Walsh, Hodson, Ndjoli, Pringle

MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington, Walsh, Poole, Brittain, Houghton, Gilbey, McGrandles (Reeves 76), Boateng (Bowery 46), Agard (Nombe 46), Mason

Subs not used: Moore, Williams, Dickenson, Kasumu

Booked: Gilbey, Lee