HEAD-TO-HEAD: Can MK Dons finally break their Gillingham jinx?

They may have never won at Priestfield, but Robbie Neilson expects his MK Dons side to pick up a third win in a row.

Thursday, 15th December 2016, 2:50 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th December 2016, 9:41 am
Robbie Neilson

After winning his first two games in charge at Stadium MK, Neilson takes control of his first League 1 road trip on Saturday against Gillingham - the team who sit one place above them in the table.Winning in Kent won't just be Dons' third win in a row, it'll also be their third consecutive league win in a row, something they haven't managed since the end of the 2014/15 season.

But still looking for his first win on the road, Neilson is expecting his side to continue their good form shown this week by winning their third game in eight days.

"They're a good team," said Neilson. "They're strong through the middle of the park, so it'll be tough, but it's one we expect to go down there and win.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas wasn't much of a hit at Stadium MK

"It has been a decent start, but I've wanted to win them all. But we've got two now, and I want to carry it on at Gillingham. It'll be a huge game for us. It's alright doing it at home, but going away are the games that decide whether you finish mid-table or at the bottom.

"We went to see them at Bolton, and I think they struggled a bit. To be fair to Bolton, they look a good side, like a Championship side already. But Gillingham have two wide guys who, if you allow them to play, can cause you problems. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Frank Noble are good players too, so it's up to us to stop them playing."

Gills' danger man JET wasn't much of a hit for Dons last season. Already into double figures this season, the striker, on loan from QPR, is the leading scorer at Preistfield.

But while his size and presence wasn't really felt at Stadium MK, a man of similar stature is beginning to make ripples. Chuks Aneke has now made two starts for Dons after returning from long-term injury, and has been impressing his manager. But Neilson believes the 23-year-old is still around six weeks away from full fitness.

Chuks Aneke has been working his way back to full fitness

"I was really pleased for Chuks on Tuesday (against Charlton)," he said. "He was out on his feet after about half an hour. We gave him the game against Yeovil, which was a lower tempo, and we managed to give him an hour. But we kept him out there on Tuesday, because it's all about fitness for him.

"We've got to get him to a level where he can play 90 minutes, but I think he's about six week away from that.

"He's got the physical size and game awareness. He's technically a very good player, but we have to help him through the fitness side of it now."

Dons haven't had any joy in their visits to Priestfield. In five games there, Dons have managed to pick up just one point in a 2-2 draw back in 2010.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas wasn't much of a hit at Stadium MK

They have been error-strewn too. Former Dons defender Tom Flanagan gave away two penalties and earned his marching orders inside the opening 13 minutes during the 3-2 defeat in 2013, while former keeper Ian McLoughlin won't have fond memories of the 4-2 defeat on Valentine's Day 2015.

Neilson though, like many other grounds in England, has never been to Priestfield so doesn't expect the hoodoo to continue because he feels his backroom staff - recently bolstered with the addition of Neil MacFarlane as first team coach - have done the right research to ensure they're fully prepared for the game.

He said: "I don't really pay attention to the grounds and facilities they have, but the big thing for me is learning the players we're playing against. I've got to learn how teams play, how managers play, what players can do in games. That's why we went to Bolton the other night - it's alright watching teams on TV, but it's not until you're there when you can see how they move and really play.

"But that's the reason we've brought Neil MacFarlane in, he has been in the league for four or five years and he knows it inside out."

Chuks Aneke has been working his way back to full fitness