Dons 4-2 Gillingham: Sensational seven minutes sparks comeback

Match report
Match report

An incredible seven minute spell saw Dons come from behind to win 4-2 against Gillingham on the opening day of the season.

Despite having the better of play, Dons found themselves trailing 2-0 by the half hour as Cody McDonald and Danny Kedwell put the visitors in a comfortable position.

But Kortney Hause put one over his own goal line five minutes before the break, giving Dons a vital lifeline.

Gillingham lost the influential McDonald early in the second half, and it sparked a sensational period for Dons which saw them take the lead. Will Grigg headed in an equaliser on 66 minutes, three minutes before Kyle McFadzean headed Dons into the lead. And Aaron Morris headed into his own net two minutes later to complete a remarkable turnaround.

Will Grigg was handed his first start of his Dons career, as was Kyle McFadzean, in an otherwise familiar shape and system to last season.

But it was hardly the ideal start to the season, nor McFadzean’s Dons career, though as Gillingham took the lead after just six minutes. A looping ball over the top allowed Cody McDonald a head-start on McFadzean, and barging through the defender, McDonald rifled the ball low past David Martin in the Dons net.

The goal aside, it was fairly one-way traffic in favour of the home side for the opening 20 minutes. Ben Reeves was looking lively, but was guilty on a couple of occasions of trying to do it all himself. Lee Hodson saw a lot of the ball in the attacking third too, over-lapping Danny Green, in his first appearance as a full-time MK Dons player.

But an attempted lob which flew just over the top from Dele Alli was as close as Dons would come in the opening exchanges.

Just as things were settling for the home side, it went from bad to worse for Dons in the 29th minute. Another ball over the top allowed McDonald in behind once more. But this time, one-on-one with Martin, McDonald was upended by the keeper, leaving referee Tim Robinson no choice but to award the spot kick. Danny Kedwell did the honours, sending Martin, who picked up a booking for his foul, the wrong way to double the lead.

The second goal knocked the stuffing out of Dons somewhat, but the mood could’ve been much different had Green’s header from Grigg’s found the bottom corner rather than Nelson’s fingertips.

They were given an alleyway back into the game five minutes before the break though, but it hardly came in an attractive package. A deep Green corner saw Nelson spill the ball to Lewington at the far post. Taken by surprise, the skipper poked the ball goalwards, but while his shot was blocked, it bounced around on the line before eventually hitting Kortney Hause on it’s way over, pulling one back for the home side.

Peter Taylor was forced into changing his goalkeeper at half time, with Glenn Morris taking over between the sticks. And he was forced into another change shortly after the break too, when the dangerous McDonald had to be stretchered from the field. He was replaced by Antonio German after a six minute stoppage.

Dons nearly took advantage of Gillingham’s shell-shocked start, with Alli forcing a good stop from Glenn Morris, getting a toe to Dean Bowditch’s low call into the danger zone.

The home side continued to force the issue for an equaliser, though Alli looked almost too calm when set through by Reeves’ neat one touch reverse as Glenn Morris quickly got down to his feet, blocking the shot.

Despite Dons’ pressure, there was little to see of Grigg. Forced to drop much deeper than perhaps he’d have liked to see the ball, the striker was a passenger for long parts of the game. But he only needed one chance to open his account and he took it in fine style with 66 minutes on the clock. Rising high above the Gillingham defence, Grigg powered his header past Glenn Morris to bring the game back to stalemate. And it sparked a remarkable seven minute spell which would see the home side take a two-goal lead.

And in the space of three minutes, Dons were in front. A free kick 45 yards out in front of the Dons bench was whipped in by Reeves, and McFadzean was first to it, sending a bullet header into the top corner, completing a remarkable turnaround.

Things got even better for Karl Robinson’s side barely two minutes later when Green’s corner was diverted into the net via Aaron Morris, putting Dons 4-2 up in quite incredible scenes.

It meant Dons could comfortably see out the remaining time, continuing to play most of their football in Gillingham’s half, but without really exterting themselves. Grigg, Bowditch and Reeves all made way in the closing stages, with Benik Afobe, Daniel Powell and Tom Hitchcock getting some time out in the middle, capping a good day back at the office.

Referee: Tim Robinson

Attendance: 7,595

MK Dons: Martin, Hodson, Lewington, McFadzean, Kay, Alli, Potter, Green, Bowditch (Powell 82), Reeves (Hitchcock 85), Grigg (Afobe 76)

Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Randall, Baldock

Gillingham: Nelson (Morris 46), Martin, Egan, Hause, Legge, Loft, Hessenthaler, Kedwell, McDonald, McGlashan, Morris

Subs not used: German, Norris, Davies, Hare, Dack, Dickenson

Booked: David Martin, Kaye, Kedwell