Gillingham 2 v Wimbledon 2
An encouraging Wimbledon display saw them take a more-than-deserved point as they drew 2-2 at Gillingham on Tuesday 21 February.
Having finally got an away goal at the weekend after a seemingly eternal wait, the Dons followed it up with two more through Lyle Taylor and Andy Barcham.
Defeat against the Gills – one of the teams beneath the Dons in the table – would have left Neal Ardley’s men anxiously looking over their shoulders.
But this was a much-improved performance, and if anything the Dons will have been left frustrated at a failure to take a maximum points haul.
Wimbledon named a starting line-up unchanged from their weekend trip to Shrewsbury and were rewarded in the 17th minute when Taylor ended his long wait for a goal.
It was a goal of simplicity as George Francomb’s free-kick was headed back across goal by Darius Charles and Taylor stretched out a foot to sweep the ball home and give the Dons a deserved lead.
But it lasted just two minutes and it was a soft equaliser to concede. Bradley Dack picked up the ball on the right touchline and was given time and space to advance before shimmying past two defenders and shooting home.
The Dons refused to be thrown off their game and continued to seek out the advantage, with Tom Elliott heading narrowly wide after a good ball in from Sean Kelly.
Against the run of play, Gillingham took the lead in the 37th minute and it was a controversial one. The Dons claimed that Kelly was fouled on the halfway line but Dack span clear and fed ex-Womble Ryan Jackson, whose low cross was converted by Josh Wright as James Shea appeared to be bundled over on the goal-line by another Gillingham player. Shea’s furious protests earned him an appearance in referee Darren Deadman’s book.
In recent weeks Wimbledon have appeared mentally fragile but that wasn’t in evidence on this occasion as they set about pulling themselves back onto level turns.
A half-time switch to a 3-5-2 formation helped the Dons grab control of the second period, and sub Will Nightingale soon came close to the equaliser when he headed a Francomb corner just wide.
Wimbledon’s attacking instincts occasionally threatened to leave them exposed at the back, with Shea denying Dack and then doing the same from a Rory Donnelly effort.
The Dons finally equalised with a little over 20 minutes remaining. Nightingale’s long clearance evaded both Elliott and Taylor but Barcham managed to chest it down and smuggle a shot through a crowded area and into the back of the net.
Wimbledon kept pressing forward in search of a winner but were again grateful when at the other end an unmarked Mark Byrne headed against the post following good approach play by Dack.
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson, Ehmer, Herd, Oshilaja (Garmston 54 (Wagstaff 80)), L. Martin, Byrne, Wright, Donnelly (McDonald 77), Dack, Parker. Subs not used: Hessenthaler, Osadebe, Muldoon, Holy.
Goalscorers: Dack 19, Wright 36.
Wimbledon: Shea, Francomb, Robinson, Charles, Kelly (Nightingale 45), Fitzpatrick (Poleon 65), Soares, Reeves, Barcham, Elliott (Barnett 75), Taylor. Subs not used: Bulman, Parrett, McDonnell, Owens.
Goalscorers: Taylor 17, Barcham 69.
Booked: Shea 36.
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February 28, 2017