An impressive first-half display was enough for AFC Wimbledon to start October by securing a third League One victory this season.
Goals from Dominic Poleon and Dean Parrett punished Gillingham’s carelessness before the break, but the 2-0 scoreline certainly never flattered the Dons.
Following a run of just one defeat in five league games during September, it offered further encouragement that Wimbledon can more than hold their own at the higher level this season.
Gillingham ended the match with 10 men as Rory Donnelly was given his marching orders, but that was with just two minutes left and the visitors were well beaten by then.
With the Dons starting a particularly busy October, it was little surprise that Neal Ardley decided to make three changes. Tom Beere was handed his first league start in place of Dannie Bulman with Tom Elliott and Dominic Poleon this time leading the attack instead of Lyle Taylor and Tyrone Barnett.
The Dons made a bright start with Andy Barcham showing great energy and drive down the left. It was his fine run and cross that fashioned the first hint of a chance, but Elliott was unable to get enough contact to direct it towards goal. Jake Reeves also sent over a lovely cross that Elliott got on the end of, but it was far from easy and he could not stretch enough to head at goal.
An opening goal for Wimbledon was far from a surprise when it came, but the way it came about certainly was. Gillingham substitute Rory Donnelly, who had only just come on, delivered a howler of a back pass and in-form Poleon needed no second invitation to make it count. The pacy striker drove forward and rounded Gills goalkeeper Stuart Nelson, before calmly slotting home his fourth league goal this season. It certainly offered deserved reward for Wimbledon’s start and Gillingham had failed to muster a chance worthy of note in the first half hour.
Barcham, who was particularly lively early on, then almost broke through on goal, before a superb cross from Dean Parrett just evaded Darius Charles at the back post. Gillingham finally had an effort on goal in the 34th minute when Donnelly tried his luck from 20 yards, but James Shea gathered at the second attempt. The Dons dealt comfortably with what Gillingham threw at them in the next five minutes though and midfielder Beere provided a demonstration of his promise at the other end. The Wimbledon academy product brought the crowd to its feet with a lovely run, beating three or four defenders in the process, but his cross was just cut out.
With five minutes to go until half-time, Gills almost cut their own throats again with another careless back pass, but this time Nelson got there before Elliott. However, the Dons never had to wait too long to double the advantage. Pressure was forced on Gillingham through several corners and it proved too much for Josh Pask, who sent Paul Robinson sprawling in the box. Dean Parrett stepped up and converted with the minimum of fuss. A fine first half for Wimbledon almost got even better when Poleon fired just wide, but the half-time whistle signalled a job well done so far from Neal Ardley’s men.
With a 2-0 deficit to make up, Gillingham started to commit more men forward after the second-half got underway and former Dons loanee Deji Oshilaja made a dashing run down the left wing that led to a corner. However, Wimbledon stood firm, before having chances to effectively seal the game. Parrett’s superb set-piece delivery again proved a useful weapon when he curled in a free-kick nicely for Paul Robinson to meet, but he headed wide. Then Elliott also headed wide as Wimbledon again threatened a third.
There was a scare for Wimbledon just before the hour when Donnelly threatened to make up for his earlier error, his free-kick flashing into the side netting. However, it was far from backs to the wall for Wimbledon as the hosts secured enough possession to ease any sustained pressure. Neal Ardley made a change in the 65th minute with Lyle Taylor entering the fray for Poleon, who quite rightly earned a great ovation from the home support. Gills were only able to fashion half chances against a well drilled Dons defence and another former Wimbledon loanee, Billy Knott, curled one of those comfortably over the crossbar.
With 20 minutes remaining, Tom Beere was substituted and the home faithful showed their appreciation for his efforts as he walked off and was replaced by Dannie Bulman. Though Wimbledon failed to create many further chances, they didn’t need to as Gillingham were comfortably nullified in the end. Donnelly was also dismissed for a second yellow card three minutes from time, but Gillingham were well beaten by then. Overall, it was a fine team performance and just a second clean sheet this season was a further bonus as Wimbledon moved up towards mid-table.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Jon Meades (Sean Kelly), Tom Beere (Dannie Bulman), Jake Reeves, Dean Parrett, Tom Elliott, Dominic Poleon (Lyle Taylor), Andy Barcham.