Joe Pigott struck his fifth goal of the season to reward the 963 Dons supporters that made the trip to Gillingham today.
Pigott's well-taken strike earned a deserved 1-0 victory at Priestfield Stadium and a first league win since the opening day at Fleetwood for Neal Ardley's men.
Wimbledon had heroes at both ends of the pitch with Deji Oshilaja producing a commanding display at the back. Apart from his goal, Pigott led the line superbly, offering good hold-up play and plenty of energy in attack.
Unsurprisingly, it was a much-changed starting line-up for Wimbledon after the Checkatrade Trophy match at Charlton. Only Rod McDonald was retained from the back four that started at The Valley with Tom King also replacing Joe McDonnell between the sticks. Deji Oshilaja, Scott Wagstaff, Andy Barcham, and Joe Pigott all started against their old club with former Dons captain Barry Fuller playing against Wimbledon for the first time since leaving in the summer.
In a first 10 minutes of little goalmouth action, there was a really late tackle by Brandon Hanlan on Oshilaja and that challenge deservedly resulted in a yellow card. At the other end, Wagstaff appeared to be shoved over in the area, but referee Nicholas Kinseley was not interested, despite Wimbledon appeals. Gillingham had the first effort on goal through a header from Tom Eaves, but King saved comfortably. As the first-half progressed, Wimbledon started to gain a foothold on possession with Liam Trotter, Tom Soares and Wagstaff seeing plenty of the ball. Chances followed as the Dons started to dominate. James Hanson, who is looking fitter and sharper by the week, came so close to opening his Wimbledon account with a fierce effort that rattled the woodwork. Joe Pigott’s follow-up was saved by the keeper and Gillingham just managed to scramble the ball clear.
The attacking momentum from Wimbledon continued as we approached the half hour mark and a decent opportunity fell for Pigott, but he was unable to get a proper connection on his effort. The Dons produced spells of lovely football at times in the first-half with just the final pass falling short of what was required. There was a decent opportunity from a free-kick 20 yards out, but Wagstaff curled over the crossbar. As the half-time whistle shrilled, the only complaint from a Wimbledon perspective was that the Dons had not capitalised on superior possession and chances.
Wimbledon started the second-half on the front foot, causing Gillingham plenty of problems. A good move ended with the ball worked to Hanson in the box, but he delayed his shot and instead laid the ball off to Tom Soares. In contrast to Tuesday night, Soares this time shot over the crossbar. However, there was not long for Wimbledon supporters to wait for the opening goal. Tennai Watson found Oshilaja and his lofted ball ended with Pigott going through on goal and he showed lovely composure to strike the opener. Though Gills keeper Tomas Holy came out to put pressure on him, Pigott showed good footwork to beat him, before slotting home convincingly.
Far from sitting on the lead, Wimbledon continued to attack and Pigott almost doubled the advantage shortly afterwards when he produced a deft lob that sailed just over. Though the hosts started to increase the pressure around the hour mark, Wimbledon stood firm in defence. Oshilaja produced a typical captain’s performance at the back, at one stage producing a superb 70-yard run that eventually resulted in him being brought down. Though there was a blow for Wimbledon with Hanson going off injured, Kwesi Appiah entered the fray and added extra pace to the attack. It was almost 2-0 when Andy Barcham set-up Pigott, but his well-struck shot was deflected just wide.
Gillingham attempted to turn up the heat on Wimbledon in the latter stages, but they didn't really look like equalising. That was due to an excellent defensive display from the Dons. It was an impressive overall performance that certainly sets Wimbledon up to add more points during this month and start climbing the table.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King, Tennai Watson, Ben Purrington, Deji Oshilaja, Scott Wagstaff (Mitch Pinnock), Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham, James Hanson (Kwesi Appiah), Tom Soares (Anthony Wordsworth), Rod McDonald, Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Stephen Wright, Pro Sports Images.