AFC Wimbledon secured a third away league victory of the season in dramatic fashion today with an injury-time winner by Callum Reilly.
The Dons had appeared to be denied all three points after a late Gills equaliser, but Reilly cracked home to earn a 2-1 win for Wimbledon. It was fully deserved for Wimbledon after an excellent away performance in Kent and it signalled jubilant scenes amongst the 653 travelling Dons, staff, and players.
Glyn Hodges made two changes to his starting line-up after last Saturday’s draw against Blackpool. Paul Osew missed out due to an ankle injury, so that meant a recall for Nesta Guinness-Walker at left-back, and Shane McLoughlin came back into the team with Jack Rudoni having to settle for a place on the bench. The Dons came into this match seeking just a third away win this season against a Gillingham side unbeaten in 15 league matches. In opposition was our former captain Barry Fuller, who is still warmly remembered by Dons supporters after making 232 appearances during a five-year spell that included helping Wimbledon to promotion.
Wimbledon tested Jack Bonham in the very first minute when Anthony Hartigan curled a shot around the wall from a free-kick, but the Gills keeper held onto the ball well. The hosts threatened for the first time when Fuller’s cross picked out John Akinde, but his header was wide of the target. The Dons played good football in the first half an hour, putting together some fine moves on a testing surface at Priestfield Stadium. A good chance followed for Wimbledon in the 14th minute when two former Gills players linked up effectively. Luke O’Neill showed good vision to pick out Pigott in behind and he produced a deft lob over Bonham, but Max Ehmer got back well to clear off the line.
The Dons continued to have the majority of possession as the first-half progressed with Gillingham limited to very little as an attacking force. Joe Day made his first save before the half hour mark when he held a shot by Stuart O’Keefe. That was a rare Gillingham foray forward in the first-half though as Wimbledon held sway in terms of possession and chances. Another promising move ended with Appiah, who was very sharp in attack, finding Pigott in space in the box, but his goal-bound shot was blocked. Wimbledon ended the first-half strongly and had a golden chance to take the lead. O’Neill, who was having an impressive game back at the club he left in the summer, picked out Wagstaff, who went through on goal and shot on target, but Bonham did well to save.
The half ended with the score at 0-0 and it had been a very encouraging 45 minutes for Wimbledon. Glyn’s boys had limited the hosts to very little and showed attacking threat at the other end. Only the finishing touch had been missing in a very impressive half from The Dons.
Gillingham started the second-half by threatening to make the breakthrough when substitute Jordan Graham struck a free-kick that flashed just wide. However, Wimbledon earned the lead after a well-executed move in the 49th minute. Yet again, O’Neill was the instigator as he sent over a lovely cross to pick out Appiah, who had his header saved, but Pigott was in the right place to steer home from close-range. It was a fully deserved lead for Wimbledon and just maybe The Dons were heading for a third away league win of the campaign.
The hosts reacted well to falling behind, finally exerting a spell of pressure. However, Joe Day stayed alert to make sure that he kept out Akinde’s header. Wimbledon continued to defend well with Terell Thomas producing another commanding display at the back and the advantage was almost doubled through Appiah, who struck a powerful effort that Bonham did well to save. With 20 minutes remaining, Wimbledon should really have sealed victory. Appiah, who was superb on the day, latched onto a lovely through ball by Shane McLoughlin, before rounding Bonham and picking out Pigott in the box, but he fired over the crossbar. With 76 minutes on the clock, Appiah was withdrawn and he was given a standing ovation by the travelling Dons after his impressive forward display. Adam Roscrow replaced Appiah up front. There was a blow for Gills when Ehmer had to go off injured and that meant Gills had to play the latter stages with 10 men as they had used all their substitutes.
The hosts had offered very little in attack during the second-half, but they were celebrating an equaliser in the 87th minute when Akinde’s header was parried by Day and Regan Charles-Cook bundled the ball home. That was harsh on a Wimbledon side that deserved more, but thankfully there was a twist in the tale. After a scramble in the box, the ball fell nicely for Reilly and he blasted home emphatically to earn three points that Wimbledon fully deserved on the day.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe Day, Luke O’Neill, Terell Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Kwesi Appiah (Adam Roscrow), Nesta Guinness-Walker, Shane McLoughlin, Mads Sorensen, Callum Reilly, Joe Pigott.