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Gillingham 2 MK Dons 1: Macaulay Bonne and Scott Malone score at Priestfield in League 2 victory

Managerless Gillingham got back to winning ways in League 2 with victory over MK Dons on Saturday.

Macaulay Bonne was dropped for Saturday’s game but came off the bench early on as an injury replacement, livening the Gills up after a tame start and scoring the opener.

Macauley Bonne after coming off the bench for Gillingham on Saturday Picture: @Julian_KPI
Macauley Bonne after coming off the bench for Gillingham on Saturday Picture: @Julian_KPI

Scott Malone added a second and despite Gillingham’s good play a late goal from Ellis Harrison made for a tense finish, the game ending 2-1. While the Gills impressed on the attack, they did look vulnerable defensively at times. MK finished with 10 men after Daniel Harvie picked up a second booking in stoppage-time.

Bonne had been criticised for a costly miss in the week at Crewe but he was key to bagging the points on Saturday as the Gills started life afresh following Neil Harris’ sacking.

This was a match between two teams looking to rekindle their early season form. The Gills went into the game without a win in three.

At the end of August, MK Dons were top of the pile with the Gills sitting second.

The Gills had made the decision to axe manager Harris ahead of this match as they look for a “new direction.” Experienced coach Keith Millen took charge for the weekend clash.

Gillingham’s stand-in boss made some popular moves in his team selection as the front-two of Ashley Nadesan and Tom Nichols returned to the XI, replacing Bonne, while winger Jayden Clarke was handed a rare start.

With two wingers and two up-top, it was a back-to-basics 4-4-2 look to the Gills.

As it turned out, an early injury for Nadesan meant Bonne was back earlier than expected as an 18th-minute replacement.

Milton Keynes had edged an uneventful start to the match but after an injury break the Gills came alive.

Bonne had a chance straight away after being introduced, dragging a shot just wide before keeper Craig MacGillivray denied him with his legs moments later.

Ethan Coleman was also denied by the MK goalie and Connor Mahoney flashed an effort just past the post as the Gills continued to enjoy a purple spell. In the 26th minute, they had their deserved goal.

Bonne got the better of dithering defender Anthony Stewart and then fended off the challenge of another, Daniel Harvie, before slotting the ball home beyond MacGillivray.

Coleman was a whisker away from doubling the advantage with another fine strike from distance, skimming the outside of the upright.

MK Dons had the ball in the net later in the half when Matthew Dennis flicked a free-kick into the path of Stewart, but the linesman’s flag was up early, ensuring Gillingham’s advantage remained.

Nichols forced the keeper into another save before the break as they ended the half deservedly leading, with nine on-target efforts. The only frustration was that they should have been leading by more than one.

Bonne’s introduction, with Nichols playing in just behind, had done wonders in the half which had started so flat.

MK had almost levelled just before the break, however, when Jake Turner was forced into a save on the stretch after Mo Eisa’s shot at goal glanced off Conor Masterson’s head.

Their threat remained and MK made a double change at the break, switching to a back four.

An early second-half corner from Mahoney led to another chance for Bonne, glancing a header wide.

Milton Keynes were punished for more sloppy defensive play in the 55th minute when Stewart and substitute Jonathan Leko were caught out by Nichols who ran on and unselfishly played in Malone for a simple finish.

Bonne came close again for the Gills soon after while a chance at the other end for Leko was snuffed out by Masterson’s timely challenge. Turner also saved from Max Dean as the visitors looked to salvage something from the game late on.

With MK still a threat the Gills looked to tighten it up at the back with Max Ehmer and Max Clark replacing forwards Clarke and Nichols for the final 15.

Mahoney could have sealed it for the Gills when in on goal, with options around him, but keeper MacGillivray saved well.

With eight minutes left, MK got a goal back, Harrison heading in Leko’s cross to halve the deficit and make for a nervy finish.

It needed a desperate block from Ogie to deny Dean from an equaliser and a super save from Turner to keep out the same player with another shot. The Dons had Harvie sent off for a foul, picking up a second yellow card 10 minutes after his first for kicking the ball away.

Turner had to make one last save as Cameron Norman’s shot took a deflection off Ogie.

There was relief in the end for the Gills at the sound of referee Darren Drysdale’s full-time whistle.

Gillingham: Turner, Alexander, Malone, Ogie, Masterson, Coleman, Jefferies, Mahoney (McKenzie 88mins), Clarke (Clark 76mins), Nichols (Ehmer 76mins), Nadesan (Bonne 18mins). Subs not used: Morris, Sithole, Macarthur.

MK Dons: MacGillivray, Norman, Tomlinson (Harrison 46mins), Harvie, Stewart, O’Hara, Williams, Gilbey, Eisa, Payne (Leko 46mins), Dennis (Dean 65mins). Subs not used: Kelly, Tucker, Smith, Devoy.

Referee: Darren Drysdale

Attendance: 6,119 (323 away)

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