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AFC Wimbledon 2 Gillingham 0: League 2 match report from the Cherry Red Records Stadium, Plough Lane - Conor Masterson sent off for Gills as Omar Bugiel nets twice

Gillingham had a man sent off as their play-off challenge suffered a major blow at Wimbledon.

Omar Bugiel had nodded the hosts in front before Masterson picked up two yellow cards in two minutes towards the end of the opening half. Bugiel doubled the lead after the break to seal the points and a 2-0 win for the Dons.

Conor Masterson picked up two yellow cards in two minutes as he was dismissed at Wimbledon Picture: Keith Gillard
Conor Masterson picked up two yellow cards in two minutes as he was dismissed at Wimbledon Picture: Keith Gillard

Conor Mahoney’s game-changing weekend display earned him a return to the starting XI for the Gills as Ashley Nadesan dropped to the bench.

Just a point and a place separated the teams ahead of the midweek match in the race for the play-offs. This was a crucial fixture with teams further below also within striking distance and with games in hand.

The second half against Tranmere had seen the Gills impress but it was back to a laboured first-half showing at Wimbledon. Head coach Stephen Clemence opted to stick with a 5-4-1 formation rather than a four-man defence that got them a weekend point.

Oli Hawkins headed a great chance over the bar from Remeao Hutton’s pinpoint cross - one of few clear-cut opportunities in the opening half for the visitors.

Ronan Curtis had also nodded over at the other end during a fairly even opening but referee Tom Kirk’s early booking for Gillingham captain Max Ehmer set the low bar for yellow cards.

Ehmer was cautioned for an 11th-minute foul and appeared to be walking a tightrope after conceding a free-kick soon after. He then inadvertently put a boot into the face of Bugiel.

It was Bugiel who put the Dons ahead with a cushioned header from a deep cross as he got the better of Masterson to guide the ball beyond the reach of keeper Glenn Morris.

Five minutes after the Gills conceded the referee booked Masterson for a lunge at Armani Little that some felt could have been worthy of a dismissal. Two minutes later a tug of John-Kymani Gordon’s shirt was all it took for Mr Kirk to get his yellow card out again and follow it with a red.

The Gills were up against it for the remainder of the half and were glad to hear the whistle so they could refocus for a big 45 minutes. Even before the dismissal, they hadn’t been good enough in possession and now they were a man down.

Hawkins was whipped off at the break as Clemence tried a different approach up front with Jonny Williams and Mahoney chosen to lead the hoped-for response.

It wasn’t one-way traffic but Morris had to save well from Curtis after Bugiel had beaten Ehmer before putting it on a plate for his team-mate.

Wimbledon had their second goal in the 65th minute - breaking forward after winning possession in the middle of the park - when Jake Reeves’ low shot was too hot to handle for Morris and Bugiel was there to tuck home the loose ball ahead of Robbie McKenzie.

For the final 20 minutes, Clemence switched his forwards as Josh Walker and George Lapslie replaced Williams and Mahoney. Hopes of getting anything from the match were all-but over by then.

Gillingham fell back out of the play-off places with this defeat and will need to improve results and performances if they want to be in the mix for promotion.

Ashley Nadesan’s introduction with 10 minutes left was the last throw of the dice on the night for the Gills.

Walker and Malone both had a late efforts blocked as the Gills kept going to the final whistle but the Dons kept them out and Josh Kelly wasted a good chance on the break, beating Morris but his shot lacked the power to make it three as Gillingham cleared.

League 2 table

Wimbledon: Bass, Brown, Balmer, O’Toole, Currie, Neufville (Ogundere 90mins), Reeves, Little, Curtis (Sasu 90mins), Gordon (Kelly 81mins), Bugiel (Davison 90mins). Subs not used: Tzanev, Pell, Ball.

Gillingham: Morris, Hutton, Clark (Malone 60mins), Masterson, Ehmer, Ogie, Coleman, Dieng (Nadesan 81mins), J Williams (Walker 69mins), Mahoney (Lapslie 69mins), Hawkins (McKenzie 46mins). Subs not used: Turner, S Williams.

Referee: Tom Kirk

Attendance: 7,527 (1,206 away)

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