Yay! The first league goal of the season is in the bag. The first 3 points of the season are in the bag. Our new striker has his first goal in the bag. A 1-0 win over Gillingham, who remembered their kit this time…
Let’s start at the top… Having missed the first home game that resulted in defeat against Wigan, this felt like my personal, fresh start to the season. Something the club seem keen to stress is this fresh start / new era for the season – especially given the amount of signings and the big departures. As I took my seat in the stadium, there seemed optimism in the air amongst the fans that we might get the result we wanted…
…quickly followed by confusion at the starting line-up. From kick off, there was almost an element of 3-4-3 in the formation. Replacing Lewington in the starting line-up was Joe Walsh, fresh from signing a new deal on Friday. However, it appeared that the gaffer had opted for 3 at the back instead. Whilst it seemed an obvious and natural choice for Williams on the right, it felt strange having 6ft 3in attacker Robbie Muirhead on the left. Talk about a square peg in a round hole. Also, Aston Villa loanee Tshibola in the middle of the park alongside Cisse was an interesting choice – a player generally known for playing out wide as a ‘traditional’ winger. Ed Upson was moved to the bench to make this happen – unsure if this was injury related as Upson was the only player who did not have full kit on during the warm-up.
Anyway, it didn’t seem to take long for another change, with Muirhead moving to right side and Ariyibi going to the left, midway through the first half. This seemed to create a better balance to the team and the Dons began to pepper the Gils goal with a few half chances – Tshibola going wide from distance and a close range free kick from Sow that was blazed over were the most memorable highlights. Nothing, however, to get too excited about.
The second half began and it looked more like a standard 4-4-BOOM! we’ve scored before Gillingham knew what was happening. A diving header from new signing Osman Sow in front of the Cowshed after an absolutely delicious chipped assist from Tshibola. It’s a great feeling when a new player scores on his debut, even better after the team had gone 227 minutes without a league goal. The rest of the game was much improved after this and the men from Kent struggled with the dynamic dribbling from new boys Ariyibi and Tshibola and Pawlett (who replaced Muirhead). Seagar and Sow showed signs of a promising partnership and some good off-the-ball movement to keep the Gills defence busy.
Cisse is another new signing that deserves a mention. His performance in the middle of the pitch was fantastic. He was a calming presence throughout and relaxed on the ball, playing simple passes when required. It was great to see him communicating with the players and to influence and dictate the game through the middle, in turn allowing his central midfield partner Tshibola to push forward in attack. By now, having Upson on the bench seemed to make perfect sense – although he did come on in the latter stages to help us hold onto the ball and see out the game. Seeing Cisse trying to get the crowd going and the repeated crowd cheers of “OUUUSSSSS” signifies he could quickly become a crowd favourite at Stadium MK.
Two penalties in the last 10 minutes meant that, just like the last meeting with Gillingham, there was a frantic end to the game. A golden chance to put the game to bed was presented to Agard after Seagar won a penalty from Pawlett’s nice reverse pass. Alas, the game didn’t slumber – it was a poor penalty from Agard and an easy save for Tomas Holy in the Gillingham goal.
A few minutes later and the referee gave a dubious penalty to the visitors which was subsequently blazed over the bar by Wright – Wright in front of the Gillingham fans! (see what I did there? eh?) It was definitely not a penalty and justice was served.
A note on the defence, Gillingham never really threatened too much and only managed one shot on target all game. Their plain to hoof it long to Eaves all game was easily managed by the solid defence on show.
3 points in the bag, with all lots of new boys playing well and a clean sheet. Perfect timing just before for the two upcoming tough games; firstly against Premier League opposition in Swansea and then the away trip to Ewood Park against Blackburn.
Come on you Dons.