BY RICHARD CAWLEY
AFC Wimbledon’s survival hopes were dealt a blow as they showed no signs of their recent defensive resilience – suffering a 4-1 defeat to Gillingham at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
The Dons had kept four clean sheets in a row – that stinginess aiding them winning three League One matches on the bounce – but they conceded three times in the space of 10 minutes.
It had all looked so promising when Michael Folivi struck them ahead midway through the first half – a lead that Wally Downes’ side deserved.
But Brandon Hanlan levelled shortly before the break and then Aaron Ramsdale’s costly error soon after put the Gills in front.
Leonard Da Silva Lopes volleyed home the third not long after the second half resumed with Tom Eaves’ header capping off a miserable afternoon for the South Londoners.
There was still time for James Hanson to head in a consolation for the relegation battlers.
Wimbledon’s bright start was rewarded as they took a 22nd-minute lead with Folivi netting for the second time since joining on loan from Watford.
Toby Sibbick pushed the ball on for the overlapping Scott Wagstaff and his pull-back was finished confidently by the Dons’ number 41.
Gillingham’s first chance of the afternoon was a warning shot. Ramsdale blocked from Hanlan at his near post after being slipped through on the right of the box by Lopes.
The equaliser on 40 minutes was almost a carbon copy, aside from the end result. Once again it was Lopes who weighted a perfect pass for the former Charlton attacker, who drove emphatically in.
It had been over six hours since Wimbledon had last conceded but Ramsdale was picking the ball out of the back of his net again just two minutes later.
Graham Burke’s shot was in the hopeful category but Ramsdale agonisingly saw the ball squirt under him – his desperate attempts to stop it crossing the line were in vain.
Pigott had been a threat in the opening 45 minutes and Gills keeper Tomas Holy dived low to his left to keep out his header before the break – a follow-up by the in-form frontman also being blocked.
Lopes nudged the Kent side even further ahead on 50 minutes. But again the Dons switched off inside their own area, although that took nothing away from the volleyed finish past Ramsdale.
Dons boss Wally Downes responded with a triple change – bringing on Hanson, Dylan Connolly and Shane McLoughlin. Referee Lee Collins was unmoved by Luke O’Neill’s robust challenge on Connolly inside the Gills box.
Burke then struck the right upright with another effort from distance.
Wimbledon had not hinted at a comeback and any thoughts of it were ended as the visitors added a fourth in the 83rd minute. There were no appeals by Gillingham players when Callum Reilly went down under a challenge from Paul Kalambayi – but Collins gave the free-kick.
Luke O’Neill drove the ball in and Eaves met it to flick beyond Ramsdale. It was the cue for Dons fans to start heading for the exits.
There were nine minutes of added time, part of that due to groundstaff needing to make pitch repairs.
Hanson cut the deficit in that period as he headed in from Connolly’s right-wing cross.
PICTURES BY PAUL EDWARDS
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