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AFC Wimbledon look set to be entertained this season – with Gills comeback a vital lesson for Robbo’s young guns

Despite continuing their unbeaten start to the new League One campaign, Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Gillingham will have left a section of the returning Plough Lane faithful feeling deflated. And the nature of their performance showed that the Dons are poised for an exciting season ahead.

After an evening of shots straight at Gillingham’s goalkeeper Jamie Cummings, where efforts blazed just inches wide of the post or pinpoint crosses met with no finish, the game finally began to swing in Wimbledon’s favour when David Tutonda was sent off for cynically bringing down Henry Lawrence on the edge of the area.

Mark Robinson’s side eventually broke the deadlock with five minutes of normal time remaining.

Plough Lane erupted when Ollie Palmer, pictured inset, leapt highest inside the area to guide Luke McCormick’s cross into the far right-hand corner and put the Dons minutes away from recording their first home victory in front of fans.

But as the clock on the screen fixed between the North and East stands ticked down in the six minutes of added time, Steve Evans’ side found the equaliser with the last kick of the game. After a clearance away from the area, Harvey Lintott’s shot cannoned cruelly off Paul Kalambayi and flew over Nik Tzanev to send the visitors back to Priestfield with a point.

The last-minute heartbreak will serve as a brutal reminder to many of these young players of the harsh environment that league football can provide.

However while the last-gasp equaliser will feel like two points dropped, the performance from the inexperienced Dons was exhilarating, and the draw will not blemish the attacking adventure of their display.

It’s important to remember that this is a fledgling side with only Alex Woodyard and Will Nightingale over the age of 25 in their starting 11. The team will have gained crucial experience in midweek.

Aaron Pressley, who played a number of intelligent passes through to his supporting wide-men in Ayoub Assal and Dapo Mebude and could have had his second goal of the season before half-time, it was the Scottish forward’s first start in professional football.

The 19-year-old held his own against Max Ehmer – who has more than 250 starts in the men’s game – holding the ball up well and looking to bring others into play.

The main source of electricity that got the Plough Lane fans on to their feet was Medbude.

The on-loan Watford forward showed last Saturday, when he scored the equaliser against Bolton, that he has the pace, power and proficiency to adapt quickly to life under Robinson.

On Tuesday, Mebude gave another rousing showing that left the home fans purring.

Mainly operating down the left of the front three, Mebude burst into life on the counter-attack and went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the first half, but his effort from 25 yards whistled past the post.

With Assal, who had another positive performance, down one wing and Mebude on the other, it gives Robinson exciting options to choose from.

In the middle, George Marsh and Alex Woodyard, starting alongside each other for the first time, appeared as if they had already built up an innate understanding of each other’s game.

Marsh, who was making his full league debut since joining from Spurs in the summer, showed he could be the heir to George Dobson. Demonstrating a similar style of play, Marsh was calm under possession and looked to set free one of the overlapping full-backs.

Marsh recorded the second-most passes of any player in a Wimbledon shirt and recovered possession four times throughout the game.

Woodyard recorded the most passes and touches in the 90 minutes, the 28-year-old harried and hustled the Gills at any opportunity.

Another standout candidate was Lawrence. The 19-year-old Chelsea loanee, who was making his first start in professional football, grew in confidence as the game went on.

He provided an added goal threat, Tutonda’s scythe on him handing the hosts a numerical advantage.

Lawrence stung the palms of Cummings three times during the game. He is an attack-minded defender who isn’t afraid of setting his sights on goal.

A handful of moments highlighted the lack of experience and all-around League One nous in the squad. They lacked the cutting edge to put away any of their seven first-half chances.

The most crucial takeaway was that they dominated a Gillingham team that finished just seven points off the play-off places last season.

It should provide an encouraging platform to build on.

STAR MAN
Dapo Mebude. The 20-year-old has taken to life at Wimbledon seamlessly and will be a key player for Robinson.

BEST MOMENT
Ollie Palmer’s goal sent Plough Lane into a frenzy and showed the importance of having strength in depth.

PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD

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