Gillingham caretaker boss Keith Millen was pleasantly surprised by his side’s response to the controversial sacking of Neil Harris as they beat MK Dons 2-1.
Eyebrows were raised across the EFL when the Gills ownership opted to go in a ‘different direction’ and jettison Harris having led the league after four games.
On the field, they were good value for a first league win in four as goals from Macauley Bonne and Scott Malone sealed the spoils.
Millen said: “I’m delighted to win the game. It’s been a tough week, in particular these past couple of days.
“I knew the players would give their all but I didn’t know how positive they’d be.
“I didn’t ask them to perform for me as I’m not the new manager, nor did I feel it was right to ask them to do it for Neil, even though we all know what’s happened.
“The atmosphere was OK in the dressing room but I wasn’t sure how things were going to go until the game kicked off and it took us 20 minutes to clear our heads.
“All of a sudden we became braver on the ball and played a few more passes and we began to open them up. We created some really good chances after that.
“I still want us to look after the ball better but, after one day of training, we weren’t going to turn into a total football team all of a sudden. But what I really liked was our desire to keep the ball out of our net.”
Joe Tomlinson and Mo Eisa passed up chances as the visitors failed to capitalise on the slow start that Millen described.
Instead, MK were left to rue individual errors as Anthony Stewart slipped to allow Bonne through on goal to calmly slot home after 26 minutes.
Jonathan Leko was the guilty party 10 minutes after the break as he was robbed by Tom Nichols, who teed up Malone for the second.
Substitute Ellis Harrison gave the Dons hope late on before the visitors ended the game with 10 men as Dan Harvie picked up his second booking in stoppage time.
Dons manager Graham Alexander said: “I’m disappointed because the defeat is self-inflicted.
“In the first 20 minutes we were the dominant team again and we had chances to score but then we concede another terrible goal.
“That punctured any good feeling we had. We lost our control and composure after that until half-time.
“We can’t hide behind anything. We were the constructors of our own downfall. The only thing I know is we’ve got to work on it.
“If you think you get success through luck then you’ll soon be put right in football. It’s still apparent that, in certain areas and at certain times, we lose our way in games.”