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17:00 14th April 2012

Paulo Gazzaniga


Gillingham's hopes of achieving a play-off spot hang in the balance following a 0-0 draw against Oxford at the Kassam Stadium.

In a nervy encounter both teams could have claimed a winner - Chris Whelpdale and Jo Kuffour having the best of the chances for the visitors, while Asa Hall and Oli Johnson could have won all three points for the hosts.

The result means the Gills are four points shy of 7th place with three games to play, and they will need to win all of their remaining fixtures to have any chance of still creeping in to the top seven.

Andy Hessenthaler claimed during the week that the Gills had to win the game to have any chance of making the play-off positions, and anything but would signal a premature end to their season.

In order to claim victory he selected four strikers within his team - Jo Kuffour and Gavin Tomlin replacing the injured Danny Jackman and Jack Payne who picked up knocks during the week.

As for Oxford they made three alterations to the side that drew 2-2 against Torquay. Michael Duberry, Wayne Brown and Scott Rendell all making the starting 11.

Dean Morgan had a half chance within the first minute - a cross from the right hand side eventually found its way to the winger, but despite making some space for himself he struck a tame effort which Paulo Gazzaniga claimed comfortably.

The crowd would have to wait nine minutes before the next chance was created - a low cross from the right flank was hit first time by Scott Rendell, but with the aid of a deflection it went wide of the post and the resulting set piece came to nothing.

Gillingham created their first chance on the quarter hour mark which they should have scored from. A nice touch by Rowan Vine played in Chris Whelpdale on the left, he put in a nice cross which Kuffour stepped over allowing Kedwell time to get away a shot.

However he took a couple of seconds too long and the Oxford full back got across just in time as the Gills number nine hit fly.

Tomlin had to be substituted immediately afterwards - the on loan forward went to ground on seven minutes and appeared to be in some discomfort.

He tried to run off his problem but ultimately wasn't able to - Spiller was his replacement.

On 21 minutes the home fans were almost certain they had scored. Asa Hall tried his luck with a volley from around 10 yards from goal.

He struck it beautifully but Gazzaniga reacted superbly and palmed it away with his right hand.

Dean Morgan followed up but Connor Essam put his body on the line and prevented the keeper being tested once more.

Hall tried again on 31 minutes but Gazzaniga was untroubled as the ball floated past the post.

At the other end Kuffour nearly poked home from a matter of yards, but off balance he was well denied by Liam Davis whose intervention prevented an almost certain goal.

Davis had to be alert again shortly afterwards. Kuffour wriggled free on the edge of the box following a Spiller corner - he managed to get a shot away but the defender stuck a foot out and the resulting deflection helped in in to the hands of Brown.

Oxford immediately went down the other end and created a chance themselves. Adam Chapman tried to beat Gazzaniga from over 20 yards but drilled the ball wide of his right hand post.

H/T: 0-0

Both teams seemed to start the second half nervously - neither wanted to lose the game but were misplacing too many passes and were therefore unable to gain any momentum.

Andy Whing had a half chance just outside the penalty area but struck six or seven yards too wide.

Hall struck goalwards shortly afterwards following a corner - he beat Gazzaniga but Matt Fish was standing on the line and headed the ball away as the Oxford fans held their breath.

The ball was travelling at some considerable pace and the full back did brilliantly to guide it away from danger.

On 66 minutes Whelpdale could have made better use of the space he had on the edge of the box - he got a shot away but it was tame to say the least and Brown claimed with ease.

The game opened up as the half progressed but the Gills were unable to create anything clear cut to Kedwell, Kuffour and Vine, and Oxford looked comfortable in defence.

Infact they looked the stronger of the two sides in the second half and the hosts nearly went ahead in the 74th minute.

Substitute Constable - on for Chapman- got the better of Frampton on the right wing and played in fellow sub Oli Johnson - on for Cristian Montano, who was unmarked near the penalty spot.

With his shot seemingly going beyond Gazzaniga it was Connor Essam who threw himself at the ball and prevented the Us from taking an important lead.

With the clock ticking away the Gills desperately needed a goal and they began to surge forward in search of one.

The introduction of Dennis Oli seemed to give the visitors more of an attacking presence, and Oxford suddenly found themselves having to defend.

However any chance Gillingham did have, including Chris Whelpdale's attempted chip on 87 minutes, failed to trouble the opposing goalkeeper.

With seconds left Whelpdale had one of the best opportunities of the game. Kuffour spotted his run inside the box and on his left foot he forced Brown in to a save, but at his near post he palmed it away for a corner.

Visiting fans thought the referee had given a penalty to the yellows in the dying seconds, but instead Johnson was booked for what the official deemed to be a dive.

The fans were unhappy with the decision, but both sets of supporters had to settle for a point.

F/T: 0-0

Oxford: Brown, Batt, Duberry, Wright, Chapman (Constable 71), Hall, Whing, Morgan (Tonkin 84), Rendell, Davis, Montano (Johnson 61)

Unused subs: Wilson, Crocombe.

Gills: Gazzaniga, Fish, Frampton, Essam, Martin, Whelpdale, Montrose, Tomlin (Spiller 16 (O Lee 90)), Kuffour, Kedwell, Vine (Oli 75)

Unused subs: King, Evans.

Referee: D Coote

Attendance: 7,322 (641 Gills)

Bookings: Kedwell (24), Kuffour (80), Montrose (88), Johnson (90)


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.