Late Oxford goal sends United through in Checkatrade Trophy.
A late strike from Alex Mowatt gave Oxford a 2-1 win at Priestfield on Tuesday night to send Gillingham out of the Checkatrade Trophy.
Mark Byrne’s early penalty had given Gills the lead but Jack Payne equalised before the break. Josh Parker’s strike from range looked to have crossed the line according to replays, and from there on in it looked like penalties would decide the tie. However, Mowatt struck in the third minute of stoppage time to clinch victory.
Manager Steve Lovell made a number of changes for the game with Stuart Nelson returning in goal and Alex Lacey returning from injury to slot in at right centre-back.
Oxford had the first opportunity within the opening couple of minutes, albeit fortuitously. A clearance fell into the path of Mowatt; his cross found Canice Carroll at the back post with a defender slipping in trying to clear but the resulting shot was straight at Nelson who did well to collect.
On five minutes Parker nearly finished a fine solo effort when he received the ball on the right side and elected to take on his man. With the Oxford defender retreating Parker used clever footwork to create a yard of space before firing a shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Gillingham were slowly exerting some authority on the game and while in the ascendency were awarded a penalty when Scott Wagstaff was brought down inside the area and the assistant referee flagged to indicate a foul, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Mark Byrne stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to put the hosts in front.
Oxford showed signs of getting back into the game but it was Gills who were creating the more meaningful openings; Parker lost the ball inside the penalty area after being played in by Byrne before seeing another effort well blocked following an excellent team move involving Byrne, Wagstaff and Martin.
Having not found the net for a second time Oxford sensed the opportunity to draw level and did so just after the half hour mark. Nugent had cleared off the line following a corner; the ball came out to Payne who struck home an excellent effort which found the opposite corner.
Up until the interval Oxford were the better side, although Byrne’s effort from 15 yards on 42 minutes nearly gave the hosts the lead against the run of play.
The start of the second half was fairly even with both sides having half chances to take the lead; Mowatt couldn’t quite latch onto a cross from James Henry while Parker was unfortunate not guide a header beyond Eastwood with Eaves, on at half-time, having glanced the ball back across the goal.
A midfield battle ensued with neither goalkeeper having much to do until the 71st minute when Simon Eastwood made an excellent stop to deny Eaves. A low corner from Clare deceived the Oxford defence; the loose ball fell into the path of the striker who forced a fine save from the visiting keeper.
Moments later and some of the home fans thought Gillingham had re-taken the lead. Parker received the ball 35 yards from goal and he decided to shoot despite options to either side; his effort struck the inside of the post before coming back across the face of goal and away to safety.
Replays suggested the ball had crossed the line but the referee wasn’t convinced and play carried on.
Gills controlled the game in the closing stages but failed to find a way past Eastwood, and on the break Oxford clinched the winner in stoppage time.
Mowatt found space just outside the penalty area on the left side and found the opposite corner with an accurate strike.
Gills: Nelson, Clare (Oldaker 77), Nugent, Lacey, Ogilvie, Ehmer, Byrne, Wagstaff, Martin (Cundle 61), Wilkinson, Parker.
Unused subs: Arnold, O’Neill, Simpson, Hessenthaler.
Oxford: Eastwood, Martin, Ledson, Payne, Ruffels, Henry (Nappa 65), Obika, Ricardinho, Mowatt (Baptiste 90), Mousinho, Carroll.
Unused subs: Shearer, Tiendalli, Williamson, Ashby, Roberts.
Attendance: 1224 (62 Oxford)
Referee: Mr C Breakspear