Gills clinch victory as Max Ehmer celebrates 200th appearance.
A late Brandon Hanlan goal proved to be decisive as Gills picked up three points in a vital game in Sky Bet League 1 on Saturday at Priestfield.
Tom Eaves had seen his earlier penalty saved by Simon Eastwood as the game looked to be heading towards a goalless draw, but Hanlan popped up in the 89th minute to prod home from a corner to seal a huge three points for Gills.
Steve Lovell went with the same team that picked up a point at Fleetwood last week, Bradley Garmston returned to the bench as the Gills went in search of a win after three games on the road. The hosts were again captained by Max Ehmer, who was making his 200th appearance for the club, more than four years after his debut.
The first chance of the game fell to Tom Eaves following good play from Luke O’Neill, Eaves chested but his dipping volley went just over the bar as Lovell's men looked to build on a positive couple of weeks.
In the tenth minute Leo Da Silva Lopes was dispossessed in the middle of the park, Luke Garbutt picked up the ball, drove at the Gills defence and played through Jerome Sinclair, but his threaded pass was read by Tomas Holy, who was quick to come out and stop the attack.
As the game settled down, both sides were finding it hard to adjust to the swirling wind inside Priestfield. A neat pirouette from Tom Eaves saw him lose his defender on the right-hand side, but his effort across goal was cleared behind. The resulting corner coming to nothing as neither side could find that cutting edge.
Gills next move forward in the 26th minute saw the ball pin ball around the Oxford penalty area with the ball eventually falling to Connor Ogilvie who fired wide from the edge of the box.
Oxford responded, and neat footwork from the lively Garbutt saw him create half a yard of space at the edge of the Gills box, but he dragged his shot wide of the post. A free kick from Graham Burke went just wide as the game started to open up a little.
Just after the half an hour mark and Oxford had a couple of chances, firstly Garbutt headed over at the back post before a counter attack from the U’s saw men over but a block from Dean Parrett saw the danger cleared without too much trouble for the Gills defence.
The first half had passed by without any clear-cut opportunities, both defences coming out on top in a battle at Priestfield.
Oxford made a change at the break, former Gills midfielder John Mousinho being replaced by Ahmed Kashi, Gills stuck with the same eleven.
Whatever was said at the interval must have done the trick as Gillingham were awarded a penalty five minutes in to the second half; a ball over the top from Leo Da Silva lopes set Brandon Hanlan free, the forward was pulled down and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Eaves stepped up but saw his low penalty saved by Simon Eastwood.
The penalty had injected life in to the game and Oxford had penalty appeals themselves waved away just minutes later after a corner in the box was claimed by Tomas Holy. A Gills counter saw Graham Burke played in, but he was ushered out by the Oxford backline as the defences were coming out on top.
Steve Lovell’s first change saw Regan Charles-Cook replace Leo Lopes but it was the visitor's substitute who had the next opportunity, Gavin Whyte shooting wide from inside the right before Whyte was again involved setting up Jordan Graham, but his powerful effort was tipped over by Tomas Holy - a good save from the Gills stopper.
Elliott List and Callum Reilly were also introduced to the action, but it was the visitors who continued to threaten, Mark Sykes seeing his effort deflected behind for a corner before Josh Ruffels fired over as the time started to tick down and the matched seemed destined to end goalless.
But in the 90th minute Gillingham took the lead when Brandon Hanlan bundled home from a corner. Luke O’Neill delivered to the back post, Max Ehmer headed back across goal and there was Brandon Hanlan to poke the ball over the line to send the Gills fans in to raptures. A huge goal in Gillingham’s season.
That proved to be the last of the action as Gills managed to see out the last few minutes without scare and seal a might impressive three points.
Gills: Tomas Holy, Luke O’Neill, Connor Ogilvie, Max Ehmer, Barry Fuller, Mark Byrne, Leo Da Silva Lopes (Regan Charles-Cook 60), Dean Parrett (Callum Reilly 71), Graham Burke (Elliott List 78), Brandon Hanlan, Tom Eaves.
Unused subs: Tom Hadler, Bradley Garmston, Josh Rees, Tahvon Campbell
Oxford: Simon Eastwood, Rob Dickie, Luke Garbutt (Gavin Whyte 61), Curtis Nelson, Jerome Sinclair, John Ruffels, John Mousinho (Ahmed Kashi 45), James Henry, Jordan Graham, Sam Long, Mark Sykes
Unused subs: Jack Stevens, Jamie Hanson, Cameron Brannagan, Marcus Browne, Gavin Whyte, Jamie Mackie.
Attendance: 4991 (656 away fans)
Referee: Mr Ollie Yates