Oxford net three first-half goals on their way to victory at the Kassam.
Gillingham headed back to Kent empty handed on Saturday following a 3-0 defeat to Oxford at the Kassam Stadium.
The home side, having scored six at Lincoln last weekend and four against West Ham midweek, took full advantage of that momentum in the first half, with James Henry netting twice, either side of a Matt Taylor goal.
A much more even second half followed, with the Gills coming close through substitute Olly Lee who struck the post following good work from Brandon Hanlan.
Gillingham manager Steve Evans made two changes to the side that was defeated by Ipswich Town last week. Olly Lee and Stuart O’Keefe dropped out, with Alfie Jones and Ben Pringle coming in to replace them.
The Gills had the first chance of the game inside the opening minutes, as Max Ehmer’s hooked pass found Alex Jakubiak, but he couldn’t get his shot on target. Despite the away side’s positive start, it was Oxford who went ahead after 10 minutes. Ben Woodburn found James Henry 25 yards out, and he curled a shot beyond Jack Bonham to make it 1-0.
Bonham was called into action again soon after, parrying a low shot from Woodburn down to his right. From the resulting corner, Oxford came close once more, as the ball dropped to Rob Dickie, but he couldn’t keep his volley down.
Bonham made another excellent save after 25 minutes, somehow getting down to keep out John Mousinho’s header that looked certain to double the scoreline. On the half hour mark, Oxford doubled their lead. Henry’s pass over the top found Matty Taylor in room on the left, and he fired into the far corner to make it 2-0.
Five minutes later, the home side added a third. Josh Ruffels’ cross from the left found Henry in the middle, and he headed into the top corner for 3-0. Henry went searching for his hat-trick before half time, firing a shot from the edge of the area that was comfortable for Bonham.
Oxford continued to push forward, with Taylor the next man to try his luck, but his effort lacked power, after being picked out by Tariqe Fosu in the area. In stoppage time at the end of the half, Oxford came within inches of a fourth as they continued put pressure on the Gills goal. Fosu picked out Taylor, who played it on to Henry, and only the post could deny him a hat-trick.
H/T: Oxford United 3-0 Gillingham
The Gills made their first two substitutions at half time, with Mark Marshall and Olly Lee coming on in place of Alex Jakubiak and Jack Tucker, as they switched to a back four.
Those changes almost had an instant impact as Brandon Hanlan set up Lee in the middle, whose shot trickled onto the far post and cleared to safety. Oxford could have had another just before the hour mark, as Chris Cadden crossed for Taylor at the back post, but he was unable to control his volley.
The game was a far more even affair in the second period although chances were few and far between. However Oxford did create another opportunity with Cameron Brannagan exchanging passes with Fosu, before shooting low into the hands of Bonham. After 75 minutes, a cross from the right was cleared out as far as Ruffels, who saw his goal bound shot blocked well by captain Max Ehmer.
With ten minutes remaining, Steve Evans made his final change, with Stuart O’Keefe taking the place of Ben Pringle. Mark Marshall nearly pulled one back in stoppage time but his left footed effort was gathered by Simon Eastwood.
F/T- Oxford United 3-0 Gillingham
Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller, Tucker (Marshall 45), Ehmer, Ogilvie, O’Connor, Bryne, Jones, Pringle (O’Keefe 80), Hanlan, Jakubiak (Lee 45)
Unused subs: Royce, Charles-Cook, Mandron, Ndjoli
Oxford United: Eastwood, Cadden, Dickie (Moore 45), Mousinho, Ruffels, Gorrin (Baptiste 68), Woodburn, Brannagan, Henry, Fosu, Taylor (Mackie 82)
Unused subs: Stevens, Hall, Long, Forde, Baptiste
Referee: Mr A Woolmer
Attendance 6,553 (483 away)