Gills seal a hard-earned point at the Kassam.
Alex MacDonald’s excellent first-half effort against his former side was enough to earn Gillingham a 1-1 draw against Oxford at the Kassam on Saturday.
Macca’s second goal for the club, a drilled right footed shot from 25 yards, cancelled out Matty Taylor’s early effort, and Karl Robinson’s men were unable to unlock a resilient Gills defence for a second time.
Jamie Cumming made a couple of excellent saves in the second period, with several defensive interceptions proving crucial as Gills sealed a hard-earned point.
Steve Evans made two changes to the team that drew with Charlton midweek, with Danny Lloyd and Gerald Sithole replacing Daniel Adshead and Charlie Kelman respectively who dropped to the bench.
Sithole was making his first league start for the Gills, with Lloyd playing on the opposite flank to the academy graduate, in support of Vadaine Oliver. Stuart O'Keefe was available after serving suspension, but sat out due to a slight shoulder problem.
Oxford scored the opener with the first real effort on goal. A ball over the top beat Jack Tucker for height, and suddenly the striker was one-on-one with Jamie Cumming. The keeper stood tall, but the forward composed himself and slotted the ball home from inside the box to give the hosts the advantage.
The striker nearly made it two soon after when a ball in towards the near post was headed against the outside of the post by the Oxford number nine, with a couple of resulting corners not coming to anything significant.
Jack Stevens was called into action to save a shot from Danny Lloyd with Cumming having to look sharp at the other end to head away another direct ball into the penalty area, before the striker headed narrowly wide moments later.
On 28 minutes Gills created their best chance of the game when Olly Lee put in an excellent cross just outside the six-yard box. Oliver was unmarked, and got a good connection onto the header but guided the effort inches wide of the left post.
A few minutes later and it was a level game. Alex MacDonald received the ball 30 yards out, took a touch forward and decided to try his luck. He drilled a right footed effort towards the bottom corner and Jack Stevens was unable to react before the ball was out of his reach.
Gills very nearly went in ahead at the interval, but Stevens was on hand to save a powerful shot from Danny Lloyd with Gerald Sithole not able to connect to the rebound.
An early Steve Seddon effort cleared Jamie Cumming’s right hand post by a yard or so before Alex Gorrin headed over the bar from close range.
John Akinde was introduced on 58 minutes, with Sithole going off, and within moments of his arrival Kyle Dempsey saw a gap at the near post, after taking a quick corner, but Stevens kept it out. At the other end, Cumming had to be positioned well to push away a long range effort which swerved right in front of him.
Efforts from Brannagan and sub Mark Sykes missed the frame of the Gills goal on 65 minutes before a Kyle Dempsey volley was well charged down by the Oxford rearguard.
With a little over ten minutes to go, Jamie Cumming made a string of fine stops to prevent a second Oxford goal. A close range effort from Taylor came off the chest of the keeper, who had to track back to paw the loose ball away as it was about to bounce over the line, before tipping over a header following the resulting corner.
A few moments later Seddon, after Dempsey had been tackled in trying to launch a counter attack, fired a shot just wide of the target from 20 yards. He attempted to find the opposite corner but, at full stretch, the Gills stopper was untroubled.
Cumming was called into action with a few minutes to play; he caught a cross from the right but dropped the ball as he collided with an Oxford player. Sub Billy Bodin only had to find the net from a few yards out, but fired over.
Cameron Brannagan tried to place an effort into the top left corner shortly afterwards, but missed the target. There were huge calls for a penalty in the dying moments as Tucker held off Sykes, the pair got together and hit the deck, but the referee decided not to give a penalty.
Oxford: Stevens, Thorniley, Moore, Gorrin (Bodin 69), Long, Brannagan, Henry (Sykes 64), Whyte, Taylor, Kane, Seddon.
Unused subs: Eastwood, McNally, Agyei, Williams, Forde
Gills: Cumming, Bennett, Ehmer, Tucker, McKenzie, Dempsey, MacDonald, Lee (Adshead 61), Sithole (Akinde 58), Lloyd, Oliver.
Unused subs: Chapman, Tutonda, Akehurst, Reeves, Kelman
Referee: Mr D Drysdale
Attendance: 6664 (362)