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Oxford United 3 Gillingham 2: Vadaine Oliver and Robbie Cundy on target before Sam Winnall and Sam Long (2) complete a comeback

Gillingham had a two-goal lead against Oxford United and could have scored more but ended up leaving with nothing.

Vadaine Oliver gave the Gills a deserved lead at the break in a match between two play-off hopefuls. Oxford keeper Jack Stevens kept his side in contention with several crucial saves in the opening stages of the second half. Robbie Cundy did get a Gills second but Sam Winnall pulled one back before a double from Long turned it around, the winner struck in stoppage-time.

Vadaine Oliver's goal put Gillingham ahead just before the break at Oxford Picture: Keith Gillard
Vadaine Oliver's goal put Gillingham ahead just before the break at Oxford Picture: Keith Gillard

Gillingham made just one change for their match at Oxford with Olly Lee replacing John Akinde, meaning a first time playing on the opposite side as his brother Elliot, playing upfront for the home side.

With the game kicking off later than most in League 1 the Gills were able to see the state of play before kick off. A Portsmouth defeat kept the play-off door well ajar, not just for Steve Evans’ men but for Oxford too.

Oxford knew a place in the top six was up for grabs with a win and the Gills could move to within three points if they got the points at the Kassam Stadium.

The first half belonged to the Gills and they deservedly went ahead late in the half. Ryan Jackson’s long throw was met by Oliver, the ball dropped and as it did the striker rammed the ball home for his 18th of the season on 40 minutes.

It was the first goal for the Gills at Oxford since 2010, the last six visits ending without a goal for the Kent side.

Gillingham had plenty of set-piece opportunities in the half but up until then hadn’t capitalised as best they could. A flurry of early corners, a free-kick and a couple of throws came and went.

Gills defender Robbie Cundy blocked a couple of Oxford shots but the hosts didn’t look as sharp as would be expected from a side with 10 goals in their previous two.

A 20-yard effort from James Henry was Oxford’s best opportunity. Goalkeeper Jack Bonham got behind it and was grateful as the ball spun wide of the goal after being unable to claim it properly.

Home keeper Jack Stevens had to be alert to save from Oliver after he was put in on goal early in the second half, just moments after the hosts survived another score when Kyle Dempsey broke forward with purpose.

Stevens had to make another good save to tip wide a curling effort from Dempsey.

Oxford were leaving plenty of gaps and Gills had another chance on the break that Jordan Graham couldn’t make the most of.

It was a game that was end to end for a while, the Gills throwing bodies in the way when they needed to.

Connor Ogilive nearly capitalised from a corner, his effort diverted wide, before an Olly Lee inswinger was palmed off his line by the keeper.

Gillingham got a deserved second in the 72nd minute, unable to clear a corner Jordan Graham fired in a low cross and Cundy tucked the ball home.

Just a minute later Oxford got a goal back when substitute Winnall scored with a decent strike, driving it into the far corner beyond Bonham.

Gillingham were suddenly under pressure, fellow substitute Dan Agyei using his pace to worry the defence. Bonham caught a couple of crosses

Oxford levelled the match in the 84th minute, a deep cross from Josh Ruffels and a header from Long to make it 2-2.

Long struck the winner in the third minute of added-on time, racing onto a deep cross at the far post to complete the turnaround and leave the Gills wondering what might have been.

Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Ogilvie, Cundy, Tucker, Dempsey, O'Keefe, MacDonald, Lee (McKenzie 78mins), Graham (O’Connor 89mins), Oliver. Subs not used: Bastien, Johnson, Sithole, Samuel, Akinde.

Oxford United: Stevens, Ruffels, Moore, Brannagan, Taylor, Long, Forde (Agyei 65mins), Henry, Atkinson, Shodipo (Winnall 65mins), Lee (Hanson 90mins). Subs not used: Eastwood, McNally, Gorrin, Kelly.

Referee: Robert Lewis

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