Published: 16:45, 18 January 2020
| Updated: 20:11, 18 January 2020
Gillingham held high-flying Oxford United to a draw at Priestfield and are now eight without loss in the league.
Oxford led at the break thanks to a well-taken goal from Tariqe Fosu but it was all-square when Olly Lee converted a penalty on the hour.
Oxford United - labelled the best team Gills had faced this season prior to the match by Gills boss Steve Evans - were missing leading scorer Matty Taylor for the match after picking up a midweek knock.
The Gills had been beaten comfortably the last time the teams met but the man who scored two that day, James Henry, was also missing for the visitors who arrived without a win in their last three in the league.
Despite the absentees and the wobbly form, the unchanged Gills were expecting to be severely tested at a ground where they had picked up four wins and a draw from their previous five in League 1.
Gillingham had the play-offs in sight and Oxford, in fifth before the weekend, were only six points ahead.
Jordan Roberts - making his home debut for the Gills - put an early effort wide but it was the visitors who went infront, taking the lead in the 18th minute through Fosu.
His curling effort couldn’t be kept out by keeper Jack Bonham as the Gills defence backed off. Gillingham had been unable to clear the ball sufficiently after Shandon Baptiste had knocked the ball down into the centre from deep cross and Josh Ruffels picked out Fosu..
Gillingham had few clear-cut chances as they looked to level. Lee looped an effort over and Roberts screwed a shot well wide as the half descended into a scrappy and feisty affair.
Fosu’s play-acting riled the home fans, down and out in one moment before leaping to his feet as play continued and almost supplying Mark Sykes with a simple header at the far post.
There were verbals all over the place, with visiting striker Jamie Mackie going into the book for dissent. Lee, for the Gills, was also booked as he ran into trouble late in the half, committing a foul to put an end to Oxford’s forward momentum.
Barry Fuller had put Fosu on the floor with a strong and fair challenge while the wound-up Mackie slid into another challenge but missed ball and all.
Sam Long glanced a header wide for the visitors but half-time came with little between the sides in footballing terms.
Home fans were at times incensed by what looked to be Oxford’s proficiency at going down softly, Fosu more than most, something referee Neil Hair declined to clamp down on.
There was an early flare up in the second half when Connor Ogilvie and Mackie had a coming together, the pair ending up in the dugout area after a collision. Ogilvie almost hit the wall with his head. The Oxford striker didn’t waste the opportunity to have his say towards Evans.
Gillingham, a much better team second half, got back on level terms from the penalty spot. Hanlan ran at the defence and was tripped by Alex Gorrin, allowing Lee the opportunity to send the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards.
Hanlan nodded down a Roberts cross moments later to cause more panic in the Oxford defence but the ball was hacked clear.
The visitors responded and Nathan Holland had a shot turned narrowly over by Alfie Jones and then Ruffels’ effort was deflected onto the crossbar from the resulting corner kick.
It was end to end for a time. O’Keefe wanted a touch too many and a chance went begging for the Gills while Max Ehmer was well positioned to clear a dangerous cross from Oxford’s Sykes.
The impressive Ogilvie was on the end of another flying challenge late in the game, the second time he had landed in the away technical area, earning sub Marcus Browne a booking.
Gillingham had several late set-pieces as they pushed for a winner but it never came.
Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller, Ogilvie, Ehmer, Tucker, Jones, O'Keefe, O'Connor, Lee, Hanlan, Roberts (Jakubiak 79mins). Subs: Walsh, Willock, Pringle, Marshall, Charles-Cook, Mandron.
Oxford: Eastwood, Ruffels, Dickie, Gorrin, Fosu, Long, Mousinho, Baptiste, Sykes, Mackie (Agyei 62mins), Holland (Browne 77mins). Subs: Stevens, Moore, Hall, Hanson, Kelly.
Attendance: 5,051 (535 away)
More by this authorLuke Cawdell
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