Published: 16:40, 17 November 2018
| Updated: 19:16, 17 November 2018
Gillingham were beaten by a second half penalty at Oxford on Saturday.
James Henry broke the deadlock just before the hour mark with a spot kick and later on struck the woodwork for the hosts.
Defeat for the Gills meant they dropped perilously close to the League 1 drop zone.
Gills boss Steve Lovell named an attacking line-up, bringing Elliott List back into the starting eleven. Youngster Darren Oldker, impressing of late, had to make do with a place back on the bench.
Billy Bingham kept his place in the starting eleven following the midweek Checkatrade Trophy tie.
The hosts started the day in the bottom four of League 1 but were unbeaten in six.
There was a questionable offside decision early on that denied Gills’ Regan Charles-Cook a goal, having run through and slotted home. List had won possession off Curtis Nelson and the flag went up for offside as the ball ran into the path of Charles Cook.
Another chance for the Gills came from a free-kick but they failed to pull off a training ground routine with Bingham losing his footing at the vital moment, as he looked to have a pop at goal from the edge of the box.
Gillingham keeper Tomas Holy was kept busy, making a couple of saves from Ricky Holmes. One of his blocked shots fell to Sam Smith but his pullback went behind the waiting Marcus Browne.
Both sides had shown promise but neither could produce the vital spark, leaving the field goalless at the break.
Charles-Cook drove an early second half shot into the home keeper’s arms and Hanlan dragged a shot just wide of the post moments later, the Gills breaking after Mark Byrne had dispossessed James Henry.
Gills’ pressure continued and keeper Simon Eastwood had to parry a dangerous cross from Charles-Cook, grateful to see the ball hooked clear. Another good attack saw the ball cut out just as Charles-Cook looked to find Hanlan on the front foot.
Despite Gills’ good start to the half, it was Oxford who struck first. Holy came out to challenge the onrushing Browne but upended the striker and referee Neil Hair pointed to the spot. Henry made no mistake from 12 yards.
There might not have been much to object over the penalty but the Gills management were fuming when they felt Tom Eaves had been manhandled in the opposite box soon after. Josh Ruffels was all over the striker but bizarrely the free-kick for a foul was awarded to the home side.
The big decisions continued to go against the Gills, as Luke O’Neill had appeals for a handball ignored by the referee.
Oxford went close to a second when, with just over 10 minutes left, Henry struck the ball across Holy but was denied by the upright.
Charles-Cook kept at it and had a decent attempt saved by Eastwood with five left.
Oxford: Eastwood, Dickie, Nelson, Brannagan, Smith (Bradbury 57mins), Browne, Holmes (Hanson 57mins), Ruffels, Mousinho, Henry, Long. Subs not used: Mitchell, Norman, Raglan, Lopes, Spasov.
Gillingham: Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Fuller, Ehmer, Zakuani, Bingham, Byrne, Charles-Cook, List, Hanlan, Eaves. Subs not used: Hadler, Mbo, Rees, Stevenson, Ogilvie, Lacey, Oldaker.
Attendance: 6,628 (521 away)
More by this authorLuke Cawdell