Gillingham 1-2 Oxford United
Gillingham 1-2 Oxford United

It was a case of what might have been for Gillingham as their Checkatrade Trophy campaign came to an end at Priestfield.

With the scores locked at 1-1 – Mark Byrne’s penalty put Steve Lovell’s side in front before Jack Payne bundled home Oxford’s equaliser – and with around a quarter of an hour left, Josh Parker was denied the “Goal of the Season” award with a drive that arrowed into to the top left hand corner smacked off the angle of post and bar and bounced
down… sadly for the home side, the assistant couldn’t confirm to referee Breakspear that the ball had crossed the line and a corner was given which the Gills couldn’t convert.

Then came the classic sucker punch as with a penalty shoot-out just seconds away, Alex Mowatt fizzed the ball past Stuart Nelson and into the corner of the net to send last season’s runners up into the last sixteen of the this year’s competition.

Gillingham had started so brightly to with Parker having the best early chance as he fired across the face of the Oxford goal with no-one on hand to turn the ball home. With Scott Wagstaff, Lee Martin and Byrne linking brilliantly in midfield, the Gills probing was stretching the visitors across the Priestfield pitch and from one such
interchange, Byrne fed Wagstaff who was brought down in the box, and Byrne himself sent Eastwood the wrong way from the spot.

The visitors levelled just past the half hour when despite Byrne’s best efforts to clear, one shot off the line from a corner, Payne was on hand to force the ball home thus undoing all the home side’s good first half work.

The Gills suffered another blow at the break when Conor Wilkinson failed to reappear for the start of the second half but that did mean the introduction of Tom Eaves, who along with Parker clearly offered the Gills a threat at almost every break.

That alongside the fact that the visitors were limited to breaks that Max Ehmer, Alex Lacey and Connor Ogilvie all blocked with some aplomb, and it seemed as though the only outcome at the full time whistle would be a home
victory or a penalty shoot out, especially when Parker’s pile-driver came crashing back off of the angle of post and bar.

Then came one threaded ball through to Mowatt and a low shot that flew past Nelson and bulged into the side of the net.

For the Gills it was tough to take, but Saturday’s League trip to Plymouth was always the priority now along with next Tuesday’s FA Cup replay at Carlisle, but nonetheless to lose a game with literally the last kick still smarts!

GILLINGHAM – Nelson, Lacey, Ehmer, Wagstaff, Wilkinson (Eaves HT), Martin (Cundle 60), Ogilvie, Parker, Nugent, Clare (Oldaker 78), Byrne.

Subs not used – Arnold, O’Neill, Hessenthaler, Simpson.

Goal: Byrne (pen 9).

OXFORD UNITED – Eastwood, Martin, Ledson, Payne, Ruffels, Henry (Nappa 64), Obika, Ricardinho, Mowatt (Baptiste 90), Mousinho, Carroll.

Subs not used – Shearer, Tiendalli, Williamson, Ashby, Roberts.

Goals: Payne (31), Mowatt (91).

Referee: Mr C Breakspear

Attendance: 1,224 (62 Oxford).