A James Henry penalty was enough to make it eight games unbeaten for Oxford United as they beat Gillingham 1-0 at Grenoble Road this afternoon
Gavin Whyte’s absence to play for Northern Ireland and Jamie Mackie’s suspension, meant attacking changes and a return for Ricky Holmes alongside Marcus Browne and Sam Smith up top. There was also a return for the ever-reliable Sam Long at right back in a back four that needed to be solid inthe opening fifteen minutes as Gillingham sent a couple of dangerous balls into the box that needed to be defended properly
At the other end John Mousinho had an early effort blocked from the edge of the area and Holmes forced a first save from giant keeper Tomas Holy after 20 minutes with a low effort that was sneaking just inside the left-hand post until Holy intervention gave United a corner rather than an opening goal.
The excellent Henry again tested the divinely-named custodian with a 25-yard effort after 22 minutes and another long range effort from Holmes just after the half hour mark was as close as we came to a goal in a first half that had seen the U’s on top without making the breakthrough.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort with Brannagan, Mousinho and Henry taking a firm grip on midfield and Sam Smith running selflessly up front but they hadn’t killed the visitors off and that was almost costly at the start of the second half when the Gills had their first real spell of presssure, Brandon Hanlan dragging their best effort wide, but two or three other shooting opportunities coming their way during what turned out to be their most dangerous period.
Seeking a cutting edge Karl Robinson brought on Harvey Bradbury for a league debut, adding Jamie Hanson to his midfield, and moments later the U’s were in front.
Brown’s pace is frightening and when he touched it past the onrushing keeper he was caught and brought down, with ref Neil hair pointing straight to the spot. Henry, facing the giant Holy, made no mistake with a superb spot kick in to the top left corner to make it 1-0.
Henry almost doubled that with a superb right-footed effort that smashed against the right-hand post with Holy giving up the ghost as it flashed past him but United were rampant by then with Browne running riot, Brannagan bossing the centre of the park and Bradbury leading the line well.
With a back four who have made clean sheets a personal crusade United were fiercely determined and when Regan Charle-Cook did get a shot away on 85 Eastwood was right behind it, snuffing out one last moment of resistance from the Gills and ensuring that United's good run continues.
An important win another clean sheet and United are on the up.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA