Oxford United were in second place where it is really important because they did nothing away from an impressive performance in Kent.
Carl Robinson’s side played some formidable football at times, but Gollingham’s efficiency against the goal – some cheerful roles at the other end – proved crucial.
All three of the hosts’ goals were problematic from a defensive standpoint.
Vada Dan Li Lever was allowed to go into the back post to open the scoring, while Jacob Melis gave another bite to Cherry to put Giles up 2-0 within 22 minutes.
United continued to beat their opponents hard, throwing corpses on the line to save their lead.
Cameron Brannagan missed a sitter, but Dan led United into the game early in the second half.
When the visitors decided to get something out of the clash, Matty Taylor wasted a great chance before Jordan Graham won 3-1.
United finished strongly, but could not set a grandstand finish.
Josh Ruffles returned to the team for the first time since the opening day as one of two changes to the U-XI from a previous league game.
Rob Atkinson’s jerk wasn’t right, so Sam Long turned to center back, while Cameron Brannagan came forward for Rob Hall.
United were unhappy about the change in temporary facilities at the main stand – and their mood worsened when they accepted a quick inheritance twice in half.
After a tight opening exchange, former United lone Jordan Graham set up an early goal with a cross in the back post where Oliver came close to distance.
There was a mountain for visitors to climb quickly, when they were caught playing in their own half.
It broke down for Melissa, whose shot was blocked just inside the box. He fell in love with the midfielder, who fired a bouncing ball into the far corner.
Gillingham was too strong for their opponents, but they sat back with a two-goal lead.
United accepted the invitation and argued for the best 20-minute spell of their season.
Despite facing a packed defense, they moved the ball well to find space.
It ended at the end of the break in a five-minute spell when they should be back in the game.
The clearest chance of all fell to Cameron Bernanagh, but he tied Anthony Forda’s cross from inside the six-yard box.
Jack Bonham then thwarted Matty Taylor, whose shimmy bought a place in the BX before placing the cannon under the goalkeeper’s right foot.
The Ruffles took that chance and a minute later he saw himself set to score. Somehow Connor Ogilvy put his effort from 12 yards on the line, reaching just before James Henry put the ball into force.
United’s goal finally came three minutes after the start.
Ruffles’ cross for Taylor went to the sky and Ye Gray reacted quickly before hitting the ball behind Bonham.
This forced Gillingham out of his shell and he has a good spell.
After Melissa fired a wide shot from Clare’s error, the hosts thought they made it 3-1 when Josh Eckhalls broke a shot from the edge of the area that was saved by Simon Eastwood alone.
Graham took a free-kick shortly after, but United should be on level at 65 minutes.
Ford’s delivery from a free-kick put a golden opportunity in the plate for Taylor, but the striker went underground.
She was a costly miss, as Graham’s Ryan Jackson’s cross in five minutes gave them a two-goal advantage with a nice finish.
Back came United, which flooded the next stage.
Bonham saved from ruffles, when Henry was well placed the shot was pulled to the very width of the distant post.
Sam Vinnell was brought in for his start, but try as he couldn’t find another goal to make visitors Gillingham nervous.
Gillingham (-3–3–3): Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Medley, Ogilvy, Drysdale, Melis (M. D. Cadonald 84 84), Eckhalls, Graham, Samuel (Woods) 0, Oliver (Akinde 90).
Unused subs: Walsh, Magh Goma, Mackenzie, Cuckoo.
Booked: Drysdale, Graham.
Ox xford td tid (-3–3–3): Eastwood, Claire, Long, Moore, Ruffles, Kelly (Hall Hall 0), Forde, Brannanagan, Henry, Taylor, Agayi (Winnal)
Unused Sub: Stevens, Hanson, Gorin, Mg Caguen, Sykes.
Referee: Thomas Bramal (Sheffield).
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