Steve Evans says Gillingham went ‘the extra mile’ to beat Oxford
Steve Evans believes Gillingham beat one of the best two sides in the division after edging past Oxford 3-1 in an entertaining game.
Vadaine Oliver headed in off the post and Jacob Mellis half-volleyed home from 20 yards in the space of four first-half minutes to give the Gills a 2-0 lead before Dan Aygei halved the deficit after the break.
Jordan Graham’s close-range finish 20 minutes from time sealed victory but the U’s spurned plenty of opportunities, and while Evans knows his side easily could have lost, he was ecstatic with the character they showed.
“It could have been 5-4 either way,” admitted the Gills boss. “I’m not sitting here thinking we’ve played Oxford off the pitch and we’ve won 3-1.
“But we had to find a way to win a football match and I can’t ask for any more from a team of 20-year-olds. They came together and showed desire, fight and spirit to win.
“The players have gone the extra mile to deliver and Gills fans at home should be proud of that.
“Oxford are a brilliant side – together with Hull they’re the benchmark for this league. We lost to Hull (2-0 on the opening day) and beat Oxford.
“We took our chances when they came, our goalkeeper has made one or two great saves but we can certainly play a lot better.
“Their goal gave them a bit of hope for five minutes but I think once our third went in we saw it home pretty comfortably.”
At 2-0 down, Josh Ruffels was denied by a point-blank save and Cameron Brannagan missed an open goal, while Matty Taylor squandered a glorious chance to equalise by heading the ball into the ground.
Oxford boss Karl Robinson rued his side’s profligacy but was quick to praise them for their overall performance.
“It was a crazy game. I’ve never seen us miss so many chances,” said Robinson. “Their first goal comes off the post and goes in, then he (Mellis) just hits it for their second one and it goes in the bottom corner.
“From there on we’ve absolutely dominated in all aspects. Some of their players felt a bit embarrassed coming off but I wouldn’t be if I were them because they’ve won.
“I just watched our players’ attitude and mentality and you’d find it incredibly difficult to say somebody has had a bad game.
“Gillingham made probably 20 more mistakes than us but we didn’t capitalise. The Matty Taylor chance when he headed it into the ground at 2-1 was probably the big turning point.
“My players deserved an awful lot more than they got. I don’t have to sit here and back them – anybody who has watched this game will tell them how well they’ve played.”