A THREE-GOAL burst at the start of the second half saw Oxford United run out comfortable winners against struggling Gillingham at the Kassam Stadium.

It was a worthy scoreline on the balance of play, but United had to be patient after dominating the first half without getting their reward.

Pep Clotet’s side played some glorious football to gain the upper hand – and the amount of chasing the visitors had to do laid the groundwork for what followed after the break.

Jon Obika made amends for a bad miss by setting up two of United’s goals in the space of eight minutes.

Jack Payne and Rob Hall were the beneficiaries, sandwiching a tidy finish by Joe Rothwell.

There was still more than half an hour remaining and United had further chances, even while they eased down with Tuesday’s clash against Bradford City in mind.

John Mousinho was handed a debut at centre half alongside Curtis Nelson, back from a knee injury, but the hosts were forced into a late change after Christian Ribeiro picked up an injury in the warm-up.

Canice Carroll replaced him at right back and Mike Williamson, who was initially left out of the squad after his wife gave birth, took his place on the bench.

Gillingham arrived still looking for their first win of the league season, but settled quickly.

Conor Wilkinson should have headed them in front after six minutes, but the unmarked striker was off-target from eight yards.

Ben Nugent also headed over from an early corner, before United took the game by the scruff of the neck.

In a real clash of styles, the hosts got their passing football going against a Gills side who put men behind the ball and hung on for dear life.

United played some glorious passing football which left the visitors chasing shadows.

The opening goal should have come in the 18th minute at the end of a fluent move.

Rob Hall burst into the box, staying on his feet when he might have gone down, but from his cutback Obika blazed over from eight yards.

It began a superb spell where Gillingham were pinned back – and when they eventually recovered possession, the visitors repeatedly gave it away cheaply.

James Henry threatened with two dangerous in-swinging crosses, while the midfielder curled a 20-yard shot just wide.

United’s only danger was overcommitting men and getting caught on the break.

Twice in quick succession around the half-hour mark the visitors almost got in with counter-attacks, but Simon Eastwood and Nelson got the hosts out of trouble.

They were rare moments of respite for the Kent strugglers, who had to get through plenty more defensive work to reach half-time on level terms.

Jack Payne and Hall had shots well blocked, while the latter stung goalkeeper Tomas Holy’s palms with a swerving 25-yard effort in stoppage-time.

Gillingham had done well to survive until the break, but they crumbled after the restart as United rattled in a rapid treble.

Just three minutes after the restart Payne flicked in from close range after Obika had collected Holy’s parry from a Hall shot and cut the ball back into the six-yard box.

It was quickly 2-0, as United carved straight through the middle.

Rothwell, who had seen plenty of the ball, played a one-two with Payne and sprinted clear. The midfielder did well to hold off Gabriel Zakuani before coolly dinking a finish past Holy.

Oxford Mail:

  • Joe Rothwell made it 2-0 with an excellent finish

Gillingham were all at sea and within a flash United stretched their lead again.

Obika was found on the edge of the box and backheeled the ball into the path of Hall, whose fierce shot was too good for Holy at his near post.

United lost Obika to what looked a minor knock as they made changes around the hour mark.

Gino van Kessel forced Holy into an excellent one-handed save, while another substitute, Alex Mowatt was denied a debut goal by Zakuani’s block.

Wes Thomas, the third player introduced from the bench, then stretched to turn Ricardinho’s shot over the crossbar.

There was a feeling United were playing within themselves in the closing stages, but they were still far too good for Gillingham.

Holy’s busy afternoon continued all the way to the 90th minute, when he denied Van Kessel after Thomas had played the forward in on goal.

Oxford Utd (4-4-1-1): Eastwood, Carroll, Nelson, Mousinho, Ricardinho, Henry (Van Kessel 59), Ledson, Rothwell, Hall, Payne (Thomas 66), Obika (Mowatt 66).

Unused subs: Shearer, Martin, Williamson, Ruffels.

Booked: None.

Gillingham (3-5-2): Holy, Lacey, Zakuani (Ehmer 76), Nugent, Wagstaff, Byrne, Hessenthaler, Martin, Ogilvie, Eaves (Parker 57), Wilkinson (Nash 57).

Unused subs: Arnold, O’Neill, Oldaker, Clare.

Booked: None.

Referee: Michael Salisbury (Lancashire).

Attendance: 6,730 (382 visitors).