AN OXFORD United academy product finished with an authority unusual for a defender, and those in yellow turned away in frustration.

It was not yet Sam Long's time to shine, as when Robbie Cundy put Gillingham 2-0 up at the Kassam Stadium with 18 minutes left, one U's goal – let alone three – looked unlikely.

The visitors' tactics and conduct may be controversial, but they would not play that way if it did not work.

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Gillingham set up with two banks of four and dared United to play through them, while keeping the ball in the air as much as possible and slowing the game down whenever they could.

That last tactic is one of their more controversial assets, but for 74 minutes the U's were limited to long-range efforts and hopeful crosses into the penalty area.

To say Gillingham dragged United down to their level would be unfair on the Kent club, but the contest was certainly played out in a way that favoured them.

As well as 13 corners and countless crosses, the U's also had to deal with Ryan Jackson's long throws.

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This led to Vadaine Oliver's opener, while Cundy's strike also came when Gillingham snapped up a second ball and at that point the U's had barely laid a glove on their opponents.

The introduction of Sam Winnall and Dan Agyei and the subsequent switch to a diamond formation changed that, as United finally began to play the game on their terms.

Agyei proved elusive, receiving the ball in spaces that allowed him to drive at Gillingham's back four, while Sam Long and Josh Ruffels had the touchlines to themselves.

Winnall's quick response was so important and gave United momentum for the first time all afternoon.

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It is fitting that their two-goal hero was Sam Long, a man used to fighting against adversity and proving people wrong.

The right back had already celebrated a new contract, his 100th start and a goal against Shrewsbury Town this week, but this topped the lot.

His two excellent finishes moved the U's into the Sky Bet League One play-offs for the first time this season, with just four matches left.

Their rivals still have games in hand, but wins like this can take a team a long way.