ALEX Mowatt was delighted to dodge a penalty shoot-out as his 91st-minute effort sent Oxford United through to the Checkatrade Trophy third round.

The on-loan midfielder fired in from 25 yards to seal a 2-1 win against Gillingham at Priestfield.

It completed United’s comeback, after a sluggish start had seen them fall behind to Mark Byrne’s ninth-minute penalty.

Jack Payne equalised before the break and with the scores still level, a shoot-out was on the cards.

Mowatt would have been down to take a spot-kick, but was glad to avoid the nerves from 12 yards by settling the game in normal time.

He said: “Last-minute goals are always good – we didn’t want it to go to penalties.

“I looked at the clock and it said ‘88’ so I thought we’d get one more chance and I’m glad it fell to me.

“Me, Jack and Jon (Obika) were taking a few penalties yesterday in training so I think if it came to it we would have taken them.

“But it’s a lot better to score and mean the boys don’t have to take a penalty.”

The visitors survived a scare when Josh Parker’s shot 18 minutes from time rebounded off the crossbar.

Television footage appeared to show the ball had crossed the line, but referee Charles Breakspear and his assistant waved play on.

Pep Clotet was pleased to see his side recover from a slow start and while the visitors may have had a slice of fortune with Parker’s shot, the U’s boss felt Ricardinho was fouled before he gave away the penalty.

He said: “We suffered a little bit in the beginning with their pressing and it took us a while to find the right solutions.

“But I think in the second half the team did very well.

“It was difficult for me to see both (incidents), but I have a feeling Ricardinho was fouled before.

“With their shot I couldn’t see it, but I never complain when they give a penalty against us – refereeing is a tough job and some decisions go for you, some against.”

Malachi Napa laid on the winner on his senior debut for United and the 18-year-old was buzzing to get a taste of first-team action.

“I won’t struggle to sleep, but I will be dreaming about it,” the teenager said.

“At the end I could have had a shot, but then I saw a player in a better position and it worked out for the best.”