Oxford United character hailed as they do what Portsmouth couldn't do on key day in play-off race | Gilllingham boss admits hopes are over
Goal hero Sam Long hailed Oxford United’s character as they produced a late surge to beat Gillingham and knock Pompey out of the play-off places.
The U’s found themselves trailing the Gills 2-0 with 18 minutes of the Kassam Stadium game remaining, following goals from Vadaine Oliver and Robbie Cundy.
But unlike the Blues, who went down to a 1-0 defeat at MK Dons earlier on Saturday, Karl Robinson’s side threw the kitchen sink at it and managed to rectify the situation to keep the momentum they’ve been building towards the end of the season going.
Sam Winnall got them back into the game with a 74th-minute effort, before right-back Long popped up on 84 and 90+3 minutes to seal a dramatic victory.
The result forced Gillingham boss Steve Evans to admit his side’s play-off hopes were now finished.
For Oxford, though, it saw them move into the top six for the first time this season – and at the Blues’ expense.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail after the final whistle, a delighted Long said: ‘Everyone showed so much character to get back in the game.
‘I’m so pleased for everyone, getting that result is massive.
‘The character that we showed coming back from 2-0 down is incredible.
‘We’ve thrown the kitchen sink at them at the end and luckily it’s fallen to me twice. I’ve done well to put it in the net.
‘I said three games ago we had seven cup finals left and now we’ve got four.’
Oxford sit sixth on 65 points from their 42 games played.
They moved above Pompey on goal difference, but Danny Cowley’s side do have a game in hand.
Eleventh-placed Gillingham sit six points further back.
It’s still mathematically possible for them to claim a play-off place, but manager Evans said his side’s race had been run.
He told the Kent Messenger: ‘We are done now, we’re done, we accept it.
‘I have said it before but we are done.
‘We have been trying to resurrect it and keep it going and when big moments have come we have not dealt with them.
‘A win would have put us three points off it, four to go including a game at (Peterborough’s) London Road.
‘Even allowing for that not going to plan then we had margin for error with games we fancied if we were in the mix.
‘We are not in the mix anymore, we are done, we will go and try and represent the club with some real pride on Tuesday and try and take on a team that are absolutely outstanding.’