Cody McDonald’s volley deep into stoppage time moved Gilingham clear of the relegation zone. Gianvito Plasmati opened scoring from the spot early in the second half after Danny Kedwell’s first half spot kick was saved. Leon Legge popped up with two nearly identical headers to put the home side 2-1 ahead before Michael Doughty was sent off for two yellows. Chris Dagnall looked to have rescued a point for the O’s in stoppage time but McDonald popped up with the winner moving the Gills to 19th while the O’s fall to 21st.
Both sides reached the semi finals of the JPT in midweek and it was announced prior to kick off that they would meet each other. The home side made three changes from their defeat at home to Bristol City last week with Joe Martin, Cody McDonald and Kortney Hause dropping out for new signing Adam Chicksen, Jermaine McGlashan and Brennan Dickenson. Orient welcomed back Romain Vincelot, Gianvito Plasmati from injury to the starting 11 while Andrea Dossena made his debut at left back.
Gillingham started the better, blowing an opportunity from the spot after it appeared Scott Cuthbert took out Brennan Dickensen in the box. Danny Kedwell stepped up but had his penalty saved by Adam Legizins in the Orient goal. Gillingham 4-3-3 formation was giving the away side problems as they switched between 4-4-2 and 3-4-1-2. The Gills extra man in midfield was given them more options in possession as they had the best of the opening exchanges. Dickensen volleyed over the bar for the only real shot of note after the penalty. With Orient changing systems, Gillingham looked to exploit the spaces that were left through McGlashan and Dickensen on the break.
The away side began to grow into the game with Cox floating in and out of the space behind the strikers. The Gills tempo was higher than the O’s which meant the away side were finding it hard to create opportunities. Orient carved through the Gills defense in the only bit of one touch passing in the first half but the final ball to Vincelot was slightly too far in front of the returning midfielder. Orient welcomed back David Mooney who has been unavailable through injury since September for Jay Simpson who looked to have had a re-occurrence of the injury forcing him off on Tuesday. With Mooney’s introduction the O’s began to make chances and keep possession, Cox twice went close after link up play with Mooney but the game remained goalless at the break.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first with an early penalty this time for the away side. Pricthard fed Wright who seemed to get clipped by Joe Egan giving the referee the opportunity to point to the spot. Plasmati stepped up, sending Nelson the wrong way he put the O’s 1-0 ahead. Gillignham were straight on the front foot after the goal looking for an early response as they had picked up no wins after falling behind. After Pritchard picked up a yellow for dissent, the ball was pumped into the Orient box, Leon Legge rose above Nathan Clarke to loop his header home for the equaliser. The home side were still looking dangerous on the break with Kedwell lashing over from Doug Loft’s cross.
Both teams made changes on the hour mark with Dagnall replacing Plasmati with the Scottish striker very unlucky to miss out from the start after assisting both goals on Tuesday. Danny Kedwell was replaced by Cody McDonald much to the annoyance of the home fans who didn’t like Peter Taylor’s decision. McDonald nearly had impact after creating a pocket of space but his snap shot went wide of the post. Dossena was an outlet down the left for the O’s and was providing crosses for the front two of Mooney and Dagnall but couldn’t put the O’s in front. Neither Cuthbert or Vincelot could prod the ball home after a goal line scramble from a corner.
The Gills took the lead from a carbon copy of their first, a free kick into the box with Leon Legge glancing his header past Legizins. Orient now had to go for it as their lead had evaporated, they had a man advantage for the last 12 minutes after Michael Doughty was sent off for two yellows. After picking up a yellow in the first half for a late challenge, he threw the ball away giving the ref no option but to sent of the Gills left back. Orient pressed for the equalizer but despite the man advantage continued with the slow build up play. Dagnall twice went close with Nelson saving shots straight at him.
The away side thought they had grabbed a point after Chris Dagnall rose to head home from a Scott Cuthbert’s cross. But after conceding two goals from set pieces already, Gillingham struck deep into added time to snatch the win. McDonald volleyed home from a right wing corner to give the home side their first win in the league since September. In a week where Mauro Milanese called the next 2 games as imperative to the rest of the season, Orient have got off to the worst start.
In a game of few chances the O’s threw away points from 3 set pieces, criminal in modern day football. The last four goals the O’s have conceded have come from have been from set pieces, Orient’s passing was better but lacked tempo and urgency with the ball. Orient have struggled all season to break down teams with Milanese talking pre match about moving the ball side to side and switching play. But to make this work the ball needs to be quick to create the space for Dossena and Cuthbert wide. Orient’s best play on Tuesday came from quick one/two touch play but there were limited glimpses against Gillingham. We are only in November but next week’s home match to Crewe seems as much win if Orient’s season is to kick start. Welcoming back Mooney and Vincelot helps the quality in the team improve but with Simpson and Lowry potentially missing the next games it doesn’t really help the situation.