Joe Egan’s second half header was enough to send Gillingham through to the Johnstone Paint Trophy Area Final against either Bristol City or Coventry. Egan headed home a corner 11 minutes from time to send Orient to defeat for the second time in three weeks at Priestfield.
Gillingham made two changes from their home draw with Port Vale last weekend with Bradley Dack and Luke Norris replacing Cody McDonald and Gavin Hoyte. Orient looking to avenge their league defeat at Priestfield three weeks ago made five changes from their 3-1 away loss at Bradford last week. Three were enforced with Andrea Dossena injured, Jack Price returning to Wolves after being recalled and Chris Dagnall suspended while Nathan Clarke and Dean Cox sat out. Romain Vincelot, Gary Sawyer, Jobi McAnuff, David Mooney and Shane Lowry all came in for the O’s.
In a scrappy opening period, Orient had the majority of possession but did little with the ball with only a David Mooney half chance of note. Although Gillingham had little of the ball they were looking to get in behind the O’s backline with Adam Legzdins looking slightly shakey in goal after his mistake last week. Orient’s first real chance came when Gary Sawyer crossed for the unmarked David Mooney but the Irishman saw his header go straight into the arms of Stuart Nelson. Both sides were finding it difficult to create opportunities from open play with the best opening coming from set pieces. Shane Lowry had two free kicks which went wide of the mark for the away side while Legzdins remained untroubled.
Orient continued to play with the ball but the tempo and pace was slow with Gillingham getting back into their shape. Gillingham were playing 3-5-2 with Bradley Dack and Doug Loft looking to support the front two where possible for the home side. With David Mooney and Ginavito Plasmati in attack for the O’s, there wasn’t much movement from the two highlighting the absence of both Jay Simpson and Chris Dagnall’s work rate. Orient’s play continued to be slow and lethargic with little options for the man in possession when in the attacking third but they could have taken the lead two minutes before the break. Jobi McAnuff’s free kick was flicked towards goal by David Mooney but Stuart Nelson pulled off a fine save to keep the scores level.
The second half started with a higher tempo with both teams looking to reach the area final where they had the opportunity to get to Wembley. Although the higher tempo, chances were at a premium with Michael Doughty volleying over a cross for the Gills. Bradley Pricthard was inches away of putting Orient ahead after knocking a driven Gary Sawyer cross just wide at the far post. After all the problems three weeks ago defending set pieces it was Orient who looked the more threatening with Plasmati heading wide from a McAnuff corner. With 20 minutes remaining both teams looked to take the initiative with Shaun Batt replacing Plasmati for Orient and Cody McDonald and Jermaine McGlashan coming on in place of Luke Norris and Doug Loft.
It was the Gill’s substitutes who nearly gave them the lead with 11 minutes left, McGlashan made some space down the left and crossed for McDonald but a brilliant last ditch block from Elliot Omozusi kept the scores level. However from the resulting corner Joe Egan rose highest for the Gills, powering home to put them ahead. Mauro Milanese talked pre match about Orient marking tighter from set pieces after conceding all three goals in their defeat three weeks ago. Well, problems remain in defense for Orient with lessons not being learnt. Dean Cox was thrown straight into the action and went agonizingly close for the O’s with a dipping volley which went just over.
Gillingham reverted to a 4-4-2 after the goal looking to maintain their lead but could have conceding if Shaun Batt’s cross was turned in at the back post but the chance went begging for the O’s. The remaining minutes were played out by Gillingham as they advanced to the area final at the hands of Orient.
There remain big problems at Orient, injuries have been a problem and remain but Gillingham had one shot on target and still won the game. Everybody knows that it only takes one to win a game and yet again it came from a set piece. After the laughable events with Russell Slade at the start of the season and the pressure on him at the start. Mauro hasn’t done much better, won 2 games in 8 which one was against a side from League 2 and one against the bottom side in the division. Although the side maybe playing slightly better football, he doesn’t fill you with confidence either in attack or defense. Orient look their most threatening in games when the ball is quick, one two touch cutting open teams. The problem remains no pace in the team apart from Batt which means the play is very slow, teams set their shape and Orient have no way of breaking down a resolute defense. Orient need stability but how long will it take for that to happen, either way results and performances need to improve otherwise Orient will be dragged even further into the relegation scrap.