Leyton Orient exit FA Cup after more defensive errors at League One outfit Gillingham
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FA Cup first round: Gillingham 2 Leyton Orient 1
Leyton Orient’s FA Cup run ended at Gillingham despite a classic game of two halves at the Priestfield Stadium.
Steve Davis’ team were second best during the first 45 and deserved trailed the League One side by one goal at the break.
But a formation change and the introduction of Alex Lawless helped Orient get back into the contest, though it wasn’t enough
Orient made three changes to the team which battled back to earn a 2-2 draw at Wrexham last weekend.
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James Brophy and Mark Ellis were both ineligible due to the terms of their loan agreements from Swindon Town and Carlisle United.
Dan Happe missed out as well due to an ankle problem, so Michael Clark replaced him in the back five.
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Joe Widdowson returned following a hamstring injury to line up on the left side of the three centre backs.
Myles Judd, meanwhile, came back into the team to feature at left wing-back with Jake Caprice on the opposite flank.
Gillingham included O’s fans favourite Gabriel Zakuani in their starting XI while former Orient loanees Steve Arnold, Luke O’Neill and Scott Wagstaff were among the home substitutes.
The last meeting between the two clubs occurred two-and-a-half-years ago when they were both in League One.
Six goals were shared at Brisbane Road on April 6 2015 with the game ending 3-3 in a forgettable campaign for O’s which ended with relegation.
A lot has happened since, but the most significant of all is the departure of ex-owner Francesco Becchetti.
Nigel Travis and Kent Teague now own the east London club and though results on the pitch are far from satisfactory, off it, Orient are in good hands.
Gillingham got the game underway and had the first effort in the sixth minute, but Tom Eaves head went way over following a Mark Byrne cross.
An early pattern developing was the direct running of home right-back Sean Clare and he embarked on another in the ninth minute.
Clare ended up getting clattered by Jamie Sendles-White, but found Josh Parker before the challenge and he saw a shot from 20-yards saved by Charlie Grainger.
The hosts pressured again three minutes later and Elliott List saw a volley blocked by Macauley Bonne before the resulting corner was cleared.
Gillingham came close again in the 16th minute when Parker went past Clark too easily and Eaves was picked out by Lee Martin.
Eaves checked back, which left Sendles-White for dead, but didn’t get enough power on his shot and Grainger got down to save.
Davis would have been concerned by the amount of joy Gills were getting down the O’s left side and in the 20th minute it proved crucial.
List cut inside from the right and crossed into the area where Parker was unmarked and headed home after beating Grainger to the ball.
It was another poor goal for Orient to concede with List afforded too much time and Parker able to run in unchallenged.
The O’s, to their credit, responded with David Mooney having an effort blocked before Caprice got forward well, but then saw his final delivery let him down.
Gillingham’s confidence had improved though now and they pushed for a second after making the breakthrough.
Parker should have made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute when a fine Martin free kick found him at the back post, but the first goalscorer headed wide.
Grainger picked up a booking two minutes later for bringing down List outside the area, but fortunately for O’s the free kick from Max Ehmer hit the wall.
Orient did threaten in the 38th minute when James Dayton won a free kick in a good position on left.
But Gills defended it well and actually managed to hit the visitors on the counter-attack through Martin.
Martin drove forward and played in Jake Hessenthaler, son of former O’s boss Andy, and he picked out List.
With List preparing to shoot from inside the area, Dayton slide in to make a superb challenge and keep the score at one.
It remained 1-0 until half time and Davis made a change at the break with Lawless making his return.
Clark made way and O’s switched to a 4-1-2-1-2 formation with Rommy Boco just behind David Mooney and Bonne.
It seemed to have an immediate impact with Mooney volleying a Dayton cross over before Bonne fired wide.
More good play by O’s saw them win a free kick in the 54th minute, but Dayton had two efforts blocked by opposition players.
Tomas Holy was tested for the first time two minutes later, but he comfortable saved Boco’s long-range strike.
Orient went closer just before the hour mark when Caprice whipped in a dangerous cross and Bonne diverted the ball with his knee onto the post.
It was the start of a brilliant spell for the visitors with Mooney coming close to a wonder strike in the 61st minute, but his dipping volley was tipped over.
From the resulting set-piece, Boco picked out Sendles-White, yet his header was parried away from goal by Holy.
With the Orient fans in fine voice, the away side pushed for an equaliser at a now tense Priestfield Stadium.
Zain Westbrooke tested Holy in the 65th minute as Davis’ team continued to look for a leveller in Kent.
Matt Harrold was introduced with 21 minutes left and Mooney dropped back into the position just behind the forward pair.
Orient appeared to be getting closer to an equaliser, but in the 74th minute they fell two goals behind.
A long ball from Connor Ogilvie saw Eaves and Sendles-White battle for the ball and the O’s man came off second best.
Sendles-White tried to bring Eaves down, but he shrugged him off and drilled into the net to make it 2-0.
The Orient defender picked up a booking after the goal and after a spirited second half display, O’s were headed out of the FA Cup.
Davis’ team were handed a lifeline in the 78th minute, however, when a Dayton free kick evaded everyone and found the corner.
Bonne was closest to it, but he pointed at Dayton after the ball found the net and O’s were all of a sudden back in it.
Tempers began to get the better of both teams soon after with Judd, Dayton and Harrold going into the book in quick succession.
Dayton’s goal had kept Orient in the game and heading into the final 10 minutes, the away fans felt they had a chance.
O’s managed to regain their composure though and get back on the attack with 17-year-old Ruel Sotiriou introduced for the final three minutes.
The visitors were given a boost at the end of the 90 when the fourth official raised his board to signal an additional five minutes.
Orient’s cause wasn’t helped when referee John Brooks sent Widdowson off for a second booking in the second minute of stoppage time.
Widdowson lost the flight of the ball under the floodlights and Gills substitute Conor Wilkinson ran in on goal.
He overran the ball anyway and Grainger claimed, but a slight pull by Widdowson was punished by the linesman and the former Dagenham & Redbridge defender was harshly sent off.
It was the last significant moment of note in the final exchanges as Orient exited the FA Cup in the first round.
After a much-improved second half display, it felt slightly harsh on the O’s, but they were punished for more poor defending.
If they are to be a Football League club again any time soon, they’ll need to get that right sooner rather than later.
Gillingham: Holy; Clare, Ehmer, Zakuani, Ogilvie (O’Neill 79); Byrne, Hessenthaler; List (Wagstaff 57), Martin, Parker; Eaves (Wilkinson 75).
Unused substitutes: Arnold, Mbo, Chapman, Cundle.
Leyton Orient: Grainger; Caprice, Clark (Lawless 46), Sendles-White, Widdowson, Judd; Boco (Harrold 69), Westbrooke (Sotiriou 87), Dayton; Mooney, Bonne.
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Pollock, Dalby, Clay.
Attendance: 3,659 (818 Leyton Orient supporters).