Koroma inspires leaders O’s to hard-fought win
- Credit: Archant
National League: Leyton Orient 2 Gateshead 0
An inspired performance by Josh Koroma helped keep Leyton Orient at the top of the National League table following a 2-0 home win over Gateshead this afternoon.
It was not easy for Justin Edinburgh’s team, who were not at their fluent best in the first 45, but in the end they secured another big three points which keeps them as leaders.
Koroma was the star of the show and the best player on the pitch before he opened the scoring in the 59th minute with a wonderful goal.
Top goalscorer Macauley Bonne then added some gloss to the score after the 90 was up with 17th effort of the campaign to cap another good day for the club.
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The O’s were forced to make one change to the team which had to settle for a goalless draw at home to Aldershot Town on Tuesday night.
Myles Judd missed out with a hamstring injury and so Sam Ling replaced him at right-back and made his first appearance since the 4-0 victory in E10 over Havant & Waterlooville on October 27.
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Under the watchful eye of England C goalkeeper coach Mick Payne, Ling and fellow youngsters Marvin Ekpiteta and Koroma would have been out to impress.
In front of them was a organised Gateshead team, though, who continue to catch the eye under ex-Newcastle United midfielder Steve Watson.
This was the sixth meeting between the clubs since October 2017 with the Heed on top with two wins, and then two draws and a solitary Orient success back in April at the International Stadium on the final day of the 2017/18 campaign.
Gateshead attacked from kick-off and midfielder Gregg Olley got a shot away inside two minutes, but Jobi McAnuff cleared even though it was heading wide anyway.
The same man threatened again five minutes later, but dragged well wide from range after a decent run.
Orient’s first attack of note occurred in the 10th minute with Joe Widdowson bursting forward and cutting the ball back.
It rolled for fellow full-back Ling on the right side, but the 21-year-old could only fire over from just outside the area.
Olley was in the thick of the action again with quarter of an hour played when he caught Dale Gorman by the centre circle with a high challenge.
The ball was bouncing and that probably convinced referee Carl Brook to only hand out a yellow card to the Heed midfielder.
From the resulting McAnuff free kick, the ball dropped to Josh Koroma and he tried his luck, but his curling effort was headed clear by Fraser Kerr.
Two minutes later and Gateshead got on the front foot again, yet Luke Molyneux’s weak shot was easy for Brill and it remained goalless as we approached the midway point of the first half.
Signs of discontent occurred soon after with Orient supporters unhappy with the start made by the leaders.
Gateshead had made the better start, but talented youngster Koroma helped change the course of the clash somewhat with a fine run.
He controlled Clay’s loose pass well and then embarked on a dribble which saw him beat two opponents before winning a corner.
James Dayton’s produced a wicked delivery and somehow Heed defender Jon Mellish smashed over his own crossbar from four-yards.
Koroma was looking in the mood now and in the 28th minute he went close again as he cut inside and smashed an effort over by a few inches.
It would have been another terrific goal to add to the highlights reel for the academy graduate, but while he was getting into the game, Orient were still looking sluggish.
Heed captain Scott Barrow got forward well on two occasions and yet fortunately for O’s both his shots from the left side failed to find the target.
Watson’s Gateshead were continuing to frustrate the hosts and they were restricted to long range efforts with Dayton dragging well wide in the 39th minute.
The influential Koroma was still looking top drawer and he ghosted past Barrow with ease in the 42nd minute and after dribbling into the area, Orient had penalty appeals waved away.
Ex-Newcastle United defender Mike Williamson and Mellish were in close proximity and Koroma claimed one of them had handled the ball, but only a corner was awarded and yet that came to nothing.
Orient’s number 19 had been the best player on the pitch and he nearly crowned a fine first 45 for him personally with a goal on the stroke of half time.
Koroma collected McAnuff’s pass, after a superb driving run by the captain, and made a yard of space before letting fly from 30-yards.
Gateshead goalkeeper Aynsley Pears was beaten, but the shot struck the crossbar and hit the Heed custodian before he gathered the loose ball.
It was ever so close for Koroma and after a minute of stoppage time went by with little to note, it ended goalless at the interval.
No doubt Edinburgh’s half-time team talk would have centred round O’s having a lot more urgency in every department.
The Orient players seemed to get the message as they won four corners in a row at the start of the second period.
Unfortunately none of them could create a genuine chance of note as it stayed level and the expectant home crowd became more restless.
Orient needed a moment of quality to make the breakthrough it seemed and with 59 on the clock they got it and who else but Koroma.
The England C international once again received the ball and created more space for himself with a dummy, which left the one-time Premier League defender Williamson on the floor.
After getting past one Gateshead centre back, Koroma dribbled past another before he curled into the top corner for his seventh goal of the campaign.
It was a special strike, but considering the quality of some of his other goals this term, probably not even in his top-three!
The Orient fans were in fine voice now and singing ‘he’s one of our own’ to Koroma and the other leading marksman in the team nearly made it 2-0 with 22 minutes left in east London.
A poor back pass by Barrow saw Bonne get in, but with the angle tight he could only shoot wide of Gateshead’s goal.
Then a lengthy stoppage occurred which eventually resulted in Alex Lawless coming on for Ling, who was only half fit after a recent injury.
Clay went to right-back, but only after Widdowson had to leave the pitch to get some tape put on his boot.
James Brophy was summoned moments later and replaced Gorman, in a move which saw McAnuff move into the middle of the pitch.
Several stoppages occurred after before Gateshead threatened in the 77th minute when Barrow crossed in for substitute Steven Rigg, but his header was well held by Brill and it remained 1-0.
Five minutes later and the Heed went even closer to levelling the scores when another substitute JJ O’Donnell chipped towards Tom White and his low drive skidded off the surface and flew just wide.
After that narrow escape, Orient nearly put the game to bed when Bonne and Koroma test Pears with shots from outside the area in the 84th minute.
Two minutes later and O’s top goalscorer went even closest as Clay’s driving run from right-back found Bonne and his chipped effort was pushed onto the crossbar by Gateshead’s goalkeeper.
Edinburgh made his final change afterwards with James Alabi taking the place of right winger Dayton and the substitute almost had an immediate impact.
Alabi played a perfect slide pass to Brophy on the stroke of the 90, but the fellow substitute took a poor touch and it allowed Kerr to slide in and block his shot behind for a corner.
Just as the set-piece was taken, the fourth official signalled for six minutes of stoppage time and in the final moments there was drama in E10.
Kerr’s let fly from 25-yards and his effort took a deflection and went wide which saw Gateshead win a last-gasp corner.
Goalkeeper Pears went up for it, but Olley’s cross was headed wide by Armstrong with Widdowson doing just about enough to put the Gateshead forward off.
It seemed that would be the last change of the match, but substitute Alabi had other ideas and in the sixth minute of stoppage time he helped O’s wrap the game up.
He chased a lost cause and forced Barrow into a slack back pass, which Alabi was able to race onto and tee up Bonne for a simple tap-in.
The points were secured, Bonne had his 17th goal of the campaign and yet all of the celebrations centred round Alabi, who had done brilliantly for the goal.
Before the full time whistle occurred there was still time for Olley to pick up a red card for a second yellow after he fouled Alabi cynically.
After the sending off the game came to a close and Orient fans were able to rejoice about their team still being top of the league.
The National League season has now reached the halfway mark and O’s are first with this their 14th victory of the season.
Orient are at Boreham Wood on December 8 where they will look to extend their lead over Salford City, who remain second and only a point behind Edinburgh’s men after a victory over Havant this afternoon.
Leyton Orient: Brill; Ling (Lawless 69), Coulson, Ekpiteta, Widdowson; Dayton (Alabi 86), Clay, Gorman (Brophy 75), McAnuff (c); Koroma, Bonne.
Unused substitutes: Janata, Happe.
Gateshead: Pears; Tinkler, Kerr, Williamson, Mellish (O’Donnell 77), Barrow ©; Molyneux (Rigg 64), White, Olley; Armstrong, Boden.
Unused substitutes: Foden, Hunter, Devitt.
Attendance: 4,636 (51 Gateshead supporters).