O’s get back on track thanks to Bonne’s timely brace
- Credit: Archant
National League: Leyton Orient 3 Maidstone United 0
Leyton Orient secured their first National League victory since January 1 with a 3-0 success at home to Maidstone United to remain top of the table.
Jordan Maguire-Drew’s first goal for the club in the 34th minute settled some nerves and Macauley Bonne wrapped the game up with an effort just after half time before he added a late penalty.
It was not all good news for Justin Edinburgh’s team, as Josh Koroma came off due to injury, but it was a much-needed win.
After losing to Salford City and Ebbsfleet United already this month, O’s got back on track and are now three points clear at the summit after results elsewhere went their way with the Ammies drawing and Solihull Moors losing.
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Edinburgh made three changes to the team which lost 2-0 away to Garry Hill’s in-form Ebbsfleet last weekend.
Captain Jobi McAnuff handed Orient a boost by returning to full fitness to lead the side out in E10 and Craig Clay was also able to start from the off.
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James Brophy and Alex Lawless dropped to the bench, while George Elokobi, who was transfer listed on Monday, missed out completely with Jamie Turley making his full debut.
In the opposite dugout to O’s head coach was Maidstone’s new Head of Football and ex-Orient defender John Still.
He was only appointed on Wednesday evening, so would have had little time to work with his new team, who were 23rd before kick-off.
A decent crowd was in attendance for what felt like a big match for the leaders after the loss in Kent last Saturday.
If Orient could return to winning ways and complete a double over Maidstone they would remain at the summit, but anything other than a victory and the likes of Solihull or Salford could take full advantage and knock them off top spot.
The hosts got proceedings underway and while they hoped for a quick start, the away side were set up in a compact 4-5-1 formation which restricted space for the O’s.
It meant after 10 minutes there had been no goalmouth action to note, although it was the Stones who were in control of possession.
Still’s arrival had clearly given Maidstone a boost, but nevertheless Orient needed to find a way to open them up.
They won a corner in the 17th minute, after quick thinking by Charlie Lee, but it came to nothing and the visitors nearly caught O’s out on the break.
Josh Taylor – who played on trial for Orient in the summer of 2017 – sent Michael Phillips through on goal, but he lacked conviction in his strike and Dean Brill saved with ease.
Bizarrely enough this seemed to kick the league leaders into gear and Koroma was involved for the first time in the 21st minute.
He received the ball in space, squared up George McLennan before he dribbled past him and delivered a dangerous low cross, but it evaded Bonne and was put behind for another corner.
O’s won a free kick minutes later in a good position, after Maguire-Drew was fouled, and he stepped up to take the set-piece, but could only hit the wall.
Unfortunately while Orient continued to try and work an opening, Maidstone stayed resolute and by the half an hour mark the home side had yet to test Ethan Ross.
In the 32nd minute he was called into action for the first time, but he comfortably held Bonne’s near post header following Sam Ling’s cross.
Edinburgh’s team were slowly going through the gears and the opener arrived with 34 on the clock.
Another Lee throw caused problems for Maidstone as Turley flicked it on and the ball landed perfectly for Maguire-Drew, who rifled in via a deflection off McLennan.
The January signing showed good technique to keep the effort down and it looked to be heading in before the Stones left-back got a touch.
Orient, with confidence flowing again, targeted a second and perhaps should have had a penalty in the 36th minute.
McAnuff raced past Meridith and was subsequently brought down and fell to the floor inside the area.
Referee Leigh Doughty blew his whistle for a foul, but incomprehensively gave O’s a free kick instead of a penalty.
Stones defender Meridith did receive a booking, but the set-piece came to nothing and Maidstone actually went on what seemed a dangerous counter-attack, which ended when Turley committed a professional foul.
He received a booking for his troubles and referee Doughty continued to leave Orient players, fans and staff dumfounded with more peculiar decisions.
Bonne earned a harsh caution following some dissent as the half came to a close and two minutes of stoppage time was added on.
In the first minute of additional time he should have made it 2-0 when Lee picked out the O’s top goalscorer with a wonderful pass, but with only Ross to beat, the number 9 blazed over to give a clear indication he is out of form at the minute.
The half time whistle followed almost straightaway after and while Orient held a one-goal advantage, it should have been more.
Maidstone got the second period underway, but just two minutes was played before a stoppage occurred.
Koroma looked to get beyond Rob Swaine and while trying to do so pulled up and he immediately felt the back of his hamstring.
Orient’s talented youngster was forced off, hobbling, and replaced by Matt Harrold in the 49th minute.
It was more bad news for O’s on the injury front with Josh Coulson, Marvin Ekpiteta and James Dayton already out for the next few weeks at least.
Three minutes later and Edinburgh’s team went close to a second as Bonne linked up with Maguire-Drew, but the goalscorer fired over under pressure.
The intent from the hosts was clear and in the 56th minute they did finally double their advantage in E10.
McAnuff’s corner picked out Lee and he headed back across goal to Bonne, who took his time to control before he drilled home from close range.
It was exactly what the forward needed after a poor miss at the end of the first 45 and it was his 18th of the campaign – after the ‘goal’ he scored vs Havant & Waterlooville in October recently went down as a Theo Lewis own-goal.
Orient were almost in full flow now and substitute Harrold should have added a third on the hour mark.
Bonne cleverly set the forward away, but Ross made a point-blank save from 10-yards and it stayed 2-0.
Maidstone’s Head of Football Still had seen enough and introduced ex-Dagenham & Redbridge forward Elliott Romain with 61 on the clock.
Romain got involved eight minutes later when he nipped in ahead of Joe Widdowson, but he dragged his effort well wide.
Edinburgh made a change with 73 on the clock and introduced Brophy for goalscorer Maguire-Drew, who had impressed on his full home debut.
Seconds later and the substitute tested Ross with a curling effort, but the away number one saved easily.
O’s were in second gear now and coasting as the match entered the final quarter of an hour in east London.
A stoppage did take place with 13 minutes left when a squirrel raced onto the pitch, but he soon ran back off and play could resume.
Harrold and Bonne then showed signs of a potential partnership when they combined in the 87th minute and the latter let fly from just inside the area, but it went wide.
Maidstone, to their credit, pushed for a consolation goal, but with Turley an imperious at the back alongside Happe, they kept a clean sheet intact as the clock hit 90.
Four minutes of stoppage time was added on at the end of the game and Orient added a touch of gloss to the score with almost the last kick of the game.
Substitute Brophy went down inside the area and Bonne stepped up to convert the spot-kick for his 19th of the campaign before the full time whistle was blown.
With Solihull losing and Salford only picking up a point, it ended up being a fantastic day for the O’s.
They are leaders by three points, with the best goal difference in the division, and take a break from league action now with Blyth Spartans visiting E10 next weekend in the FA Trophy.
Leyton Orient: Brill; Ling, Turley, Happe, Widdowson; Maguire-Drew (Brophy 73), Clay, Lee (Lawless 85), McAnuff (c); Koroma (Harrold 49), Bonne.
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Judd.
Maidstone United: Ross; Meridith, De Havilland (c), Swaine, McLennan; Taylor, Phillips (Romain 61), Walton, Powell, Wilshart; Robinson.
Unused substitutes: Paxman, Richards, Tajbakhsh, Edobor.
Attendance: 5,488 (449 Maidstone United supporters).