Orient find Wright stuff again
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO
Sky Bet League One: Leyton Orient 3 Gillingham 3
Josh Wright’s 85th-minute strike earned Leyton Orient a crucial point in their battle against relegation from League One as they came from two goals down in a six-goal thriller at Brisbane Road.
Lloyd James fired Fabio Liverani’s men in front from the penalty spot, on his first start in six months, but Jermaine McGlashan levelled and Cody McDonald’s brace turned the match on its head.
Darius Henderson hit back midway through the second half, though, to give O’s hope and as chances continued to come at both ends, Wright converted the vital one for the home side, days after his first goal for the club had sealed victory at Coventry, to keep them just outside the drop zone on goal difference.
Liverani made five changes to his starting line-up from the win at Coventry, with Andrea Dossena, Ryan Hedges, Dean Cox, Henderson and James brought into the side.
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And the home side went close in the very first minute as Cox forced a good save from former O’s keeper Glenn Morris with a header from a corner.
Liverani’s men had a let-off moments later, though, as Dossena conceded possession to McGlashan, who rounded Alex Cisak but fired wide.
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Bradley Dack flicked a header wide of the post for the visitors, before Cox crossed for Chris Dagnall to nod past the upright.
But after a lively start, play settled down on a sunny afternoon, although it remained wide open at both ends.
Cisak needed treatment after a challenge from McDonald, before Hedges sent a pass just beyond David Mooney and Cox had a shot deflected into the arms of Morris.
And the deadlock was broken on the half-hour mark when Hedges was brought down just inside the box on the right by Max Ehmer and James, making his first start since September 27 when he suffered a broken leg, smashed the spot-kick into the top right corner to make it a fairytale return.
Orient’s joy was shortlived, though, as Gills got back on terms five minutes later when a deep corner was played back for McGlashan to tap home from close range.
And the visitors took the lead two minutes before the break when McDonald’s header managed to beat Cisak inside the post.
Gills went for the kill after the restart, forcing three good chances in quick succession, but the home side held on before Dossena sent a 25-yard free kick to the far post where Mooney saw his effort turned behind.
Dack curled a shot over for Gills on 54 minutes, before Mooney made way for Henderson.
But O’s fell 3-1 down when Shane Lowry dragged Luke Norris down in the box and McDonald sent his spot-kick straight down the middle.
The home side rallied with Welsh under-21 international Hedges seeing a fine strike pushed out by Morris, before making way for Jobi McAnuff.
And O’s cut the gap to one midway through the second half when Dagnall turned Leon Legge on the edge of the box and played in Henderson, who fired home at the second time of asking.
Dagnall almost played in Cox three minutes later, but O’s had a let-off when Dack’s 20-yard shot clipped a post.
The home side had a good chance to grab a leveller on 78 minutes, though, when Dagnall nodded the ball back across the six-yard box for Henderson, but he couldn’t direct his own header goalwards.
And it needed an excellent save from Cisak to keep out Norris before Dagnall poked just wide at the end of a fine move as play continued to swing from end to end.
Cisak made another double save to deny Norris and McDonald, but McAnuff then hit a post before Wright deservedly got O’s back on terms five minutes from time, slotting home Dagnall’s pass at the end of another fine move.
Scott Cuthbert, wearing a protective mask after picking up a facial injury late in the game at Coventry, made a stunning block to deny Dack an instant reply before Nathan Clarke came on for Dossena for the closing stages.
And O’s held on for a share of the spoils as Aaron Morris sent a shot wide in the fourth minute of stoppage time for Gills.
Leyton Orient; Cisak, Cuthbert, Baudry, Lowry, Dossena (Clarke 88), Hedges (McAnuff 60), Wright, James, Cox, Dagnall, Mooney (Henderson 55).
Unused subs: O’Neill, Simpson, Woods, Taylor.
Referee: Mark Haywood.
Attendance: 6,634 (including 1,191 Gillingham fans).