Gillingham extended their unbeaten run to five games with a 1-0 win over Leyton Orient to book a place in the Southern Area Finals of the JPTJohn Egan’s third goal in just two games booked Gillingham their place in the Southern Area Finals of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy following a 1-0 win over Leyton Orient at Priestfield on Saturday.
The centre-back buried a 79th minute header beyond Adam Legzdins following Michael Doughty’s corner to extend the club’s winning run to five matches.
Orient threw everything they had in the last 10 minutes to try and force penalties; however Stuart Nelson wasn’t to be beaten and claimed a deserved clean sheet.
Peter Taylor made two changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Port Vale last time out. Bradley Dack and Luke Norris came in for Gavin Hoyte and Cody McDonald respectively, both of whom were among the substitutes with Glen Morris, Jermaine McGlashan and Josh Pritchard for company.
Orient were the brighter team in the opening minutes and had an early free kick cleared by the Gills defence before a Leon Legge header on the quarter hour mark was put over the bar.
The visitors were given another opportunity from a set piece on 20 minutes, Josh Wright struck it well and Stuart Nelson had to be alert as the ball took a deflection off the wall before the Gills number one made a good stop.
A 25 yard effort from Doughty was blocked before Shane Lowry tried his luck from distance but placed his shot over.
With five minutes to go until the break Norris was brilliantly denied by Lowry when a cross to the back post was won by Legge, the striker struck it well with just the keeper to beat but the defender threw his body at it and got a good enough connection to clear the danger.
Dickenson was thwarted by Legzdins when the keeper did enough to put the winger off as he attempted to round the keeper, before Nelson made a top class save at the other end.
Plasmati latched on to a Jobi McAnuff free kick, the striker was almost adamant he had scored but Nelson was at full stretch to tip the effort over for a corner kick which was well defended.
Lowry had the final opportunity of the half when his effort following Sawyer’s cross went wide.
An early header from Bradley Pritchard following the re-start went just wide of the post before a mix up at the back nearly allowed Dickenson a shot at goal; however his wiser option to pass to Dack saw the ball fall just short of his team-mate and the chance went begging.
On 58 minutes Norris nearly produced a spectacular opening goal. A cross from Hessenthaler on the right was aimed towards the striker, who had initially regained possession inside his own half, and he unleashed a brilliant effort on the volley 18 yards out which went inches wide of the far post.
Ten minutes later and Pritchard should have put Orient ahead – Sawyer produced a great cross on the volley from a wide position on the left wing, the midfielder attacked the ball at the far post and put an effort narrowly wide of the post.
Lowry’s header went wide from McAnuff’s corner before Taylor introduced two new bodies with Cody McDonald and Jermaine McGlashan replacing Luke Norris and Doug Loft respectively.
Their introduction seemed to inject more of a spark as the clock began to tick down and on 79 minutes the deadlock was finally broken. Doughty delivered a great corner kick; the centre back was up again and buried his header past Adam Legzdins for his third goal in just two games.
Egan, later voted `Man of the Match` made no mistake from a little over six yards and gave Orient a lot to do in the closing stages.
Moments later though and it was very nearly 1-1, Vincelot struck a shot from distance and with Nelson at full stretch it just glanced the top of the netting and went out for a goal kick.
On 86 minutes Orient were left scratching their heads when a low ball from sub Shaun Batt took a touch inside the box and somehow Pritchard couldn’t convert from just a yard out with an empty net to aim for.
With just stoppage time left to play Orient threw the kitchen sink to try and force a penalty shootout. Omozusi’s shot from distance being their only real chance with Gillingham seeing the game out to book an Area Final against either Coventry or Bristol City.
Gills: Nelson, Legge, Ehmer, Egan, Hessenthaler, Chicksen, Loft (McGlashan 73), Doughty, Dack, Dickenson, Norris (McDonald 73).
Unused subs: G Morris, Hoyte, Pritchard
Orient: Legzdins, Omozusi, Sawyer, Vincelot, Cuthbert, Mooney, McAnuff (Cox 79), Lowry, Wright, Pritchard (Kashket 89), Plasmati (Batt 72).
Unused subs: Kashket, Grainger, Baudry
Attendance: 3103 (620 Orient)
Referee: Mr T Kettle