Ten man Gills come from behind to seal a magnificent 3-2 win against Leyton Orient in thrilling match at MEMS Priestfield Stadium
Cody McDonald’s last gasp winner sealed a 3-2 victory for 10 man Gillingham in a thrilling encounter against Leyton Orient at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.
Leon Legge had bagged a brace after the interval following Gianvito Plasmati’s 48th minute penalty, but when Michael Doughty was sent off for a second bookable offence with 14 minutes to play the Gills had to dig deep.
David Mooney came off the bench to score in the 92nd minute to make the score 2-2, but the hosts refused to give up and fellow sub McDonald smashed home a late Jake Hessenthaler free kick to give Peter Taylor’s side an incredible win.
The Manager made four changes to the side that beat Crawley 2-1 midweek with new signing Adam Chicksen slotting in at left back.
Gavin Hoyte returned at right back with Matt Fish dropping to the bench. Danny Kedwell and Jermaine McGlashan were both recalled with Antonio German, Luke Norris and the suspended Joe Martin missing out.
Orient started the better but the hosts had a brilliant chance to open the scoring when Brennan Dickenson was brought down on the left hand side of the box.
The referee didn’t hesitate in pointing to the spot, but Danny Kedwell chose placement over power and Adam Legzdins guessed correctly to gather the spot kick low to his left.
With the weather conditions proving indifferent during the opening quarter of an hour it made things a tad unpredictable, however Gills continued to push forward with Doughty’s 20 yard shot clearing the bar prior to Loft’s header which was comfortably caught by the goalkeeper.
The hosts enjoyed the majority of possession but Orient’s defensive structure proved difficult to break down and the Gills had to be patient in their build up play to create some clear chances.
As a result the first half did have some quiet spells; however Stuart Nelson was called upon on 34 minutes to claim an effort from Dean Cox who attempted to place an effort in the bottom corner.
The visitors seemed to take encouragement from that, a shot from Simpson was deflected wide before a sliding effort from Cox was put into the side netting.
There were no changes at the break in terms of substitutions but the score line changed three minutes after the interval.
Former Gills midfielder Josh Wright was tripped inside the box and Darren Deadman again didn’t hesitate in awarding the spot kick.
Plasmati stepped up and wrong footed Nelson with the penalty nestling in the bottom right hand corner.
However Orient’s celebrations would only last seven minutes with Gills grabbing an equaliser on 55 minutes.
Legge, who scored in the club’s recent draw with Crawley, was at it again when he hooked on to a cross from Hessenthaler and guided a thundering header beyond Legzdins and into the roof of the net.
Priestfield erupted immediately and the Gills stepped up the tempo to try and gain the advantage. McDonald, on for Kedwell, struck the post within a minute of coming on before nearly conceding at the other end when a host of bodies inside the Gillingham box attempted to find the net, only for the defence to stand firm and eventually clear the danger.
Orient would pay for their missed opportunity when on 74 minutes the hosts took the lead. Hessenthaler again whipped in another fantastic delivery to the back post from a free kick, the centre back was up highest and directed his header into the bottom corner.
The defender reeled away in celebration with the Rainham End on their feet as the hosts came from behind to boss proceedings.
However, just a few minutes later, the match took another twist when Doughty was sent off.
Gills had conceded a throw and Doughty picked the ball up and threw it a yard wide of the player looking to take it; the referee deemed he had done it on purpose and brandished his second yellow.
Gills reverted to a 4-4-1 formation and it was backs to the wall for the remainder of the half. Cox had an effort saved by Nelson before Wright’s low effort missed the target.
Bradley Pritchard then put in a great delivery for Chris Dagnall who headed a yard over the crossbar. By this time five minutes of additional time had been signalled, and Nelson made a brilliant save from close range to deny an equalizer, but Orient did eventually find a way through.
Scott Cuthbert produced a brilliant cross right in the heart of the six yard box and Dagnall got between his markers to guide a strong header past the keeper.
The visiting fans were convinced that the substitute had clinched a point, but there was to be more drama in the dying seconds.
Another delivery from Hessenthaler, this time from a corner was aimed towards Legge at the back post. Dickenson appeared to get a touch but it was McDonald who, in typical predatory fashion, was in the right place in the right time to smash it past Legzdins and into the net.
The home dugout, and indeed the supporters, were sent into meltdown with the referee blowing his whistle shortly after to bring to an end a sensational second half with Gillingham snatching all three points against the odds to climb out of the relegation places.
Gills: Nelson, Hoyte, Egan, Legge, Chicksen, Loft, Hessenthaler, Doughty, Dickenson, McGlashan (Dack 62), Kedwell (McDonald 62).
Unused subs: G Morris, Fish, Linganzi, German, Norris.
Orient: Legzdins, Vincelot, Cuthbert, Cox, Lowry (Baudry 69), Clarke, Wright, Pritchard, Simpson (Mooney 39), Plasmati (Dagnall 61), Dossena.
Unused subs: Woods, Omozusi, Sawyer, Batt.
Referee: Mr D Deadman