Gills in the pot for second round draw.
Gillingham edged past National League outfit Leyton Orient in the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 victory to claim back-to-back wins and secure their passage into the second round at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Caretaker Manager Steve Lovell named a strong starting XI for the cup fixture, largely sticking with the side that beat promotion-chasing Rotherham last weekend. Bradley Garmston suffered a minor muscle tweak in the first half at the New York Stadium and was replaced at left back by Connor Ogilvie, while Mark Byrne came in for Billy Bingham in the centre of the Gills’ midfield.
Josh Parker gave Gillingham a half-time lead, heading in a superb cross from Elliott List as the hosts dominated the first period and deserved to be further ahead. However, Orient fought back in the second half despite Tom Eaves doubling the hosts lead and grabbed a goal back through James Dayton leading to a tense finale.
However, Gillingham managed to see out time with Joe Widdowson, the O’s centre-back, seeing red for a second yellow after tugging back Conor Wilkinson in injury time.
The Gills started the stronger of the two teams with neat play between Ogilvie and Jake Hessenthaler nearly getting the latter in on the by-line, before a quickly taken free-kick was headed over by Eaves after List did well to win a free-kick on the right flank.
The home side’s first shot on target came from Parker after a brilliant run from Sean Clare. The right back beat three Orient defenders with his pace and trickery before laying the ball in Parker’s path but his first-time left-foot shot was straight at the O’s keeper.
List was giving the O’s nightmares down the right hand side, and he won another free-kick after a powerful run was halted unfairly by Judd but the resulting set piece was cleared by the away team.
The National League outfit then nearly had their own opportunity to take the lead as a ball over the top set Bonne free but Tomas Holy did exceptionally well to get off his line quickly and punt the ball away from danger.
The Gills had their own opening after 15 minutes as Parker broke through the Orient defence and fed Lee Martin who in turn found Eaves, but the big striker could only fire at the keeper after cutting back inside his man.
Finally, Gillingham made a deserved breakthrough when JOSH PARKER headed the hosts in front after 20 minutes. List did brilliantly to block the wing backs clearance before collecting the ball and, at the second time of asking, deliver a teasing cross that Parker nodded into the net.
The home side were enjoying themselves and nearly added to their lead when they countered on Orient but nobody could get themselves on the end of Eaves’ drilled effort across goal. The Gills immediately got in again down the right, this time through Parker, but his lofted cross just evaded Martin who was waiting at the far post to head home.
Martin, who was at the centre of all Gillingham’s attacks, then fed List down the right flank but his cross-come-shot was wide of goal and none of the onrushing attackers were able to get a finishing touch to double the advantage.
The pressure from the Gills was relentless as they carved Orient up at will. Martin drew a foul from Judd down the right before whipping a great cross into the box that beat the keeper for height but Parker got underneath the ball and his effort flew over the bar and into the empty Town End.
A superb ball from Hessenthaler over the top led to a foot-race between List and the opposing keeper; the speedy winger got to the ball first and knocked it past the keeper who brought List down, earning the Gills a free-kick right on the edge of the area and a yellow for the keeper despite claims from the home fans. Martin touched the ball to Max Ehmer who blasted towards goal but his strike was deflected by the ball and hacked clear.
Leyton Orient did make a rare foray forward to win a free-kick on the left side of the box and the dangerous cross was headed away well by Ehmer, clearing his lines at the first time of asking.
The Gills then looked to break clear with a numbers advantage; the ball eventually found Hessenthaler on the apex of the box who fed List who, as he prepared to shoot, was tackled from behind by an Orient defender but the referee waved away claims of a penalty to the confusion of pretty much all in the stadium.
The game ticked towards the half-time mark with neither side able to trouble the opponent’s goal and the Gills headed into the break disappointed not to lead by more than a single goal.
H/T: 1 – 0
Orient made a tactical change at the break as a substitution allowed them to move to a 4-4-2 formation and the move nearly paid dividends as a cross in from the left found Mooney but his volleyed effort cleared the bar.
The visitors continued to look dangerous with Bonne firing wide on the turn before Holy did well to claim a good cross into the box. Orient then won a free-kick on the edge of the area but the Gills wall did its job and stood firm to block both the initial attempt and the follow-up shot from Dayton.
A speculative effort from Jake Caprice was then comfortably gathered by Holy as Orient began to build up a head of steam. Bonne was the next to go close as he held off Ehmer to prod a cross towards goal however his effort hit the base of the post and fell wide.
Holy then had to be at his best to deny Mooney as Ehmer headed a long ball forward away from goal but the veteran striker teed himself up and volleyed towards goal but the Czech acrobatically flung himself back towards goal to tip over.
From the resulting corner, Holy pulled off a second stunning save within the minute, clawing out a powerful header from the unmarked Sendles-White. The visitors continued to pile the pressure on the Gills with Westbrooke firing towards goal but Holy was equal to his effort and tipped the ball over.
Gillingham’s defence was being tested and Ehmer had to be at his best to get a block in on Bonne as the striker looked to pull the ball back from the goal-line.
Despite the dominance of the visitors, the Gills finally did double their lead through TOM EAVES. As the hosts soaked up the pressure, a long ball from Ogilvie set Eaves away; the big striker held off the challenge of the defender to drill home past the keeper and into the net.
Orient responded immediately as Dayton whipped a free-kick from wide on the left into the box which beat everybody and nestled in the bottom corner of the net to get the visitors right back into the match.
The game was being played at fever pitch with both sides piling into tackles. One forceful block on Wagstaff led to three players entering the book as both teams ‘exchanged words’ on the half way line.
The Gills nearly put the game to bed as a free-kick from deep found Ehmer unmarked at the back post however his volley was blocked on the line by a combination of keeper and defender.
Orient were reduced to ten men in injury time after superb play from substitute Conor Wilkinson. He won a long ball forward before chasing on to his own flick on but was cynically pulled back by Widdowson who received a second yellow. From the resulting free-kick, Martin curled an effort over the wall but into the side netting.
That was the final action of the game with Gillingham happy to see out the remaining seconds and secure their passage into the second round of the FA Cup.
F/T: 2 – 1
Today’s result means that Gillingham will be in the hat for the second round of the FA Cup which is drawn at 7pm on Monday night, before home games against Reading u23s in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday evening and Bury in the League next Saturday.
Gillingham: Holy; Clare, Ehmer, Zakuani, Ogilvie (O’Neill, 80); Byrne, Hessenthaler, List (Wagstaff, 56), Martin, Parker; Eaves
Unused subs: Arnold (GK), Simpson, M’Bo, Cundle
Leyton Orient: Grainger; Widdowson, Sendles-White, Clark (Lawless, 46); Caprice, Boco (Harrold, 69), Westbrooke (Sotiriou, 87), Dayton, Judd; Bonne, Mooney
Unused subs: Sargeant (GK), Clay, Pollock, Dalby
Referee: Mr John Brooks
Attendance: 3,659 (818)