Stern Gills Safely Through To Round Two At The Priestfield

The Emirates FA Cup

A physical Gillingham side battled well to overcome National League Leyton Orient yesterday at The Priestfield Stadium to sail into the next Round, despite a late comeback from The O’s.

The hosts, who have never gotten further than The Quarter-Finals of The Competition, raced into the lead on 20 minutes with a Josh Parker header and that advantage was doubled on Tom Eaves with 15 minutes to play.

However, there could have been a late sting in the tale for Steve Lovell’s men as James Dayton pulled a goal back for the visitors, but when Joe Widdowson was dismissed in added-time, hopes of finding an equaliser were quashed.

There was so much more to a feisty Derby with only a mere 41 miles separating the home Grounds of each side, added in with the magic of The FA Cup.

From the start in Kent, Steve Lovell opted for just two changes to his starting Xl that were the 1-3 victors of Rotherham United last weekend, a game in which exactly the same scorers netted as yesterday.

In defence, Connor Ogilvie came in for Bradley Garmston on the left side, meanwhile, midfielder Billy Bingham was ousted in place of Mark Byrne.

Whereas, O’s Boss Steve Davis decided on three alterations off the back of last Saturday’s respectable 2-2 draw in Wales against Wrexham.

The trio of changes were all in the defensive section with Mark Ellis, Daniel Happe and James Brophy being replaced by Michael Clark, Joe Widdowson, and Myles Judd.

Heading into the clash, both sides were in less than impressive League form with The Gills sitting 22nd in The League One Table and Orient, who suffered Relegation from The Football League last season, being 19th place in The National League.

It would be the home side that made the faster start on a sunny day in Gillingham as Eaves and Parker were both denied by the visiting keeper Charlie Grainger in the early stages.

But, the deadlock would finally be broken on 20 minutes at The Priestfield, when Elliot List’s wide delivery picked out the head of Parker to a tee and elicited a cheer of great magnitude from the home supporters.

In the minutes that followed, Byrne would go agonisingly close with a header from a very short distance out but that was the closest they came to doubling the advantage in a dominant first period for The Gills.

The Non-League side would come out and show more fight in the second-half and could have been level if Macauley Bonne’s effort had been a few inches further to the right, while Dayton also went close shortly after.

Davis’ men continued to pile on the pressure late into the second period, but all of their hard work was swiftly undone by their opponents on the break with 20 minutes remaining.

Ogilvie had set up Eaves on the edge of the area, he advanced into it and unleashed a superb low effort that beat Grainger at his near post and all but seal victory.

Nevertheless, Orient continued to hit back and finally claimed a goal to show for it on 79 minutes with Dayton finished from close-range to set up a grandstand finish.

They huffed, and they puffed, but they couldn’t get that elusive equaliser and the visitors’ cause was not helped in the second minute of time added on when Widdowson was shown a second yellow card by Referee John Brooks.

The tie would peter out in fiery fashion and the hosts held on for a vital victory that takes them further than they managed to get in The FA Cup last season, next up for The Gills will be a Checkatrade Trophy tie with Reading U23s after the Break with The Second Round Draw set to take place on Monday.

Meanwhile, Orient will need to pick themselves up after a disappointing defeat that eliminates them from World Football’s oldest Competition for another Derby with Ebbsfleet in two weeks’ time.

Man of the Match: Josh Parker.