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Gillingham 2 Leyton Orient 1: Cheye Alexander penalty and Omar Beckles’ own goal leads to EFL Trophy group stage win for Gills at Priestfield

Gillingham completed a comeback win over Leyton Orient in the EFL Trophy after the visitors had two players sent off.

Orient deservedly led at the break after an unfortunate own goal from Glenn Morris separated the sides. The visitors had Shaq Forde and Brandon Cooper sent off in the space of four second-half minutes before Cheye Alexander levelled from the penalty spot and an Omar Beckles own-goal completed the turnaround.

Cheye Alexander on target from the penalty spot for Gillingham Picture: Keith Gillard
Cheye Alexander on target from the penalty spot for Gillingham Picture: Keith Gillard

Both managers made considerable changes to their starting elevens from the weekend league games, seven for the Gills and eight for visitors Leyton Orient. Both still named strong teams for the Trophy encounter.

The Gills had disappointed last time out in the league and manager Neil Harris sent out an impressive-looking side to take on Orient, including two of the visiting side’s former players, Shad Ogie and Ethan Coleman.

Connor Mahoney had an early shot blocked but Orient bossed the opening half, dominating possession and passing the ball around well, as the Gills struggled to find a way forward against their League 1 visitors.

Shaq Forde had the best of Orient’s early chances, exchanging passes on the edge of the Gills box before firing at goal. It was a good move but the shot was too close to the Gills keeper to be an issue.

Jonny Williams looked like being the man to open things up for Gills but even he ended up playing on the defensive as Orient knocked it around. A long spell of possession ended with a goal when George Moncur’s shot struck the post past the dive of Morris, but then hit the back of the keeper’s head and trickled back across the line.

The Gills couldn’t have any argument with the scoreline but in first-half stoppage-time they suddenly came alive. Direct running from Jayden Clarke led to a free-kick and Macauley Bonne nodded Mahoney’s near-post cross wide.

Moments before the half-time whistle came Orient keeper Sol Brynn almost spilled a shot from Coleman into his net as Mahoney fired in a decent cross.

Pigott put a free-kick over the bar and Charlie Pegrum fired narrowly over for the visitors in the second half but the Gills were seeing more of the ball after the turnaround, looking to play higher up the pitch.

With an hour played, the Gills were giving a helping hand when Orient looked to self-implode, as striker Forde and defender Cooper were both sent off. An off-the-ball incident led to Forde’s 61st minute dismissal and a bad challenge on Bonne led to referee Ben Atkinson getting his red card out again four minutes later.

Two members of the visiting coaching staff were also booked for dissent during a bizarre spell.

Inbetween those two dismissals keeper Brynn had to make a super stop to deny Jonny Williams’ volleyed effort and then watched as Bonne nodded the subsequent corner wide.

Alexander stung the hands of the home goalkeeper with a powerful effort as the Gills looked to make the extra numbers count.

It was an Alexander penalty that got the Gills level, sending the keeper the wrong way from the spot in the 80th minute after Mahoney had been tripped inside the box.

The Gills took an 84th-minute lead when Mahoney was again involved, his low cross being met by defender Beckles, who could only divert the ball into his own net.

It needed a brilliant save from Morris to deny Orient an equaliser as Idris El Mizouni got in the clear and the follow-up was blazed over by Ruel Sotiriou.

Gillingham: Morris, Alexander, Clark, Masterson, Ogie, McKenzie (Gbode 70mins), Coleman, J Williams (Chambers 81mins), Clarke (Malone 86mins), Mahoney (Macarthur 86mins), Bonne (Nadesan 86mins). Subs not used: Turner, Ehmer.

Orient: Brynn, Galbraith, Hunt (El Mizouni 75mins), Beckles, Cooper, Pratley, Sanders, Moncur (Archibald 69mins), Pegrum (Sotiriou 69mins), Pigott (James 69mins), Forde. Subs not used: Howes, Graham, Obiero.

Referee: Ben Atkinson

Attendance: 1,388 (155 away)

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