Gillingham U18 2 – 1 Leyton Orient U18
A late strike from Ryan Cranleigh helped earn Gillingham U18’s a 2-1 victory over Leyton Orient U18’s.
The O’s had started brightly and deservedly led at the break through Josh Uzun’s eighth-minute penalty, but the hosts drew level thanks to Mike Freiter before Cranleigh’s 85th minute effort sealed their turnaround.
Orient were quick out of the starting blocks and they could have been ahead as early as the seventh minute after Sinclaire Sandy’s weighted pass found Shola Oladipo, but his shot was met with a fine save from Luke Nalder.
But within seconds of the missed chance referee Jason Brown was pointing the penalty spot after Nalder upended Uzun in the box as he attempted to meet Sam Ling’s searching pass. The same player remained composed to send the Gillingham stopper the wrong way and give the visitors the lead.
The O’s had settled well in comparison to their opponents, with the front three of Olapido, Sandy and Uzun all combining well. The latter was again causing problems for the home side in the eleventh minute as his left-footed drive flashed just wide of the near-post.
The Gills had to wait until the 22nd for their first meaningful effort of the match when Charlie Webster found space down the right to send a cross into the box, though Jack Sellens was unable to direct his header on target.
Both Oladipo and Sandy continued to link up well in the final third, and they combined once more in the 37th minute to produce an opportunity for the former, whose ferocious drive looked set to test goalkeeper Nalder before being deflected away for a corner.
The home side looked to force Orient back at the start of the second half as they began to create more opportunities. First Mahlon Romeo was guilty of lashing wildly at his shot after being picked out in the box by Webster, before a mistake in the Orient backline was nearly punished by Sellens’ chest and volley that flew inches wide.
The O’s had yet to find the consistency in their passing that was demonstrated during the opening 45 minutes, and they were fortunate to still be ahead in the 65th minute after Aiden Blanchard’s shot was deflected into the path of Sellens, who was somehow unable to direct the ball into the net from three yards out.
But Gillingham’s pressure finally paid off three minutes later as Freiter struck to draw his side level. Sam Muggleton’s long throw created problems in the Orient box, and the loose ball eventually fell to Freiter, who stabbed his shot past Bridle-Card.
Orient were then thankful to their goalkeeper for keeping the scoreline level moments later, as he sprung across his goal to produce a wonderful save while denying Webster.
However, with just five minutes remaining came anguish for the O’s, as Blanchard was allowed time down the right to send in a cross that was parried by Bridle-Card into the centre of the six-yard box, and Cranleigh pounced on the rebound to make it 2-1.
The visitors were still able to create one more opportunity in the 89th minute as Sandy teed Ling’s pass into the path of Uzun, who did well to engineer space for himself, but Nalder produced a strong hand to save the midfielder’s low shot.
Striker Sandy was unfortunate not to see his endeavours up front rewarded with a positive result. “We were very sharp and created chances during the first half, but we maybe didn’t get our passing going during the second,” he said. “It’s disappointing that we can’t leave with a positive result.”
Orient: Ben Bridle-Card, Sam Ling, Jack Humphrey, Montel Ageymang, Alex Finney (C) (Kane Adams, 46), Andis Nikolau, Freddy Moncur (Cameron Kelly, 70), Nick Brown, Sinclaire Sandy, Shola Oladipo (Christian Owusu, 70), Josh Uzun.
Goals: Uzun (8’ Pen)
Gillingham: Luke Nalder, Callum Emptage, Mitch Dickinson, Danny Leonard, Josh Staunton (C), Sam Muggleton, Mahlon Romeo, Aiden Blanchard, Jack Sellens (Ryan Cranleigh, 70), Mike Freiter, Charlie Webster. Subs not used: Max Kilman, George Parker
Goals: Freiter (65), Cranleigh (85)
Referee: Jason Brown