Charles Clayden had looked to have rescued his side a point in the latter stages, firing a shot into the bottom corner after 82 minutes, but late drama saw the O’s suffer a 2-1 loss to Gillingham.
The Gills stole all three points, following a controversial spot-kick five minutes from time. Ernold Haxhiu and Brendon Shabani were both dismissed, as tensions boiled over with penalty protests.
On a cold morning at The Whitbread Sports Ground, both teams struggled to dictate the play in the opening stages.
Brendon Shabani attempted to lob The Gills’ ‘keeper, after latching on to Amin Benyoucef’s through ball, but the midfielder saw his effort well saved.
The visitors began to control possession of the football, though never threatened in the final third. The O’s looked to get in behind the opposition defensive line, with balls in behind for Charles Clayden to run onto but found no luck.
Clayden, usually a left winger, played slightly more central as he partnered Jordon Adeyemi up front. Clayden would have opening the scoring if it wasn’t for a good recovery tackle from the defender, who did well to block his shot which was certain to reach the back of the net.
Orient ‘keeper Sean Campbell made two smart saves just before the break to keep his side in the game.
A bending effort looked to loop over him, but he did well to turn it over the bar before Campbell pulled off a top save to get a strong hand to a headed ball from the resulting corner kick.
Despite Campbell’s late heroics in the first-half, Gillingham still managed to force an advantage before half-time.
The Gill’s played a quick free-kick out wide; where the left-back floated a ball into the box from deep. A blue shirt jumped highest, and flicked the ball into the net right before the half-time whistle.
The second half started at a slow pace, Gillingham were happy to keep possession and defend their lead.
The visitors hit the crossbar with a stunning free-kick from 30 yards just before the hour mark as they looked to double their lead. However, Gillingham looked complacent in the second half, and allowed Orient too much time and space on the ball.
Orient’s way back into the game came after 82 minutes. Clayden got in behind the defence and sent a low drive across the goalkeeper into the net, after he held off pressure from a defender.
Only moments later the referee pointed to the spot. Gillingham were gifted an opportunity to reinstate their lead. A slight push in the box was deemed a foul by the referee, and the Gills number 9 made no mistake in putting the ball into the net.
Ernold Haxhiu was given a second yellow card in the protests against the penalty, as Orient would play the closing minutes with 10 men.
A second yellow for Brendon Shabani after the full time whistle, added salt to the wound, as a dramatic close to the game, saw Gillingham steal all three points.
Next week the O’s will travel to Essex as they take on Southend United. The O’s will look to avenge The Shrimpers following last month’s 4-3 FA Youth Cup defeat, at The Breyer Group Stadium.
ORIENT: Sean Campbell, Jeremie Sivi (Finlay Lovatt 80”) Mason Hall (Wynford Marfo 45”), Jayden Sweeney, Anthony Papadopoulous, Ernold Haxhiu, Bradley McClenaghan, Brendon Shabani, Amin Benyoucef, Charles Clayden, Jordon Adeyemi (Brian Ifeanyi 53”)
SUBS: Ahmed Mirza, Diego Bonnie
GOALS: Clayden (82)
BOOKED: benyoucef (45) Shabani (52) Haxhiu (58)
Sent off: Haxhiu (85) Shabani (90)