By Dominic Scurr
A close game at Leyton Orient saw 10-man Gateshead suffer a late 2-0 defeat against the National League leaders.
Second half goals from Josh Koroma and Macauley Bonne saw The O’s extend their unbeaten run to 10 matches against a Tynesiders side who were reduced to 10-men late on as Greg Olley was shown a second yellow card.
Gateshead named an unchanged side from last weekend’s 2-1 win at Barnet and started the game brightly at The Breyer Group Stadium with Olley instrumental in the early chances created by the visitors.
Orient’s Koroma was named as the club’s player of the month for November and it was easy to see why as the 20-year-old forward was a threat from the 17th minute when he cut inside and attempted to curl the ball into the far right corner from 15-yards only for Heed defender Fraser Kerr to clear with his head.
The Tynesiders were consistently getting into some promising positions in the first half but just couldn’t find the killer ball or shot that would see them break the deadlock.
Leyton Orient were proving dangerous on the counter as a result as Olley’s pass in the final third was cut out and less than 10-seconds later the home side had won themselves a corner.
Koroma continued to be the main threat for Justin Edinburgh’s side as he cut onto his right foot from the left side of the box and whipped a powerful effort just wide of the top right corner.
Scott Barrow had a handful of chances after finding himself in space down the left on multiple occasions. The best of which came after 34-minutes as Molyneux spread the ball out wide to the Welsh wing-back who made his way into the Orient penalty area before firing into the side netting from 20-yards.
Approaching half-time, Gateshead may have felt frustrated not to have been ahead but they ended the opening 45 relieved they weren’t behind as right on the stroke of half-time. McAnuff launched a counter-attack for the O’s, playing the ball to Koroma who created space for himself before brilliantly bending the ball toward the top right corner of the goal from 30-yards only to be denied by the crossbar.
Shortly after the referee brought an eventful but goalless first half to a close.
As the second half got underway it was the hosts who quickly got onto the front foot – pegging the Heed back and forcing a succession of corners which ultimately came to nothing.
But just before the hour mark, Orient’s pressure paid off as the broke the deadlock through the ever threatening Koroma. The Orient forward beat the offside trap – despite protests – and cut jinked his way into the Gateshead penalty area before unleashing a devastating finish into the top right corner from 15-yards.
There was a huge sense of relief around the ground as the ball found the net as The Heed had been frustrating the league leaders until that point.
Gateshead were certainly still in the game despite going behind as they continued to get into some good areas. But once again, it was the final ball or shot which ultimately prevented Steve Watson’s men from finding an equaliser.
With 13-minutes to play, substitute Steve Rigg headed Barrow’s cross from the left straight into the hands of Dean Brill in what was a rare second-half shot on goal for the Tynesiders.
A few minutes later saw Gateshead forge their best chance of an equaliser as JJ O’Donnell did brilliantly to skip away from Sam Ling down the left and whip in a dangerous ball to the edge of the box which Tom White volleyed agonisingly wide of the left post as the score remained 1-0.
Three saves in the space of a minute by Aynsley Pears kept the Heed in the game late on as the Middlesbrough loanee did well to twice deny Bonne and parry Koroma’s effort wide of the right post.
Gateshead were handed another lifeline in the 90th minute when James Brophy looked certain to make it 2-0 only for Fraser Kerr to slide in brilliantly to block the Orient substitute’s close-range effort.
And with six minutes added on, a sense of nervousness swept over the Leyton Orient fans as Gateshead made a late push.
Kerr’s 25-yard strike deflected wide for a Gateshead corner in what would prove to be their last chance of the game as the O’s caught them out on the break.
James Alabi won the ball down by the Gateshead corner flag and made his way along the byline before cutting the ball back for Bonne to stroke into an empty net wrap up the three points.
It was probably a slightly harsh ending to the match for the Tynesiders who would be hit by another blow shortly after as Olley was sent off just before the full-time whistle for a foul on the halfway line.
The game finished 2-0 which sees Leyton Orient strengthen their grasp on pole position in the National League while results elsewhere means Gateshead remain in the play-off places in 7th.
Leyton Orient (4-4-2): Brill; Ling, Coulson, Ekpiteta, Widdowson; Dayton (Alabi 86), Clay, Gorman (Brophy 74), McAnuff (c); Koroma, Bonne
Subs not used: Janata (GK), Lawless, Happe
Goals: Koroma (59), Bonne (90+6)
Bookings: Widdowson (69)
Gateshead (3-5-2): Pears; Kerr, Williamson, Mellish (O’Donnell 77); Tinkler, White, Olley, Molyneux (Rigg 64), Barrow (c); Armstrong, Boden
Subs not used: Foden (GK), Hunter, Devitt
Bookings: Olley (17), Barrow (70)
Sending Off: Olley (90+8)
Referee: Carl Brook
Attendance: 4,636 (51 Gateshead)
MOTM: Fraser Kerr