National League: Ebbsfleet United 2 Leyton Orient 0
PUBLISHED: 17:03 19 January 2019
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Orient suffered only their fifth league defeat of the season after conceding a goal in each half at the Kuflink Stadium.
But they remain top of the table on goal difference from Solihull Moors, who won 2-1 Maidenhead to leapfrog above Salford City, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Gateshead.
George Elokobi and Dan Happe lined up in the centre of Orient’s defence, with Marvin Ekpiteta and Josh Coulson both out injured, and Alex Lawless and Jordan Maguire-Drew were also named as starters, as Jobi McAnuff (toe) and Myles Judd (suspended) missed out.
Craig Clay returned to the bench, with new signing Jamie Turley also named as a substitute having joined on a free transfer from Notts County on Wednesday.
But Dean Brill was called into action on seven minutes to push a shot from Bagasan Graham behind for a corner, with Elokobi heading a dangerous ball away from Danny Kedwell soon after.
The hosts went close again on 11 minutes as Ebou Adams played a through ball to Michael Cheek, who almost went round Brill but lost his balance and poked wide.
O’s were awarded an indirect free-kick when Nathan Ashmore picked up Sam Magri’s back pass and Maguire-Drew teed up Macauley Bonne for the shot, but it was blocked by the massed ranks of the Ebbsfleet defence.
Elokobi and Adams both needed treatment after clashing heads midway through the half and Fleet took the lead soon after their returns as Jack King fired past Brill when O’s failed to clear a corner.
The visitors rallied, with James Brophy beating two defenders and almost finding Maguire-Drew in the box, before Charlie Lee gave Maguire-Drew a shooting chance, which went inches wide.
An Orient corner just evaded Happe and Joe Widdowson on 34 minutes before Brophy got the byline and cut the ball back for Bonne, who was denied by Ashmore.
But that was as close as O’s got in the first half, as Cheek headed a Jack Payne free-kick over the crossbar just before the break.
Elokobi thwarted a Cheek attack early in the second half, while Maguire-Drew saw a cross put behind for a corner at the other end, but last defender Lawless had to stop an Ebbsfleet counter-attack.
Lee had a low shot saved by Ashmore on 53 minutes, but O’s had to thank Widdowson for a vital block to deny Payne’s first-time effort moments later.
Josh Koroma had a powerful effort tipped over by Ashmore as the chances continued to come, with Adams booked for a late tackle on Lawless.
And Ashmore produced a stunning save to keep out Happe, after Widdowson headed Maguire-Drew’s cross back across goal for his team-mate on 58 minutes.
But Ebbsfleet doubled their lead five minutes later when Chris Bush beat Brill direct from a free-kick, leaving O’s with a mountain to climb.
Justin Edinburgh made a triple substitution, sending on Matt Harrold, Turley and Clay for Maguire-Drew, Elokobi and Lee in a bid to try and find a way back into proceedings. And they went close almost immediately as the ball was headed off the line following Brophy’s corner.
But Cheek then got to the byline and set up Kedwell, who fired over on 72 minutes, before Brophy found Bonne in the box, and he also missed the target.
Turley headed against a post from six yards following a mistimed clearance on 77 minutes, but O’s kept pressing and Bonne headed just wide from Clay’s cross three minutes later.
Brill tipped a Corey Whitely shot over, though, to deny Ebbsfleet a third, before Koroma’s long-range free-kick was well held by Ashmore two minutes from time.
And Lawless saw a shot blocked by an Ebbsfleet defender when Harrold nodded the ball down to him in the second of five minutes in stoppage time, before Turley had a header from a corner scrambled clear.
Orient came closer still in the final minute when Koroma lifted the ball over Ashmore, but Wilson got back to clear off the line and deny the visitors a consolation.
Orient: Brill, Ling, Happe, Elokobi (Turley 67), Widdowson, Maguire-Drew (Clay 67), Lee (Harrold 67), Lawless, Brophy, Koroma, Bonne. Unused subs: Sargeant, Alabi.