Steve Davis felt Leyton Orient’s second-half display was “brilliant”, although their FA Cup hopes have ended for another season following a 2-1 first round defeat at League One strugglers Gillingham.

Having trailed to Josh Parker’s first-half and fortunate not to be further behind at the break, the O’s boss switched from three at the back to a 4-1-3-2 shape after the break. That, coupled with the visitors getting more stuck into their opponents, saw them go close to equalising on more than one occasion, only for Tom Eaves to score a second against the run of play.

James Dayton did pull one back from a free-kick out wide soon after to give the visitors renewed hope, but they were unable to create any further good opportunities to try and force a replay.

“I thought it was a brilliant second half, I thought we were much the better team,” Davis said. “We took the game to them and we changed a little bit at half time with the shape. Obviously they edged the first half, although there wasn’t a massive amount of chances we didn’t really create anything and ask enough questions of them.

“But in the second half I thought we did that, played some terrific football and create some opportunities and but for the keeper who kept them in the game.”

Referee James Brooks was to have an increasing influence on proceedings as the second half unfolded, with Davis particularly impressed with the decision that went against his side which allowed Tom Eaves to double the Gills’ lead.

“I can’t talk about referees,” he said ruefully. “I don’t think we’ve had a good one this season and he was probably up there with some of the worst.

“The second goal was diabolical. How he’s not seen that, it’s almost like a taekwondo move, the way he’s pulled him over for the second goal. We’ve watched it and no other decision could have been made but a foul our way and that’s been costly for us.”

Orient were to also finish the game with 10 men after Joe Widdowson picked up two yellow cards in quick succession, the second coming after the O’s defender was adjudged to have pulled back Conor Wilkinson.

Davis said: “Joe got brought down moving out with the ball, he got kicked and he’s got done for holding. There was always going to be contact with the one that he allowed to go for the second goal, so it was no different in many respects. I wasn’t sure what the referee was going to decide to do in the end in any case. With his decision making in the end I thought he was actually loosing a grip of the game a little bit.”

While Orient felt they had cause for complaint about some of the decisions in the second half, they only had themselves to blame for the manner in which they conceded the opening goal as Parker was left unchallenged to head past Charlie Grainger.

Davis accepted this, but pointed to the mitigating factor of his side’s ongoing problems, accentuated by Mark Ellis being unavailable for the tie due to the terms of his loan from Carlisle United.

“Yes, lack of height and strength and experience in there,” the O’s boss observed. “We know if (George) Elokobi, (Josh) Coulson, Ellis are in their positions they head that ball out of the box.

“At the moment – and that’s not being disrespectful to (Michael) Clarky, who’s 19 years of age and lacks that few inches that makes the difference - I think the experience was important and he wouldn’t have got a header free in the box, but at the moment we can’t do much about that.

“We’ve got Ellis back for the weekend, Dan Happe got injured on Tuesday so he was unavailable and at 6ft 4in he gives us that extra height as well. That was costly and it just gave them that little bit of a cushion at the start of the first half and we couldn’t really get in the game in the first half.