Josh Koroma starred as Leyton Orient strengthened their grip at the top of the National League with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Gateshead.

The 20-year-old’s curling effort on the hour mark opened the scoring before Macauley Bonne added a second in injury time as the O’s made up for Tuesday’s goalless draw with Aldershot and extended their unbeaten run to nine matches.

O’s head coach Justin Edinburgh, celebrating a year in charge of the east Londoners, made two squad alterations with Sam Ling replacing Myles Judd at right-back and Alex Lawless drafted onto the bench in place of Matt Harrold.

With just one defeat in 22 matches this season, Orient had every reason to feel confident of notching another success against play-off chasing Gateshead.

Yet the hosts started in subdued fashion as Scott Boden curled an effort that was hacked away by Jobi McAnuff and Gregg Olley advanced unchallenged to fire an early warning shot to the O’s.

Ling had Orient’s first sighter when he collected Joe Widdowson’s cut-back before firing high and wide from the edge of the box.

Gateshead might consider themselves fortunate that Olley was not shown a straight red card for a studs-up lunge on Dale Gorman after 15 minutes, but he would be dismissed for a second yellow with virtually the last kick of the game in any case.

The Heed’s 3-5-2 formation certainly carried a significant threat on the break as the impressive Luke Molyneux turned Widdowson and fired the first shot on target at Dean Brill who saved comfortably.

Orient were struggling to create anything of note but Koroma certainly looked capable of sparking the game into life.

He fired over from 20 yards and mid-way through the first half curled an effort just over Aynsley Pears’ crossbar.

The O’s were not without their scares though, as Gorman conceded possession and nearly paid the price with Gateshead captain Scott Barrow dragging wide from range.

Soon after both sides were left frustrated by the woodwork as the impressive Luke Armstrong was inches away for the visitors after smacking the crossbar on the turn, albeit the offside flag was up.

And Koroma very nearly sent the home side in at the break in front when he collected McAnuff’s feed on the stroke of half-time, cut in on his right and curled an effort that crashed against the upright with Pears beaten.

Edinburgh’s team-talk had the desired impact as, by contrast, the second half saw Orient have the lion’s share of the play.

Demonstrating a greater intensity from the get-go, a succession of corners nearly brought reward as Gorman and Ling went close.

Gateshead could barely get out of their half, let alone muster an opportunity, and Orient got the reward their play and patience merited on the hour mark to break the deadlock.

Again, captain McAnuff was involved as he invited star-man Koroma to dart inside and fashion an opening.

On this occasion the lively attacker made no mistake, blasting the O’s in front with a pin-point right-footed curler for his seventh goal of the season.

That shook the visitors into life momentarily as Widdowson cut out a dangerous cross with Armstrong lurking just a minute after the restart.

However, Edinburgh’s side were nearly gifted a second with 20 minutes to play when Barrow’s pass back was horribly short.

Bonne – largely ineffective to that point – almost capitalised but could only fire narrowly over from an acute angle.

Tom White came closest to snatching a leveller but he could only direct his drive wide of Brill who emerged with an 11th clean sheet of the season on the occasion of his 350th career appearance.

It could have been more comfortable, mind, with Bonne hitting the post via the palm of Pears after man-of-the-match Koroma had nearly doubled up for the afternoon.

But the crucial second arrived deep into stoppage time when Bonne tucked home his 17th goal of the season to make sure of another vital win.

Leyton Orient: Brill; Ling (Lawless 69), Coulson, Ekpiteta, Widdowson; Dayton (Alabi 86), Gorman (Brophy 75), Clay, McAnuff; Koroma, Bonne. Subs not used: Janata (GK), Happe.

Referee: Carl Brook.

Attendance: 4,636 (51 away)