Orient suffered late heartbreak in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as they were sent crashing out in the Area Final 3-2 on aggregate at the hands of local rivals Southend United.
Orient twice led in a pulsating 2-2 draw at Roots Hall thanks to goals from Shaun Batt and David Mooney but they were pegged back first through Barry Corr and then a late Ben Reeves equaliser meant it was the Shrimpers who will go through to Wembley to take on Crewe Alexandra in the final.
O’s manager Russell Slade made two changes to the side that were defeated at Hartlepool United with Leon McSweeney coming in for the injured Gary Sawyer and Dean Cox returning to the side for the cup-tied Charlie MacDonald.
The changes saw Shaun Batt move up alongside David Mooney, with Cox filling his place on the right, whilst McSweeney slotted in at left-back.
Orient were quickest out of the blocks and the first chance fell to Lloyd James with five minutes on the clock. A Dean Cox free-kick from the left caused a scramble in the Southend penalty area and the ball dropped to James who got a shot away that was well saved by Paul Smith.
But The O’s did not have to wait long to snatch the lead. Moses Odubajo wriggled down the right hand side and cut back to roll the ball into the path of Dean Cox. The returning winger whipped a trademark cross in from the right that was prodded home by Shaun Batt, his first for the club.
The goal gave Orient belief and three minutes later they played some neat football on the left involving McSweeney and Lee Cook. The latter fed David Mooney who tried to bend a shot from 20 yards but it bounced just wide.
With 26 minutes on the clock Mooney came even closer. It was another Cox free-kick that caused problems and Mooney sent in a looping header from the far post that looked to be goal bound but dropped onto the roof of the net.
It was a nervy opening half hour by the home side who were clearly rattled by the early goal but their first chance came with 31 minutes gone. Ben Reeves had looked the most lively of the Paul Sturrock’s side and he found a pocked of space on the edge of the box following Britt Assombalonga’s knock-down. Reeves sent in a low drive that Jones did well to save.
Clearly frustrated by his side’s start, Sturrock made a tactical change in the closing stages of the half as Barry Corr replaced Alex Woodyard as the Shrimpers moved to a 4-4-2 formation. The home side went more direct for the final few stages of the half but it was the visitors who went into the break ahead.
The second half started at a much slower tempo to the first and it was not until the hour mark that the half sprang into life when Orient had a shout for a penalty denied after Cox fell under a challenge from Matthew Lund.
Within a minute the home side were level. Mathieu Baudry gave away a free-kick on the left and Kevan Hurst whipped in the cross that was knocked down by Britt Assombalongo for the ever-dangerous Corr to smash home.
Despite the setback, Orient responded positively and set up camp in the Southend half launching wave after wave of attack.
With 68 minutes played, Batt jinked down the left and cut in from the by-line before unleashing a low drive that Smith did well to push behind at his near post.
Four minutes later and Orient were back in front. Cook linked well with McSweeney down the left and the Irishman dug out a cross to the far post where his fellow countryman Mooney arrived right on cue to head home.
The O’s turned it up a level with the goal and five minutes later Mooney could have killed the game when he had two bites at a Lee Cook cross but failed to find the net with either.
With ten minutes to go it looked like Orient would be the only side to go on and win it and came a whisker away from doing so. Cox carried the ball down the right hand side on the break and curled in an early cross, the lively Batt got a toe to the ball and poked it up and over the helpless Smith but his effort bounced back off the bar.
To the 9,421 in attendance it looked as if the game was destined for penalties but in the very last minute poor defending allowed Hurst in on the left and his cross was turned in by Reeves at the back post as Roots Hall exploded and Orient went out of the cup.
Southend: Smith; Clohessy, Phillips, Prosser, Barker (capt); Hurst, Woodyard (Corr 36), Lund, Reeves; Reeves; Assombalonga
Subs: Straker, Eastwood, Mayor, Bentley
Bookings: Phillips, Prosser
Orient: Jones; McSweeney, Cuthbert (capt), Baudry, Odubajo; Cook, Rowlands (Griffith 74), James, Cox; Mooney, Batt
Subs: Vincelot, Smith, Clarke, Omozusi
Bookings: McSweeney, Rowlands, Baudry
Referee: Andy Woolmer