Second-half goals from Dean Cox and David Mooney secured an impressive 2-0 victory over Coventry City at the Matchroom Stadium on a rainy Tuesday night in East London.
Orient were the better side from start to finish but were unable to break the deadlock until 57 minutes when Cox’s low volley found the bottom corner just moments after Kevin Lisbie had missed a penalty.
O’s top-scorer Mooney made his comeback from a foot injury – which had kept him out of action for more than a month – as a 77th minute substitute, and it took him less than five minutes to move on to 16 goals for the season with an ambitious long-range drive which proved too difficult to handle for Coventry goalkeeper Joe Murphy in the increasingly wet conditions.
It was the fourth time these sides have met this season - Orient knocked City out of the League Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy before Steven Pressley’s side subjected the O’s to their first league defeat of the season in late October – and the home side were deserved winners in tonight’s match-up.
Russell Slade made two changes to the O’s side that beat Crewe Alexandra on the road 10 days ago. Tenacious midfielder Romain Vincelot made a welcome return to the starting XI having come on as a substitute in the last game, while Chris Dagnall was rewarded with a starting position against his former club alongside Kevin Lisbie after grabbing two debut goals from the bench against Crewe.
Having been defeated 4-0 by Arsenal in their fourth round FA Cup tie in the capital last Friday, Coventry boss Pressley would have named an unchanged line-up for tonight’s visit to the Matchroom Stadium had it not been for striker Leon Clarke’s injury which saw 16-year-old George Thomas handed his senior debut in place of the Sky Blues skipper.
In a first-half dominated by the home side, Moses Odubajo was the stand-out man. The young winger was in electric form throughout and was responsible for getting the whole ground on their feet on countless occasions.
It was just before the 10-minute mark when he went on two typically dizzying runs in the space of a minute – the first bringing a corner for his side and the second setting up a great chance for Cox, whose low shot was well saved by Coventry stopper Murphy.
Cox was handed an even better chance midway through the half when Dagnall, who was looking busy and lively upfront on his home debut, played a perfectly weighted pass into the wide man’s path. Half the ground thought Cox had opened the scoring only to realise that his low effort had hit the side-netting.
Odubajo continued to terrorise the visitors’ defence and the O’s were getting plenty of joy out wide, delivering some fine crosses, but they were unable to test Murphy any further despite having a number of opportunities to do so, and went into the break knowing they should have been at least a goal to the good.
However the O’s came out with the same intensity and drive in the second period, with Lisbie coming close to putting them in front on 50 minutes when he latched on to a delicate chip from Vincelot but he couldn’t squeeze the ball past the advancing Murphy who did well to block the striker’s shot.
And, soon after, Murphy was to get the better of the Orient striker once more. Dagnall did well to draw a challenge inside the visitors’ box and won a penalty which Lisbie stepped up to take. The keeper guessed correctly and got down well to save the spot-kick with a strong left hand.
Coventry managed to hack the rebound away for a throw-in and it seemed as though the O’s had missed another great opportunity to take the lead.
But defender Scott Cuthbert raced forward to launch a long throw back into the penalty area, determined to keep the pressure on.
The full-back's ball in was flicked on towards Cox who had managed to find some space amid the mayhem, and the winger made no mistake with his finish this time, firing a low volley into the bottom left corner of the net to complete a rollercoaster minute for both sides.
O’s keeper Eldin Jakupovic didn’t have to make a save in the first half of the game but, as the rain began to fall heavily in E10, he was forced into action on three separate occasions after Cox had put the home side in front – twice denying opposition captain Carl Baker and doing well to keep out a good effort from substitute Denzel Slager.
Slade had named top-scorer Mooney on the bench in the hope he could bring him on for some vital playing-time after being sidelined with a foot injury for over a month, and the O’s boss gave the striker the nod with just under 15 minutes left.
The home fans gave the front man a huge reception as he replaced fellow striker Lisbie, and it took him just four minutes to lift the roof again, doubling Orient’s advantage on 81 minutes.
Mooney picked the ball up in space 30 yards from goal before turning inside to strike a powerful drive into the far right corner of the net. The shot had some swerve on it, and the conditions were increasingly slippery, but Murphy will feel he should have kept out the striker’s effort.
However that was not going to take anything away from a great return to the side for Mooney – the goal took him on to 14 in the league alone this season – and all-round performance from Slade’s men, ensuring they hold on to second place in League One with a game in hand on both leaders Brentford and third-placed Wolves.
ORIENT: Jakupovic, Cuthbert (Saywer, 89), Baudry, Clarke (C), Omozusi, Odubajo, Vincelot, James, Cox (Ness, 75), Dagnall, Lisbie (Mooney, 77).
SUBS NOT USED: Larkins, Bartley, Loza, Simpson.
GOALS: Cox (57), Mooney (81)
COVENTRY: Murphy, Christie, Adams, Webster, Seabourne, Baker (C), C.Thomas, Fleck, Daniels (Slager, 62), G.Thomas (Clarke, 45), Moussa (Barton, 86).
SUBS NOT USED: Burge, Willis, Phillips, Haynes.
BOOKINGS: Baker (21)
REF: Michael Bull
ATT: 5,077 (641)