A Lloyd James penalty either side of half-time secured a thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory over Swindon Town at the Matchroom Stadium on Saturday, seeing the O’s return to the summit of League 1 in the process.
Orient were rewarded for a dominant first-half display on 42 minutes when midfielder James calmly slotted home from the spot after Moses Odubajo had drawn a foul from Jamie Reckford inside the 18-yard box.
And just seven minutes after the break, O’s top scorer David Mooney was dragged down to win the home side’s second penalty of the afternoon. James, who was outstanding in the middle of the park all day, bravely stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way again and double Orient’s advantage.
The O's had moved back into an automatic-promotion place in League 1 after their midweek win over Stevenage and, with nearest rivals Brentford and Wolves playing each other today, knew they would strengthen their position with a win over Swindon.
Wolves ran out convincing 3-0 winners at Griffin Park, meaning the O’s climbed back to the top of the table on goals scored, however both Brentford and Wolves still have two games in hand.
With the exception of Elliot Omozusi who slotted back in at left-back having missed the last three games with a calf injury, Russell Slade named an unchanged starting XI to the one that won comfortably on Tuesday night.
By contrast, the visitors were missing a number of first-team players through injury and suspension so were forced to make four changes after being knocked out of the Johnstone Paint Trophy in a penalty shoot-out with Peterborough last Monday.
Determined to grab an early goal as they had done against Stevenage, Orient made a strong start, forcing a couple of early corners thanks to good work from Odubajo and then Dagnall, and the latter came close to putting the O’s in front on eight minutes.
Having just won the corner-kick, the ball dropped for Dagnall inside the six-yard box – the striker turned to shoot but keeper Tyrell Belford, who was a late replacement for Swindon number one Wes Foderingham, was there to make a good block.
The O’s were playing some top-quality football on a sunny afternoon in E10, with James in particular finding his range early on and spreading a series of pin-point passes to both flanks allowing Dean Cox and Odubajo the chance to stretch the opposition defence.
Mooney and Dagnall, in only their second start together, were also combining well and the former’s perfectly weighted ball over the top was almost turned in by his partner on 20 minutes when Dagnall managed to stretch for the ball on the volley, but his deft touch came back off the right-hand post before being cleared away.
Dagnall stole the ball off a Stevenage defender in the build-up to his first home goal for the club in midweek and he carried out another robbery 10 minutes before half-time today. Opposition captain Darren Ward was the victim this time before the striker decided to feed Odubajo who should really have hit the target but fired a shot high and wide of the near post after breaking into the box unchallenged.
And it wasn’t long before those two linked up again when Dagnall threaded a great pass through to Odubajo only for Swindon left-back Reckford to hack down the Orient winger on the byline.
Referee Gavin Ward had no hesitation in awarding a penalty to the home side and James confidently placed the ball on the spot before sending Belford the wrong way to give Orient a thoroughly deserved 1-0 lead at the break.
It took Orient less than five minutes of the second-half to threaten to visitors’ goal when Mooney got in front of his man to send a header goalwards courtesy of a good cross from right-back Scott Cuthbert.
And soon after, Troy Archibald-Henville – who had a poor game for the away side – dragged down Mooney just inside the box forcing Ward to point to the spot for a second time.
James stepped up once more and this time fired his kick straight down the middle, sending the goalkeeper diving to the left and notching his fifth goal of the season.
Swindon hadn’t come anywhere close to testing O’s keeper Eldin Jakupovic in the first-half but he was forced into action twice shortly after Orient had doubled their lead. First he was forced to make a fine save when Ryan Harley’s deflected effort from 20 yards looked to be sneaking inside the left-hand post, then Reckford burst forward to hit a decent effort goalwards however the Bosnia keeper was equal to it and did well to hold on to the ball.
Orient thought they had grabbed a third midway through the second-half when Dagnall looked to have escaped his marker and headed in past Belford. However the striker was adjudged to have pushed a defender while Cox’s delivery made its way towards the danger area and the referee cancelled out his effort.
Slade introduced Shaun Batt – who was celebrating his birthday on Saturday – with 15 minutes left and the striker almost scored with one of his first touches when Cox sent a defence-splitting pass in to the big man, but his hooked shot on the turn was parried away by Belford.
The Swindon keeper was forced to make another save as the game entered the closing stages, when Cox hit a powerful effort from 25 yards, but the game was all but secured by that point anyway.
The visitors very rarely threatened all afternoon and didn’t seem likely to find a way back into the match as the final whistle approached, especially against an Orient defence which is now looking back to its best, with this cleansheet being Jakupovic’s fifth in seven appearances for the club.
It was another strong performance from the O’s who will look to continue their good home form when Colchester, who were narrowly beaten by Preston on Saturday, visit the Matchroom Stadium next week.
ORIENT: Jakupovic; Cuthbert, Baudry, Clarke (C), Omozusi; Odubajo, James Vincelot., Cox; Dagnall (Batt, 76), Mooney (Lisbie, 84)
SUBS: Larkins, Sawyer, Bartley, Ness, Simpson
GOALS: James (42 pen, 52 pen)
BOOKINGS: Dagnall (68), Cox (81)
SWINDON: Belford, Byrne, Luongo, Harley, Kasim, Ward (C), Smith, Reckord, Gladwin (Reis, 55), Murphy (Barker, 55), Archibald-Henville
SUBS: N’Guessan, Smith, Barthram, Branco,
BOOKINGS: Archibald-Henville (51), Reckford (76), Reis (89)
REFEREE: Gavin Ward
ATTENDANCE: 5,091 (765)