Goals from strikers Kevin Lisbie and Chris Dagnall and a first clean sheet in nine games secured all three points for Orient in the penultimate game of the regular season.
The result lifted the O’s into fourth place in League One after Rotherham lost and Preston won this afternoon, meaning Orient will have to wait until next week to find out who they will face in the semi-final of the play-offs.
The O’s dominated possession in the first half and took a one-goal lead into the break thanks to Lisbie’s 16th of the season when he tapped in a rebound in the 44th minute.
Lisbie’s replacement Chris Dagnall made the most of a poor clearance from Tranmere keeper Owain Fon Williams on 77 minutes firing a pin-point drive from 40 yards into an empty net, and despite putting in a decent second-half performance the relegation-threatened visitors were unable to find a way back into the game after that.
Orient could count themselves highly unlucky to have been beaten by League One champions Wolves on Easter Monday and Russell Slade decided to make just two changes to his starting XI for today’s game.
Lisbie and Shaun Batt, who scored three between them the last time these sides met, were brought in to replace Dagnall and Mathieu Baudry which saw Moses Odubajo moved to right-back and Scott Cuthbert shifted across to centre-back.
Orient made a bright start in gusty conditions and took just a few minutes to create the game’s opening chance. John Lundstram, who has extended his loan until the end of the play-offs having impressed in his five games for the O’s so far, sent a superb cross-field pass to David Mooney who chested the ball into the path of Dean Cox but the winger’s volley was well saved by Fon Williams.
The hosts were dominant in possession throughout the first half with Lundstram seeing lots of the ball but despite some fluid movement from the O’s front four, they struggled to get behind the Rovers defence on many occasions which made it relatively comfortable for the away side.
Ironically, Orient’s best chance of the half came on the counter-attack when Batt nipped in front of two defenders on the right touchline before racing through on goal. The forward found himself in acres of space as he entered the 18-yard box but couldn’t apply a strong enough finish, sending his shot into Williams’ side-netting.
The game began to open up slightly after that and Orient took the lead just a minute before half-time.
Cox swung in a corner to the back post where Cuthbert headed straight at Fon Williams, and the keeper spilled the ball into the path of Lisbie who was in the perfect position to squeeze in the rebound for his 16th goal of the campaign, equalling last season’s tally.
Tranmere came into this game just one point above the relegation zone and appeared for the second-half with noticeably more hunger having gone into the break 1-0 down. Ash Taylor had an ambitious back-heel blocked inside the six-yard box and there were shouts for penalty when a Ryan Lowe cross struck Lundstram but the referee waved play on and Orient hung on to their lead.
In a brief escape from the early Tranmere onslaught Lisbie broke away down the left in similar fashion to the way Batt did in the first half and managed to find the target with his effort only for Fon Williams to block well with his foot.
Slade brought Lloyd James on for Batt, who was starting his first game since Boxing Day, just short of the hour-mark – a move which saw Odubajo shifted forward to the right wing and James fill in at right-back.
And just seconds after moving into a more familiar position, Odubajo came agonisingly close to doubling the O’s lead. Mooney nodded down in to the winger’s path and his low shot from the edge of the area couldn’t have been struck much better however Fon Williams was equal to it, making a stunning save to his right.
Odubajo was thriving back in a more advanced role and went on a dazzling run, weaving in-between the back-pedalling Rovers defence, 15 minutes from time but he was once again denied by Fon Williams who this time made a more comfortable save as Odubajo’s finish was straight at him.
Orient had well and truly weathered the storm by this point and it seemed only a matter of time before they would eventually get a second goal and it arrived on 77 minutes when a poor clearance from Fon Williams only went as far as Dagnall who took one touch before driving a superb shot in to the deserted net from 40 yards out.
Dagnall had only been on the pitch for a few minutes having replaced fellow striker Lisbie and he still had a lot to do when the ball fell at his feet but showed great composure to fire home his sixth goal of the season on the half-volley against the club he started his career at.
Tranmere did not offer anything to suggest a comeback was on the cards after Dagnall’s goal which is perhaps not surprising considering they had not scored in three coming into this game, with substitute Jake Kirby coming closest to pulling one back with a wayward shot on the turn.
Orient could have had another in injury time when Mooney curled a decent effort narrowly wide after a pacey counter-attack, but a solid performance from the O’s ended in a 2-0 victory – the side’s first clean sheet in nine games – and they finished the afternoon with a lap of honour to thank the fans for their support throughout what has been a brilliant season for everyone involved with the club.
There will of course be one final match at Brisbane Road this season when the O’s return for the play-off semi final home leg but will have to wait until next week to find out whether that will be against Preston, Rotherham or Peterborough.
Orient: Jones, Odubajo, Cuthbert, Clarke (C), Sawyer, Batt (James, 59), Vincelot, Lundstram (Ness, 81), Cox, Mooney, Lisbie (Dagnall, 70)
Subs: Larkins, Lasimant, Gorman, Simpson
Goals: Lisbie (43), Dagnall (77)
Bookings: Cuthbert (69)
Tranmere: Williams, Holmes, Taylor, Lowe, Cassidy (Kirby, 46), Power, Jennings, Brown, Ridehalgh, Akpa Akpro, Pennington
Subs: Goodison, Baggie, Rowe, Stockton, Arthurworrey, Mooney
Bookings: Jennings (29), Williams (68), Lowe (69)
Referee: Darren Sheldrake
Attendance: 4,923 (away – 542)