“Complacency is a sin both in life and business,” were the words of the O’s chairman Barry Hearn to the audience in his speech at the Dorchester on Monday at the Player of the Year Awards and it seemed his side took notice as they recorded an emphatic 3-1 win at MK Dons to secure a third placed finish in League 1 and a play-off semi-final against Peterborough United.
The victory was also number 12 on the road for the O’s this season to set a new a club record to go along with their 86 points – the highest tally in the club’s history.
Most importantly the result propels the O’s into the play-offs with momentum as Kevin Lisbie and David Mooney grabbed three goals between them and demonstrated the form that saw them tear the division apart in the early stages of the season.
Lisbie in the first period took his seasonal tally to 18 with a well taken double before Mooney took bagged his 19th League goal after the interval and 21st in total in stylish fashion with a wonderful curling finish.
Russell Slade welcomed back Elliot Omozusi and Mathieu Baudry from injury, whilst Scott Cuthbert was left out with a slight injury concern.
Meanwhile there were starts for Moses Odubajo and captain Nathan Clarke, meaning the pair have started all 46 games of the regular season. David Mooney was paired with Kevin Lisbie up front as the Irishman went in search of those final two goals to take him to 20 League goals for the season.
There was a slow start to the game with Baudry stabbing over a Cox corner in the only half chance inside the opening 10 minutes before Ryan Hall for the home side stung the palms of Jamie Jones with a free-kick from distance with a dozen minutes on the clock.
The O’s grabbed the lead five minutes later though when Mooney found Cox well on the left and, as so often this season, the winger whipped a cross in that was met by the head of Lisbie who guided it back across David Martin in the Dons goal to make it 1-0.
The travelling fans were in fine voice and on their feet again two minutes later to appeal for a penalty when Odubajo tumbled under pressure from Anthony Kay and goalkeeper Martin but referee Stephen Martin waved play on.
Lisbie was leading the line with vigour which will give Slade plenty of encouragement ahead of the play-offs and he battled away well to release Cox midway through the first half but Martin got down well to prevent the winger notching his 16th of a remarkable season.
The home side were flat with only pride riding on their final fixture and Orient started to dominate in terms of possession as the half wore on. Martin had been the busier of the two ‘keepers and picked up a knock in the process meaning he departed for youngster Charlie Burns to make his full debut.
The 18-year-old barely had time to settle in though before he was picking the ball out of the net as Lisbie doubled his tally. Mooney slipped his partner through on goal in stoppage time and Lisbie opened up his body before stroking home to send the O’s in two to the good at the interval and occupying third place in the table.
It would have been easy for the O’s to sit back on their lead in the second period but they seemed intent on more and Mooney soon was a whisker away from Orient’s third. Baudry showed great anticipation to intercept an Dons attack and launch an attack that saw Cox play in Mooney who had an effort well saved by the rookie ‘keeper Burns.
But it would not be long before the Irishman had his 19th League goal and 21st overall when he linked up well with Lisbie before bending a wonderful finish into the top corner on the angle to put the game beyond doubt.
Mooney looked desperate to grab that one extra goal to become the first since Peter Kitchen in 1978 to score 20 in the League and went close with a lob soon after before twice firing wide from distance.
The third goal had killed an already dying game as Dons offered precious little going forwards but treated their fans to a goal with just over 10 minutes remaining when Ryan Hall’s shot took a wicked deflection to wrong-foot Jamie Jones and trickle into the net.
Mooney made way for Shaun Batt immediately afterwards as the Irishman received a standing ovation from the O’s supporters who danced the afternoon away behind the goal.
It would finish 3-1 though as history was made at Stadium MK. Play-off and ticket info below.
MK DONS: Martin (Burns 33), Lewington (C), Flanagan, Gleeson, Smith (Rasulo 68), McLeod, Alli, Hall, Spence, Kay, Kennedy (Powell 57)
Subs: Randall, Hickford, Loveridge, Summerfield
Goals: Hall (77)
Bookings: Alli (72)
ORIENT: Jones, Omozusi, Sawyer, Vincelot, Baudry, Cox, Lisbie (Dagnall 62), Mooney (Batt 79), Odubajo, Clarke (C), Lundstram (James 67)
Subs: Larkins, Batt, Bartley, Simpson, Ness
Goals: Lisbie (17, 45) Mooney (56)
Referee: Stephen Martin