An 83rd minute strike from O’s debutant Darius Henderson was not enough to spark a late comeback for the home side against newly promoted Chesterfield in E10 on the opening day of the new campaign.
Orient fell behind to an early goal when Chesterfield winger Romuald Boco was first to a high ball inside the 18-yard box and volleyed into the bottom left corner with just seven minutes of the season played.
The O’s performed better after the break however their defending was uncharacteristically disjointed throughout and this was punished with 10 minutes remaining when Eoin Doyle doubled Chesterfield’s lead with a well-struck lob.
Russell Slade brought new signings Jobi McAnuff, Jay Simpson and Henderson off the bench in the second half and the latter did well to react to the rebound from a Dean Cox free-kick and grab a debut goal on 83 minutes, but Chesterfield did not crumble under the late pressure and deservedly took all three points.
The result means there will be no direct repeat of Orient’s flying start to the season last year which saw them win their first eight league matches and go unbeaten for 12.
But Slade will hope his men can bounce back quickly, especially after bringing in seven new recruits over the close season, adding great depth and quality to a side that came so close to earning promotion to the Championship last season.
Three of the summer signings started today’s game with Chesterfield – goalkeeper Adam Legzdins, full-back Shane Lowry and midfielder Bradley Pritchard were all selected to make their competitive debuts for the O’s.
The other eight to be named in the manager’s first team selection of the season were regulars throughout the 2013/14 campaign and all started the Play-Off final game against Rotherham in May.
It was an energetic start to the match from both teams, with Chesterfield forward Gary Roberts looking particularly lively as he floated between the Orient defence and midfield.
And it was the visitors who drew blood first when Boco turned the ball home from just inside the 18-yard box with just seven minutes gone. O’s skipper Nathan Clarke got in the way of an initial shot but the ball looped high into the air allowing Boco to set himself and send and accurate volley into the bottom left corner of Legzdins’ goal.
David Mooney had the O’s first shot on target when he turned and hit a low effort goalwards but the home side were offering little going forward, and Chesterfield came centimetres away from doubling their lead on the quarter-hour mark.
Striker Eoin Doyle knicked the ball off Elliott Omozusi to race clear before attempting to dink his shot over the advancing Legzdins but the ball struck the post and went behind for a goalkick, much to the relief of the O’s defence who had made it too easy for their opponent.
Later, Orient burst into life and Chesterfield keeper Tommy Lee made two outstanding saves within the space of as many minutes to ensure his side remained in the lead.
Quick thinking on a free-kick from Romain Vincelot sent Mooney through on goal only for Lee to get a strong left hand to the striker’s shot, before Dean Cox tried his luck from the opposite side of the area, forcing the keeper to parry away.
A lovely move from left to right handed Orient another opportunity to draw level soon after but debutant Pritchard sent his header from 16 yards harmlessly wide of the left post.
At the other end, Roberts continued to be a thorn in the side of the O’s defence and sent a viscous shot inches wide, though Legzdins may well have had it covered.
With under ten minutes of the half left to play, Orient should have found themselves on level terms when Lee fumbled a high ball under pressure from Mathieu Baudry. The loose ball dropped right at the feet of Lisbie but the striker toed his effort straight into the body of Lee, giving the away side a lucky escape.
Mooney sent a decent headed effort goalwards late in the half but it wasn’t enough to beat Lee and meant the O’s went into the break with an unwanted 1-0 deficit.
Orient made the brighter start to the second period but came close to conceding on 52 minutes when Clarke was dispossessed by Roberts in a dangerous position before the Chesterfield man pulled the ball back for Doyle whose powerful effort was brilliantly saved by Legzdins.
Slade had a tremendously strong bench to draw from, with new signings Darius Henderson, Jay Simpson and Jobi McAnuff not quite fit enough to start the game having joined towards the end of pre-season, but the latter two were introduced just shy of the hour mark and were given a great reception by the home fans.
Both looked eager to impress on their competitive debuts – particularly with Orient chasing the game – and Simpson went close with a low shot from 20 yards on 70 minutes.
Orient made their third and final substitution – Darius Henderson replacing Mooney – before Chesterfield had made a single change, and the fresh legs combined with Henderson’s imposing presence were giving the home side more options going forward.
However Orient’s back four had not played well all afternoon and they were far too easily breached on 80 minutes, allowing Doyle to run in behind and lob Legzdins. The keeper managed to get a touch on the looping shot but it wasn’t enough to stop it bouncing over the line to send the visitors 2-0 up.
Forced into action, the O’s responded well and managed to pull a goal back within three minutes. Cox, who had an uncharacteristically quiet game, won a free-kick on the edge of the Chesterfield box and the winger stepped up to take it, forcing a good low save from Lee.
But the keeper could only parry the free-kick straight back out and substitute Henderson was there to bundle the ball home from a couple of yards and give the O’s hope of salvaging a point.
Although they managed to put Chesterfield under plenty of pressure in the closing minutes, it was too little too late for the home side and they were unable to carve out another goalscoring opportunity before referee Mike Bull brought an end to the first game of the 2014/15 season.
The O’s now face a tough away tie against Plymouth in the League Cup on Tuesday before Slade’s men can look to get some points on the board when they travel to Oldham Athletic in a week’s time.
ORIENT: Legzdins; Omozusi, Baudry, Clarke (C), Lowry; Pritchard (McAnuff, 58), James, Vincleot, Cox; Mooney (Henderson, 71), Lisbie (Simpson, 58)
SUBS: Woods, Sawyer, Bartley, Batt
GOALS: Henderson (83)
BOOKINGS: Baudry (34), Clarke (76), Vincelot (85)
CHESTERFIELD: Lee; Darikwa, Cooper, Evatt (C), Jones; Boco, Morsy, Ryan, Humphreys; Jones, Roberts, Doyle
SUBS: Chapman, Hird, Raglan, Johnson, Banks, Dawes, O’Shea
GOALS: Boco (7), Doyle (80)
BOOKINGS: Boco (90+4)
REFEREE: Mike Bull
ATTENDNCE: 5,619 (841)