Despite taking a lead into half-time, the O’s were beaten by a side with 10 men for the second time in as many home games at The Matchroom Stadium on Saturday.
Rochdale raced in front thanks to a dipping drive from forward Matthew Done on four minutes before Jobi McAnuff got his first goal in front of the Orient home support on 13 minutes when he struck an excellent half-volley from the edge of the area.
The O’s were the best side after equalising and were further boosted when Dale defender Ashley Eastham was sent off for fouling Darius Henderson on the half-hour mark. The resulting penalty was missed by Chris Dagnall but the home side did take the lead before the break when Romain Vincelot headed home his third goal of the season on 42 minutes.
But despite making a promising start to the second half, Orient saw their lead overturned by 10-men Rochdale when first Peter Vincenti knocked in a rebound and then Done struck his second of the afternoon on the counter.
Orient’s Assistant Manager Kevin Nugent took charge of the side following Russell Slade’s departure on Wednesday, and he made five changes to the team that was knocked out of the League Cup by Sheffield United in midweek.
Mathieu Baudry, Shane Lowry, Dean Cox, Chris Dagnall and Darius Henderson all returned to a strong-looking starting line-up, with Club captain Nathan Clarke among the men to make way which saw fellow defender Scott Cuthbert take the armband.
Meanwhile visitors Rochdale, who came into the match just a single point off a play-off position, made one change to a side that included former O’s skipper Stephen Dawson.
Orient suffered a defeat to Sheffield United after a conceding an early goal on Tuesday and the home side found themselves a goal behind after just four minutes today when Rochdale’s Done cut in from the right before firing an excellent shot into the bottom left corner from 25 yards.
It was not the start Nugent will have been looking for from his side and it could have been worse minutes later when Rochdale captain Ian Henderson was found with a brilliant pass by Vincenti but the midfielder put his effort inches wide of the post.
Having escaped a further set-back Orient managed to steady themselves and pulled level on 13 minutes when McAnuff sent a powerful half-volley beyond Conrad Logan. Moments earlier, the O’s winger had delivered a disappointing free-kick in a promising position for his side but made absolutely no mistake when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the Dale box, bringing it down well before applying an unstoppable finish.
The midfield battle was an intriguing contest throughout the first half with Vincelot and ex-O’s man Dawson in particular exchanging a couple of tough tackles on one another. Unfortunately for Lloyd James, he came off worse in one of a number of 50-50 challenges and had to be stretchered off on 26 minutes after receiving lengthy attention from the O’s physios.
James’s absence did not shift the momentum away from the O’s who were now well on-top and they should have taken the lead on the half-hour mark after winning a penalty. Good work from McAnuff on the right wing allowed Cox some space to send a perfectly weighted ball over the Rochdale defence and into the path of Henderson, who had made a surging run from deep.
The striker took the ball down well and was brought to ground by Eastham, who was the last man for Rochdale, giving referee Darren Sheldrake no choice but to send off the Dale defender and award the penalty, however replays suggested it might not have been inside the box.
With James no longer on the pitch, Dagnall stepped up to take the penalty after scoring from the spot against Notts County recently however the striker’s effort this time was tame, allowing Conrad Logan to get down to his left and parry it away from danger.
Soon after, Logan was penalised for stopping a backpass with his hands and Henderson saw the opportunity to take the indirect free-kick quickly but Dagnall’s shot from eight yards was blocked by the Rochdale defence who had done well to retreat in time.
Orient failed to beat 10-men Colchester when they visited E10 a couple of weeks ago and looked to have learnt from that experience as they were creating chances whilst also keeping it tight at the back and, after a number of decent opportunities, found themselves in front three minutes before the break.
A diagonal ball into the box was nodded back into the danger area by Henderson and Vincelot leapt superbly to beat the Rochdale defence to the ball and send a deft header over the top of Logan and into the net.
Henderson’s aerial presence was causing real problems for the Rochdale backline and he could have had a goal himself soon after he had helped his side take the lead but his header went just wide of the left post after Cuthbert sent in a teasing cross from the right on the stroke of half-time.
Orient came close to extending their lead a minute into the second period when Cuthbert headed across goal from a free-kick however Lowry couldn’t beat his marker to the ball and, instead, it was Rochdale who were next to find the net.
Left-back Jack O’Connell sent a long-range shot goalwards that proved too much to handle for Woods who parried back into the middle of the area where Vincenti was on hand to grab the equaliser against the run of play on 48 minutes.
Whilst Orient would have been disappointed to concede, they did not allow it to impact their play going forward. Dean Cox in particular was having a superb second half, roaming inside from the left wing to effect the game and played a number of key passes as well as sending a thunderous drive inches over the bar.
However, despite all the promising attacks from the home side, Rochdale regained the lead on 66 minutes. Dawson found Done, who was leading the Rochdale line on his own, with a stunning 60-yard cross-field pass and the forward took it down well before beating Cuthbert and firing an accurate left-footed shot into the bottom right corner beyond Woods.
Moments before the goal Bradley Pritchard, who had replaced James in the first half, had been denied by Logan after hitting a good shot from the edge of the box but Orient were struggling to create clear-cut chances which has been a problem during all home games so far this season.
After failing to connect with the ball from a similar position earlier in the half, Lowry leapt well to head a Cox corner goalwards with 15 minutes left however opposition captain Henderson was on the line to clear the ball away from danger with Logan well beaten.
If Orient were going to get another equaliser it looked likely to come via a set piece or a cross as Rochdale had every man behind the ball. And Cuthbert came close again on 88 minutes when he got forward and snuck in at the back post to meet Lowry’s angled cross but his header bounced narrowly wide of the target.
A speculative effort from distance by Lowry was the last of the action in a game which Orient will rue not making the most of their first-half dominance and failing to capitalise on their one-man advantage for the majority of the 90 minutes which leaves them still looking for their first home win this season.
ORIENT: Woods, Cuthbert, Baudry, Lowry, Omozusi, Cox, Vincelot, James (Pritchard, 26), McAnuff (Mooney, 70), Dagnall, Henderson (Batt, 67)
SUBS: Grainger, Clarke, Bartley, Simpson
GOALS: McAnuff (13), Vincelot (42)
ROCHDALE: Logan, Bennett, Eastham, Vincenti, Dawson, Hery (Cannon, 46), Done (Bunney, 84), Tanser, Allen (Lancashire, 33), O’Connell, Henderson (C)
SUBS: Musangu, Andrew, Rose, Kennedy
GOALS: Done (4), Vincenti (48), Done (66)
BOOKINGS: Dawson (39), Cannon (52), Tanser (74)
REDS: Eastham (30)
REF: Darren Sheldrake
ATT: 4,405 (318)