Leyton Orient were beaten convincingly by Scunthorpe at Brisbane Road on Saturday, with the visitors scoring two goals in each half to subject the O's to a 4-1 defeat.
Liam O'Neil curled a fine effort beyond Gary Woods on 13 minutes against the run of play and Scunthorpe dominated from here-on-in, with Gary McSheffrey's cross finding its way into the back of the net just before the half-hour mark.
The visitors raced into a three-goal lead shortly after half-time when Tom Hopper stabbed home at the far post before Orient showed brief signs of a comeback when substitute Darius Henderson scored a penalty which he had won on 68 minutes. However, it was not meant to be and Hopper bagged his second of the day with little over 10 minutes left to complete the job for his side.
It was always going to be a tough encounter against a Scunthorpe team that had lost only one of their last nine which has seen them pull away from the relegation places, whereas Orient had fallen back into the mix following a run of three games without a win.
And the O’s knew they needed to win today and hope that at least two of the three sides directly above them were beaten if they were to escape the drop zone. However this afternoon's results meant they slipped one place further down the table to 23rd.
O’s boss Fabio Liverani made four changes to the side that fell to a 2-0 away defeat to Colchester United last week, with Elliot Omozusi, Mathieu Baudry, Bradley Pritchard and Gianvito Plasmati all returning to the staring XI.
Recent loan signings Ryan Hedges and Neal Eardley were among those to drop to the bench – along with David Mooney and Shane Lowry – meaning they would have to wait to make their home debuts.
Meanwhile in-form Scunny made just one switch for the trip down to E10, with McSheffrey replacing Jacob Murphy on the left wing.
In wet and blustery conditions it took Orient under three minutes to create the afternoon’s first chance when Chris Dagnall volleyed low towards goal from a tight angle inside the Scunthorpe box. His effort was too vicious for Luke Daniels to hold and the keeper inadvertently knocked it onto his post before it bounced away to safety.
Skipper Nathan Clarke was the next to try his luck when he got up well to meet Gary Sawyer’s free-kick from the left, however Daniels got behind the header from 18 yards to deny Clarke his first goal of the season.
Orient were looking lively in the opening stages and broke forwards at a ferocious pace from a Scunthorpe corner soon after. Dean Cox sprinted up the left before sending a brilliant cross-field pass towards Dagnall whose neat control allowed him to beat his man and get a strike away with his left foot from the edge of the box but Daniels was again equal to the test.
And then against the run of play Scunthorpe were the side to take the lead on 13 minutes. After a cleared corner was sent back into the O’s box, O’Neil found himself with enough time to control and send a curling effort into the far right hand corner of the net over the head of the stretching Gary Woods in the Orient goal.
The game was certainly a more balanced affair after the visitors took the lead but neither side was showing enough creativity in the final third to really threaten the scoreline, until Scunthorpe doubled their lead out of the blue just before the half-hour mark.
After an Orient attack, the away side broke forward with McSheffrey on the left wing and his innocuous looking ball across the face of goal skipped up off the wet surface and through the hands of Woods into the far right corner of the net.
Orient came close to pulling one back with minutes to go before the break when Plasmati’s flick-on sent Dagnall clear only for Daniels to come racing 30 yards out of his goal to block his attempt. The loose ball fell to Pritchard but the midfielder was closed down and his shot was deflected wide of goal.
Nothing came of the two corners that immediately succeeded this chance and, except for a long range effort from Cox which was beaten away by Daniels, the home side were unable to create anything further as a disappointing half came to a close.
Liverani made one change at the break, taking off Plasmati for Darius Henderson, who was making his first appearance after a three-month injury lay-off. Whilst the switch seemed to invigorate Orient in the opening couple of minutes, Scunthorpe had extended their lead further by the 49th minute.
Paddy Madden raced down the O’s right, completely unchallenged, and sent a low cross towards the far post where striker Tom Hopper had peeled away before sliding in to poke the ball home, leaving Orient fans and players looking despondent.
The goal gave Orient a mountain to climb and, whilst Henderson’s presence was making a difference in the final third, it looked destined to end in a ninth home defeat of the season as we passed the hour mark.
Scunthorpe were quite content to soak up any pressure that the O’s applied before breaking away and should have had a fourth on 65 minutes when O’Neil volleyed wide, missing a great chance to double his tally for the day.
But Orient were given a lifeline when Henderson was pulled down by Jordan Clarke on the edge of the six yard box moments later, with referee Keith Hill pointing straight to the spot.
The striker was really causing problems for the opposition defence, looking hungry after such a long period on the sidelines, and he was the one who stepped up to fire the penalty straight down the middle beyond the diving Daniels, notching his fifth goal of the campaign.
The O’s were showing great fighting spirit and the introduction of Hedges and Mooney off the bench after Henderson’s penalty gave them even more attacking intent as they looked to complete a comeback against all odds.
However, Scunthorpe delivered the killer blow with just over 10 minutes left on the clock. O’Neil threaded a neat pass through the Orient defence, finding the run of Hopper who turned towards goal and slotted an accurate left-footed finish past Woods into the far right corner of the net.
It was a case of damage limitation for the home side thereafter, with Hedges’ long range effort which went narrowly wide of the upright, the closest Orient came to reducing the deficit again and the referee finally put the O's out of their misery after four long minutes of time added on.
The defeat sees Orient slip to 23rd in League One with a trip to seventh-placed Rochdale next up.
ORIENT: Woods, Omozusi, Sawyer, Vincelot, Baudry, Cox, Clarke (C), Pritchard (Hedges, 68), Dagnall, Lundstram (Mooney, 76), Plasmati (Henderson, HT).
SUBS: Grainger, Lowry, Eardley, Wright.
GOALS: Henderson (Pen – 68)
BOOKINGS: Cox (58)
SCUNTHORPE: Daniels, Canavan, Madden (Taylor, 89), Bishop (C), O’Neil (Evans, 89), Boyce, McSheffrey, Williams, Clarke, Hopper (Adelakun, 82), Osbourne.
SUBS: Anyon, McAllister, Murphy, Llera
GOALS: O’Neil (13), McSheffrey (29), Hopper (49, 80)
BOOKINGS: Clarke (66)
REF: Keith Hill
ATT: 5,184 (591)