DEAN COX’S first half strike was enough to seal all three points as Orient battled hard for victory at The Lamex Stadium against Stevenage. The O’s were creative with the ball and dogged without it as they again demonstrated the fighting spirit that has characterised their performances in 2013.
As the games continue to come thick and fast, Russell Slade again shuffled his pack with a number of changes from the side that drew with Swindon in the week.
In came Anthony Griffith, Dean Cox, Leon McSweeney, Jimmy Smith and new signing Shaun Batt and the fresh legs paid dividends as The O’s came out of the blocks with all guns blazing. An electric first minute of football saw Batt put the ball in the back of the net but the flag was up long before for offside. It was however a warning sign to the home side and Orient duly took the lead after just ten minutes.
The O’s looked dangerous down the right hand side throughout and when McSweeney bent over a cross towards Batt at the front post, the ball was not dealt with by the Stevenage defence and dropped to Dean Cox who fired his effort down into the ground before it bounced past goalkeeper Steve Arnold into the top corner from six yards.
Orient looked quickly to build on their advantage and with 23 minutes on the clock, Charlie MacDonald set Batt free in the right channel who used his pace to get himself clear of the Stevenage back line before lashing a shot from the corner of the penalty area that Arnold did well to palm behind.
It was a breathless opening quarter but the home side eventually began to find their feet and on 29 minutes were almost level. Lucas Akins chased down a long ball and wriggled free of Scott Cuthbert before bending a shot narrowly past the post. It sparked a difficult spell of pressure from The Boro as Sam Hoskins and Filipe Morais both forced Jones into action.
But it was The O’s who almost stretched their lead just before the break. McSweeney cleared a ball down the channel to Batt who again showed an excellent understanding of his strike partner’s movement as he slipped in the tireless MacDonald who sprinted through, but Arnold was brave to smother the ball at his feet and deny him.
It was a frantic first period but the tempo dropped after the restart as Stevenage had more of the possession but struggled to cut Orient open as they dropped men behind the ball and worked hard to protect their lead.
The O’s came close two making 2-0 not long after the restart however. Moses Odubajo won a free kick deep in the home side’s half by the corner flag on the right hand side. Cox whipped in the delivery and MacDonald escaped his marker but could only head narrowly over the bar from six yards.
Russell Slade’s side again threatened from set plays and on 64 minutes could have struck again when another Cox free kick found an unmarked Mathieu Baudry but the defender headed straight at Arnold. The 747 travelling fans thought they had sealed the points just four minutes later when MacDonald spun and fired in from close range but the striker had strayed into an offside position.
Stevenage had chances of their own to get back in it and former O’s defender Ben Chorley almost scored a debut goal against his former side just two days after leaving E10 when he headed over a Morias corner during a succession of Stevenage set plays that Orient battled hard to repel. Their best chance came with just two minutes to play when Steve Leo Beleck hammered a volley across the face of goal following a cross from the right and the ball was deflected behind for a corner with Jones beaten.
Orient captain Nathan Clarke made his long awaited return from injury when he replaced MacDonald in injury time with a rare spell up front as The O’s held on for their second 1-0 win from their last two trips to The Lamex Stadium.
STEVENAGE: Arnold, Gray, Charles, Tansey, Grant (Beleck – 57), Dunne, Morais, Akins (Lopez – 76), Roberts (c), Hoskins, Chorley
SUBS: Day, Hills, Comminges, N’Gala, Shroot
ORIENT: Jones, McSweeney, Sawyer, Cuthbert (c), Baudry, Cox, Griffith, Smith, MacDonald (Clarke – 90), Odubajo (Cook – 73), Batt (Mooney – 65)
SUBS: Obafemi, Rowlands, James, Omozusi
REFEREE: Darren Sheldrake