Two late goals fired Orient back in touch of the play-offs as they conquered an in-form MK Dons side at a wet and miserable Brisbane Road.
Orient controlled long periods without creating an abundance of chances but goals from Gary Sawyer – his first for the club – and Kevin Lisbie in the last ten minutes put the O’s just a point off of the top six.
In a match both sides really needed to win, Slade made only one change to his injury-hit side from the one that slipped to defeat at Colchester last week with Sawyer coming in for Lloyd James.
In a fast start, it was the O’s who had the first real chance when Dean Cox set Moses Odubajo charging in on goal. However, from a tight angle, his fierce strike was beaten away by Ian McLoughlin.
Orient were unlucky not to go ahead on 13 minutes when a delicious Cox cross found Jimmy Smith in the six-yard box. His header took a deflection but still found McLoughlin equal to it.
Within seconds at the other end, MK Dons missed a gilt-edged opportunity of their own when a precise Dean Bowditch cut-back was missed completely by the onrushing Patrick Bamford with only Jamie Jones to beat.
Following a quiet period, it was the visitors who sparked the game into life on the half hour.
First Nathan Clarke had to be alert to keep out a drilled Chicksen cross before Odubajo’s back-pass inadvertently ran perfectly for Bamford but having beaten Jones, his delicate chip could only find the side netting.
Five minutes later Orient put together their best move of the match when some lovely one-touch passing between Sawyer and Cox set the full-back away to test Mcloughlin with a drilled effort.
Whilst four minutes before the break, Jones was forced into his best save of the match when he palmed away Shaun Williams’ curling free-kick at full-stretch for a corner.
After the interval it was Orient who had the first attack, with Lisbie and Odubajo combining well to release the Jamaican. However, his cut-back seemed to take the O’s youth graduate by surprise and the chance was wasted.
On 55 minutes, it was the visitors turn to threaten when Dons captain Dean Lewington swung in a searching diagonal cross that Bowditch on the stretch could only force into the hands of Jones.
Just after the hour however, MK Dons were inches away from taking the lead. A ricoheted ball eventually fell to Bamford and with the O’s defence a little flat-footed, the striker curled the ball just wide with Jones beaten.
The visitors were on top and could have taken the lead again in the 67th minute but found Jones in top form as another curling Williams set-piece was pushed away.
From the resulting corner, the visitors had the ball in the net for the second time of the afternoon and after Bamford’s disallowed effort in the first-half, Mathias Kouo-Doumbe nodded in but was adjudged to have fouled the O’s keeper in the process.
With a quarter of an hour to go, Orient roused themselves as the game became stretched and substitute Lee Cook forced a decent low save from McLoughlin with a fizzing strike across the face of goal.
With ted minutes to go, Lisbie looked like he had just evaded the attentions of Lewington to run clear on goal but having been forced wide, his cut back evaded Odubajo and another O’s chance went begging.
The O’s finally did take the lead that their determination merited when after a spell of pinball, Gary Sawyer’s shot on the turn from the edge of the box evaded McLoughlin and nestled into the corner. It was the full-back’s first goal for the club.
Slade’s men were buzzing and three minutes later they could have doubled their lead when the excellent Odubajo’s sped past Lewington before picking out Cox with an excellet cross. The midfielder took his time but his firm effort was pushed away for a corner.
With the home crowd in full voice, Orient certainly finished the game the stronger and grabbed their second goal with a clinical counter-attack on the stroke of 90 minutes.
After an MK Dons attack broke down on the edge of the O’s penalty box, Lisbie and Cox found themselves faced with only one defender to beat. A quick exchange of passes set the leading scorer clear to effortlessly slot past McLoughlin and clinch all three points.
It could have been more for Orient in injury time when Odubajo saw an effort pushed clear by McLoughlin but after finding themselves on the back foot for much of the first hour, the O’s will be delighted with the victory that keeps their play-off hopes alive with two games to play.
ORIENT: Jones, McSweeney, Clarke, Vincelot, Sawyer; Odubajo, Smith, Rowlands, Cox; Lisbie, MacDonald (Cook 68)
SUBS: Butcher, Obafemi, James, Lee, Vanderhyde
GOALS: Sawyer (81), Lisbie (90)
BOOKINGS: Lisbie (78) Vincelot (66)
MK DONS: McLoughlin; Otsemobor (McLeod 81), Kouo-Doumble, Williams, Lewington; Lines, Potter; Chicksen (Powell 61), Lowe (Chadwick 61), Bowditch; Bamford
SUBS: Smith, Baldock, Kay
REFEREE: Andy D’Urso
ATTENDANCE: 4,634 (648 away)