Leyton Orient maintained their winning start to the season as Kevin Lisbie’s first half header proved enough to grab all three points against Stevenage.
The forward’s glancing header was the only goal in an extremely competitive affair and ensured that the O’s cemented their place at the top of the League One table after a tireless display at the Lamex Stadium.
Russell Slade named an unchanged side after last weekend’s comprehensive 3-0 win over Shrewsbury whereas Graham Westley rung the changes, naming seven new players – including former O’s man Jimmy Smith – in his starting eleven.
After a scrappy start to the game the first chance fell to the home side in the 12th minute as Dani Lopez’ cross was headed harmlessly over the bar by Oumare Tounkara. It had been a very slow start to the game and chances were at a real premium for both sides in the opening quarter of the match.
However, after failing to create any goalscoring opportunities in the early exchanges the O’s took the lead on 27 minutes with their first chance of the game. After finding himself isolated for the majority of the half Moses Odubajo finally found space down the right and unleashed a fantastic cross which was glanced home by the head of Kevin Lisbie.
The home side would have been aggrieved to find themselves behind after dominating early proceedings but things could have got worse for Boro ten minutes later. Another good cross from Odubajo found Lisbie at the back post who looked to have been bundled over by Jimmy Smith. However, with the O’s fans behind the goal screaming for a penalty referee Brendan Malone waved play on, much to the dismay of the travelling contingent.
Lisbie was finding himself in the thick of the action and had another great chance to double his and Orient’s talley on 41 minutes. Lloyd James’ deep corner found the forward in space at the back post but the former Charlton man’s low header flew just wide of the mark from close range.
The goal had breathed new life into the visitors and the free-flowing football that had been evident in their previous games was beginning to return to the O’s play at the end of the first period. Dean Cox created some space on the edge of the area before sending in a lovely cross which came a whisker away from meeting a diving David Mooney in the six yard box.
That would prove to be the final chance of the first period as Russell Slade’s side ended the half as much the stronger side and went into the break 1-0 to the good.
The O’s started the second half in similar vein and Dean Cox came close to doubling Orient’s lead. The winger did well to find space on the edge of the box before unleashing a vicious low drive which flew just wide of the near post, although many O’s fans at the other end thought it had found the back of the net.
The travelling fans would be shouting again five minutes later as Moses Odubajo burst through on goal and looked to have been tripped by Darius Charles in the area, but for the second time in the afternoon the O’s cries fell on deaf ears.
Although previous penalty shouts were uttered in hope rather than expectation, Brendan Malone looked to have denied the O’s a clear spot-kick in the 65th minute. Lisbie was set through on goal by Lloyd James and looked to have been taken down by Chris Day as he rounded the Stevenage stopper. The referee rushed to the scene only to award a free-kick to the home side and book the O’s forward for diving.
The decision sparked the second period into life and the lively Dani Lopez came close to drawing Stevenage level as his 25-yard effort flew just inches over Jamie Jones’ crossbar.
Gary Sawyer entered the fray on 70 minutes – replacing an injured Mathieu Baudry – and the left back was at the heart of the action as he excellently blocked Darius Charles’ effort. From the resulting corner Stevenage came the closest they had come to drawing level. It was a real heart in mouth moment for the O’s as Peter Hartley’s thumping header crashed off the crossbar and Romain Vincelot desperately cleared off the line.
The home side were really beginning to crank up the pressure but it would be Orient that would carve the next chance in the game. Kevin Lisbie found an unmarked Dean Cox on the edge of the area but the winger’s shot flew harmlessly over the bar.
The O’s were penned in their own half and were given another reprieve in the first minute of additional time as Greg Tansey blasted over from just inside the area. However, that would prove to be Boro’s final chance of the game as Orient held out for an extremely hard-earned victory to maintain their 100 per cent start to the season.