Orient responded to their first defeat of the season in midweek with a well-earned 1-0 victory over Rotherham United, sending them three points clear at the top of League One.
The O’s could have had a hatful of goals had it not been for an inspired performance from visiting goalkeeper Adam Collin but as it turned out a first half goal from returning top-scorer Kevin Lisbie was enough to secure the win.
It took the striker’s league tally to 10 for the season and the result means Russell Slade’s team has not suffered a league defeat at Brisbane Road in 13 games – a run stretching back to February.
Despite their formidable home record and incredible start to this campaign, Orient came into the match with Rotherham having suffered their first league defeat of the season away to Coventry City on Tuesday – something which Slade and his men were keen to put behind them with a strong display today.
Central defender Mathieu Baudry picked up a late knock during the midweek loss which ruled him out of today’s match, but the O’s boss would have been delighted to welcome back talisman Lisbie after he missed the last game through injury.
Rotherham could only manage a draw with Tranmere – a side that Orient thumped 4-0 away from home last weekend – on Tuesday but knew that three points today might have been enough to take them into a play-off position. The visitors made four changes to the side that started that game, which included their joint top-scorer, Lee Frecklington, returning to the XI.
Orient made a bright start to the game, particularly down the right flank where Moses Odubajo swung in a couple of good early crosses. Skipper Nathan Clarke also launched a series of trademark long throws into Rotherham’s 18-yard box, keeping the visiting defence busy.
Rotherham set out to dominate the midfield battle, lining up with five in the middle, and this contributed to a healthy spell of possession for the away side midway through the half but for all their neat play, they lacked energy in the final third of the pitch and failed to create any goalscoring opportunities.
The same could not be said for the home side who, in Odubajo, had a livewire on the break and he was the catalyst in the move which led to Orient taking the lead after 27 minutes.
The young winger drilled in a low cross from the right which Dean Cox managed to get on the end of. After the ball pinged around on the edge of the six yard box, Cox got a second effort off which was somehow saved by Rotherham ‘keeper Collin but Lisbie was on hand to fire in the rebound to take him onto double figures in the league this season.
Cox was unlucky not to have scored himself before Lisbie rifled home the opener, and the winger again came close to getting on the scoresheet on the stroke of half-time. The ball dropped to him in the box and he unleashed a thunderous volley which Mark Bradley bravely got in the way of to divert the ball behind for a corner.
Romain Vincelot will feel he should have doubled his side’s lead from the resulting corner when he was allowed a free header six yards from goal but could not find the target with his effort, meaning Orient went into the break with a narrow one-goal lead.
Just as they did in the opening period, Orient came out of the blocks strongest in the second half, and Cox came closer still to netting his fifth league goal of the season when another first-time effort – this time from 20 yards out – stung the fingertips of Collin.
Eager to get back to winning ways after the Coventry match, Orient were pushing for a second goal to make life a bit more comfortable for themselves. However this left them open at the back and, hoping to exploit this, Rotherham replaced midfielder Michael O’Connor with striker Daniel Nardiello 10 minutes into the half.
The change gave the away side more purpose going forward and their liveliest player, Kieran Agard, threatened with a couple of powerful efforts either side of the hour mark.
An untidy period of the game which saw Rotherham emerge as the more dominant side led Slade to respond with a couple of substitutions of his own; Shaun Batt and Marvin Bartley replacing David Mooney and Lloyd James who had not performed to the dizzying heights that have come to be expected of them this season.
The changes brought a bit of stability to the game with Orient managing to prevent the visitors creating any further chances, and came closest to bagging another themselves through a Gary Sawyer free-kick and low shot from Batt.
A late flurry of pressure from the O’s saw Collin forced into two stunning one-handed saves from Cox and Odubajo, and substitute Jayden Stockley have a left-footed effort cleared off the line.
There were more than 5,000 home fans inside a bouncing Brisbane Road and they lifted the roof when referee Darren Sheldrake blew the final whistle, sounding their appreciation for the way in which the home side had responded to their setback in midweek.
ORIENT: Jones, Omozusi, Cuthbert, Clarke (C), Sawyer, Odubajo, James (Bartley, 68), Vincelot, Cox, Mooney (Batt, 68), Lisbie (Stockley, 82).