Leyton Orient cast away any fears of a slip-up against Conference side Southport in the first round of the FA Cup with a clinical 5-2 win at Brisbane Road on Saturday.
It was a strong performance from the home side but, with the O’s sitting top of the League One table – the highest ranked side in the first round of the FA Cup – and Southport in the bottom half of the Conference, any other result would have been classed as one of the major upsets of the round.
Orient raced in to an early two-goal lead through a couple of fine finishes from strikers Shaun Batt and David Mooney on three and nine minutes respectively.
In a bizarre first half which saw the visitors suffer three injuries, forcing them into using all of their substitutions within the opening 35 minutes, they managed to pull a goal back when captain Jamie Milligan’s free-kick from wide somehow crept in off the far post via a touch from Orient goalkeeper Jake Larkins.
Southport enjoyed more of the ball after reducing the deficit but Lloyd James – who had earlier replaced the injured Frankie Sutherland – curled in a fine effort on the stroke of half-time to restore the home side’s two-goal advantage going in to the break.
The travelling Conference side inevitably tired in the second half and this allowed Orient to completely dominate proceedings, further extending their lead thanks to Batt’s second of the afternoon and a 30-yard screamer from his replacement, Dean Cox, on 67 minutes.
Matty Flynn did manage to grab a consolation goal for Southport but the game had already been won.
O’s boss Russell Slade made five changes to the team that overcame promotion rivals Peterborough United so convincingly last week. Goalkeeper Jake Larkins and midfielder Sutherland were handed their debuts for the club, with Johnny Gorman coming in to replace Dean Cox on the left hand side of midfield.
Batt and Yohann Lasimant were the final two drafted in as Slade used this opportunity to rest several key players ahead of two big games with Stevenage in the Quarter finals of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in midweek followed by Preston North End in the league next Saturday.
Meanwhile opposition manager Alan Wright fielded an unchanged starting XI having secured a great result themselves against Cambridge United last week.
Orient made a flying start to the game, taking the lead before Southport had even entered the home side’s half on three minutes. A cross from captain Nathan Clarke was not dealt with properly by he Sandgrounders’ rearguard allowing Gorman to pick out Batt with an unorthodox pass on the edge of the area which, again, could not be cleared by the visitors. The striker turned well before firing a shot past the goalkeeper from the edge of the box.
And before long Orient were two in front. Good work from the lively Sutherland released Gary Sawyer wide on the left and the full-back drilled in a brilliant low cross. Mooney pulled away from his man in the middle before turning the cross into the far corner of the goal, taking him onto 12 goals for the season – level with the rested Kevin Lisbie.
The opposition’s luck turned from bad to worse on the quarter-hour mark when keeper David Hurst collided with Matthew Brown under a high ball, which almost led to Batt grabbing his second of the afternoon. Neither Southport player could recover from the clash which forced Wright in to making an early double substitution; Brown leaving the field on a stretcher.
But just as it looked like Orient were going to run away with the game, the visitors clawed their way back into it after 21 minutes. Milligan’s inswinging free-kick from the right flank flashed across the face of goal before hitting the far post and rebounding off goalkeeper Larkins into the back of the net.
The goal invigorated the away side which saw the match become a much more even affair, without either team really showing much of a goal threat.
It was turning out to be a busy day for the Club physios with Sutherland becoming the second man to be stretchered off after 38 minutes when he injured his right leg in a strong challenge, with Lloyd James coming on in place of the debutant who had had a solid match up until then. That came after Nathan Ellington’s withdrawal through injury minutes beforehand, meaning the away side had used all three subs before half-time.
The numerous stoppages in play throughout the first half led to nine minutes of added time.
Southport spent the majority of this period in the Orient half however it was the home side who would have the final word of the half when substitute James curled in a third goal in the last minute of stoppage time.
It was a beautifully controlled, first-time effort from 22 yards out which replacement goalkeeper Danny Stevenson had no chance of reaching, and was the midfielder’s first ever goal in an O’s shirt.
Orient continued the momentum gained from James’s late first half goal after the restart.
Shortly after Mooney saw a good header cleared off the line, defender Scott Cuthbert came even closer with a headed effort himself. But this time Batt followed up after a great save from Stevenson to tap the ball into the net and record his ninth goal of the campaign.
Dean Cox replaced the impressive Batt just after the hour mark which saw Lasimant move into a more central role behind Mooney and, soon after, the O’s extended their lead even further.
Cox picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and unleashed a spectacular shot which never looked like going anywhere other than the top left corner of the visitors’ net to put his side 5-1 up.
Four goals down and having used all three substitutions in the first half, Southport would have been forgiven for downing tools for the remainder of the game. But they managed to resist a number of good attacking moves from the home side and even pulled a goal back three minutes from time when defender Flynn broke into the O’s box and got on the end of a cross to divert the ball past Larkins and into the bottom left corner.
It was the least that Southport and their fans – who remained in good spirits and extremely vocal throughout – deserved for their efforts against the League One leaders.
There was still time in the game for Gorman, who completed his first 90 minutes for the Club, to bring another good save out of Stevenson to keep the score at 5-2 and round off another good week for the O’s.
ORIENT: Larkins, Omozusi, Cuthbert, Clarke (C), Sawyer, Lasimant, Sutherland (James, 38), Vincelot, Gorman, Batt (Cox, 61), Mooney(Odubajo, 70)