Orient bowed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy after a rollercoaster first half performance at Stevenage.
A frantic first quarter of the game saw Orient go 3-1 behind before an equally chaotic end to the half from referee James Adcock gave Orient hope after Roarie Deacon was given his marching orders for a foul on Shaun Batt before Lloyd James gave hope of a second half revival with a late penalty.
Despite an explosive start to the second period from the O’s, the home side dug their trenches deep for the final half an hour as Orient struggled to break them down.
Scott Cuthbert took over the captain’s armband for the O’s in a re-arranged back four as Gary Sawyer slipped into the centre half role alongside him, whilst Moses Odubajo filled in at left back.
Jamie Jones reclaimed his place between the sticks whilst loanees Marvin Bartley and Jayden Stockley returned as did Kevin Lisbie who took up a place on the bench alongside Robbie Simpson. Meanwhile Romain Vincelot missed the trip due to suspension and Johnny Gorman dropped out of the squad thanks to an international call up for Northern Ireland U21s.
The home side had their preparations disrupted when captain Jon Ashton picked up an injury in the warm up meaning Deacon replaced him at the eleventh hour.
But despite that, the home side got off to the dream start in the second minute when Luke Freeman crossed from the left hand side into the O’s six yard box and Francois Zoko was credited with turning the ball in though it appeared the final touch may have come off an O’s defender which left Jamie Jones left flat-footed.
Orient started to respond well after a sloppy start and Shaun Batt looked a threat in the wide role on the right as he cut in and fired a shot over the bar soon after.
It would soon get worse for the O’s though as Stevenage doubled their lead on 11 minutes. Filipe Morais found space on the right hand side and curled an inch perfect cross between the two central defenders that Lucas Akins headed beyond Jones into the top corner.
Orient responded brilliantly however and soon got a goal back through that man David Mooney who notched his 13th of the season. The O’s broke down the right and when Jayden Stockley rose to challenge for a header it was cleared only as far as the lurking Mooney who kept his calm to side-foot a volley home.
Orient were on the ascendancy and it looked a safe bet that the Mooney strike would spark a spell of pressure however almost immediately the home side extended their lead. Elliot Omozusi flung himself in front of a Luke Freeman shot bravely but the referee adjudged he charged the effort down with his hand.
It was Morais who stepped up to take the penalty and Jones guessed the right way, getting a palm to the shot, but it was not enough to keep it out as the home side restored their two-goal advantage.
The goal prompted Russell Slade into a re-think as Moses Odubajo returned to right back, with Omozusi taking Sawyer’s place in the middle and the former moving to his more familiar left back role. The move settled Orient down and gave those watching a chance to draw breath as the game started to peter out into a more conventional affair.
There were still plenty of incidents to come in the action-packed half as Boro were left screaming for another penalty just after the half hour mark when Cuthbert charged down a Luke Freeman cross but this time the man in black Adcock waved play on.
However Adcock was the man at the centre of the attention again four minutes later when Batt raced on to a long kick by Jones and as he has appeared to be in on goal, Deacon dragged him down meaning Adcock reached straight for the red card, deeming it a goal scoring opportunity.
Orient took the initiative and found themselves right back in it during first half stoppage time as again Adcock made himself unpopular with the home crowd. The O’s were piling the pressure on the Stevenage penalty area and when Stockley won a header from a ball pumped into the box by James, he rose again for the second effort and appeared to be tripped amongst a pile of Stevenage bodies as Adcock pointed to the spot.
Having waited 59 games to get his first Orient goal, Lloyd James made it two in as many games as he stepped up to side-foot past Chris Day despite the keeper getting a hand on it.
Orient came out for the second period keen to force the issue and looking to break quickly whenever they seized possession with Batt drifting in at times to make a front three with Mooney and Stockley.
The pressure almost paid off within 10 minutes of the restart as Sawyer found Cox in space on the left who crossed perfectly for Mooney who got a firm header on target that brought the best out of Day.
Orient launched wave after wave of attack and on the hour mark Odubajo opened up his legs down the right before crossing for Stockley. The Bournemouth man looped a header up for his fellow loanee Marvin Bartley who cushioned a volley towards goal that Day again pushed behind.
As Orient looked to lose their momentum, Russell Slade turned to his talisman Kevin Lisbie who replaced David Mooney with 20 minutes to go.
Stevenage were content to sit deep and force Orient to play but the O’s struggled to find a way through the banks of Boro defence despite the best efforts of Lloyd James who time after time got on the ball and looked to make the O’s tick.
Robbie Simpson came on for his debut and had a half chance to level it in injury time with a header from a James cross but failed to find the target as Orient bowed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
ORIENT: Jones, Omozusi, Sawyer, Cuthbert (C), Cox, James, Mooney (Lisbie 70), Odubajo, Batt (Lasimant 72), Bartley, Stockley (Simpson 79)
SUBS: Larkins, Vanderhyde
GOALS: Mooney (13) James pen (45)
BOOKINGS: Sawyer (46) Cox (63) Omozusi (64) James (86)
STEVENAGE: Day, Deacon, Jones, Morais, Akins, Zoko (Burrow 90), Heslop, Freeman (Wedgbury 63), Smith, Doughty, Hartley
SUBS: Arnold, Andrade, Tansey
GOALS: Zoko (2) Akins (11) Morais pen (16)
BOOKINGS: Morais (44) Burrow (90)
RED CARDS: Deacon (37)
ATTENDANCE: 1532 (384)
REFEREE: James Adcock