Having fallen behind to two early goals at home to Bristol City on Tuesday night, the O’s were unable to find a way back into the game and suffered their third defeat in a row.
The visitors raced into the lead on three minutes when Sam Baldock fired low past Shwan Jalal before Tyrone Barnett nodded in from a corner nine minutes later, leaving Orient shell-shocked.
But, in what had been a disappointing first-half performance from the home side, they ended the opening period with a great spell of pressure resulting in Kevin Lisbie’s 14th goal of the season.
A bright start after the break suggested a comeback was just around the corner but a lack of clear-cut chances prevented the O’s from getting an equaliser before Aden Flint extended Bristol’s lead once more with a header on 76 minutes.
Orient boss Russell Slade made three changes to the team that was defeated late on against Peterborough United at the weekend. Elliot Omozusi’s second-half injury in that game meant Gary Sawyer was brought in for his first league start since December, while top scorer David Mooney and midfielder Lloyd James made way for Kevin Lisbie and Marvin Bartley respectively.
The visitors meanwhile made four changes after gaining a point away to Oldham on Saturday, with ex-Arsenal man Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Wade Elliot among those drafted in by manager Steve Cotterill.
The O’s made the worst possible start to the game when they allowed Bristol to take the lead after just three minutes. Emmanuel-Thomas, who was playing just off the main striker, dropped deep to spread an accurate pass out to Baldock on the right flank and the City captain cut inside with the ball before striking a low shot past Jalal’s left hand.
The visitors remained the better side after taking the lead with Baldock continuing to pose the biggest threat down the right wing, but it was a Marlon Pack corner from the left that led to their second of the night after 12 minutes.
The defensive midfielder’s delivery was met by the head of Barnett who guided his effort inside the far post to further shock the O’s, sending them two goals down for the first time at home this season.
Despite Bristol forcing another succession of corners immediately after doubling their lead, the game settled down as the half progressed.
Yet Orient were unable to find their stride, and it took them until 39 minutes to have a shot on target when Chris Dagnall did well to draw a foul allowing Sawyer to force opposition keeper Simon Moore into a save from from the resulting free-kick.
This triggered the O’s best spell by a long way and you could sense a goal was coming for the home side.
Cox, as he was at the weekend, was Orient’s most creative threat in the opening half and saved his brightest moments for the final 10 minutes.
First the winger fired a low effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box after Moses Odubajo’s low ball to feet and, on 44 minutes, it was his drive that allowed Lisbie to tap home from the rebound.
Cox did well to let the ball run across his body before unleashing a swerving first-time shot goalwards. It proved too hot to handle for the keeper who spilled it inside his six-yard box and Lisbie followed up like the experienced striker he is to tuck the ball underneath Moore.
Rallied by the goal, the home side piled on the pressure during the three minutes that referee Carl Berry added on and Lisbie might have had a second with the last action of the half, only for his off-balance header to clear the crossbar after Cox’s deep delivery from a corner.
Orient carried their momentum into the second half but were unable to capitalise on their early pressure. Meanwhile Bristol – particularly with the pace of Baldock and precise deliveries from Emmanuel-Thomas – still looked dangerous on the break and from set-pieces.
17-goal man Mooney was introduced in place of Dagnall just after the hour-mark and didn’t take long to have an impact on the game, seeing a shot deflected wide with his first touch of the ball.
And, soon after, the substitute linked up well with Cox in a move down the left, which resulted in Odubajo striking the post from close range after the winger had pounced on Moore’s fumble.
It turned out to be Orient’s best chance of finding an equaliser for the rest of the game. A number of half-chances ensued for both Mooney and Cox but Moore was not tested again before his side broke away to give Orient a mountain to climb with just under a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.
With Flint the only man in the O’s box on 76 minutes, Slade will be disappointed his side allowed the visiting defender to get on the end of Greg Cunningham’s deep cross from the left, but the centre-back’s header was enough to find the back of the net and restore his side’s two-goal cushion.
It was a game which could easily have swung back in Orient’s favour on another day had one of their many second-half efforts found the target, but Bristol put in a good away performance after doing the majority of their work inside the opening 15 minutes of the match.
The defeat tonight will place even greater significance on this weekend’s League 1 match with Preston North End – the side five points and one place behind them in fourth – but there is no doubt Slade will remain confident that his side can bounce back from this poor run after the season they have had so far.
ORIENT: Jalal, Cuthbert, Baudry, Clarke (C), Sawyer, Odubajo, Bartley (Ness 78), Vincelot, Cox, Dagnall (Mooney 64), Lisbie (Lasimant 83).
SUBS NOT USED: Larkins, James, Simpson, Loza.
GOALS: Lisbie (44)
BOOKINGS: Cuthbert (52), Cox (75), Sawyer (90+4)
BRISTOL CITY: Moore; Osborne, El-Abd, Flint, Williams, Cunningham, Pack, W.Elliott, Emmanuel-Thomas, Barnett, Baldock (C) (Gillett 90).
SUBS NOT USED: Fielding, Burns, Bryan, Moloney, Reid, Pearson.
GOALS: Baldock (3), Barnett (12), Flint (76)
BOOKINGS: Williams (48), Osborne (61), Moore (72)
REFEREE: Carl Berry
ATTENDENCE: 3,920 (375)