The O’s put in a solid performance to take all three points at home against Stevenage on Tuesday night, sending them back into the second automatic promotion spot and overturning a run of four games without a victory.
After an energetic opening to the game, Orient took the lead on 14 minutes through Moses Odubajo who was quickest to react to a loose ball and fire home after Chris Dagnall’s effort was turned away by keeper Chris Day.
Dagnall should perhaps have scored with the initial shot but the striker made no mistake when he was granted another opportunity less than 10 minutes later – this time hitting his shot low past Day to give his side a healthy first-half advantage.
The O’s were unable to add to the scoresheet despite playing some entertaining football for the remainder of the match, but will be delighted with their overall performance having lost their last two at home.
Orient are sandwiched between league leaders Brentford and third-placed Wolves after securing the three points, however both rivals have two games in hand over them.
Having put in a battling display to take a point in the weekend’s tough away trip to Preston, Orient manager Russell Slade chose to make just one change to his starting line-up for this evening’s match; Kevin Lisbie making way for fellow striker Dagnall.
And the consistency in the boss’s team selection seemed to be paying off in the early exchanges of the game as Orient’s passing and team pressing were equally impressive, allowing them to dominate from the start.
Lloyd James and Romain Vincelot were controlling the tempo from central midfield – in the way they had done so often during the first half of this season – and Dean Cox was drifting in from the left wing to influence the game behind Dagnall and David Mooney up front.
And the O’s vibrant start was rewarded in the 14th minute when right-winger Odubajo broke the deadlock with his first home goal since December, taking him on to nine for the season.
Orient had already caused the visitors several problems down the right flank when the O’s wide man broke in from his wing to tee-up Dagnall in the box – the striker had acres of space to get a shot off but Day was able to parry a tame effort away.
However Odubajo made sure to continue his run and got to the rebound first to divert the ball home past Day, who was still on the ground having made the initial stop.
As well as Orient started, the visiting defence were not enjoying a good day at the office and, less than 10 minutes after taking the lead, the O’s were gifted another.
Dagnall, whose energy up front for the O’s is a real asset, pinched the ball off Luke Jones after the defender received a hospital pass from his captain Jon Ashton, and the forward played a one-two with strike partner Mooney before steadying himself and firing low past the goalkeeper to double his side’s advantage with barely half of the opening period played.
A great counter-attack from Orient 10 minutes before half-time could have seen them stretch their lead further when Cox and the lightning-fast Odubajo combined magnificently and the latter forced Day into making a good save with his feet. The ball came straight back in from the left side but Dagnall sent a header narrowly over the bar.
Stevenage’s first attempt of note came in the form of a well-hit Jimmy Smith from 25 yards not long before half-time. The midfielder’s shot stung the palms of Jakupovic who made a strong save to deny what would have been a spectacular goal.
The Bosnia goalkeeper looked confident and assured throughout in what was his first home appearance since returning to the club on loan last week, and he made another good stop from a Dean Parrett free-kick not long before half-time.
Two goals down at the break, Stevenage knew they would have to put in a big performance in the second-half but Orient did well to cope with their early pressure and regain control of proceedings.
A couple of fantastic moves just before the hour-mark saw Cox and Mooney combine to win a corner and then Dagnall’s volley deflected agonisingly wide. Had either attack ended in a goal, it would have been a serious contender for the best of the season, purely for the sheer inventiveness and creativity involved.
Cox continued to feature at the heart of Orient’s best attacks as they went in search of a third goal to put the game to bed, and Dagnall might feel he could have grabbed his second of the night when he headed over after a fine cross from the winger.
Stevenage did manage to force a number of corners as the half wore on but Orient’s rearguard generally coped well with the task at hand.
However, the O’s ultimately had their goalkeeper to thank for ensuring they kept their fifth clean sheet of 2014 when Jakupovic made a top-drawer left-handed save to keep out substitute Michael Doughty’s thumping drive in the final moments of stoppage time.
It was a solid home performance from Orient and the three points never really looked in doubt from the moment Man of the Match Odubajo gave them a first-half lead, no doubt filling them with confidence with two further home games to come in the next week-and-a-half.
ORIENT: Jakupovic, Cuthbert, Clarke (C), Baudry, Sawyer; Odubajo, James (Ness, 82), Vincelot, Cox; Dagnall (Batt, 76), Mooney
SUBS: Larkins, Bartley, Lasimant, Simpson, Lisbie
GOALS: Odubajo (14), Dagnall (23)
BOOKINGS: Sawyer (90+1)
STEVENAGE: Day, Ashton (C), Jones Morais (Deacon, 62 [Doughty, 78]) , Mousinho (Charles, 62) Akins, Zoko, Parrett, Freeman, Smith, Hartley
SUBS: Arnold, Burrow, Obeng, N’Guessan
BOOKINGS: Deacon (66)
REF: Trevor Kettle
ATTENDENCE: 4,171 (333)