Lloyd James slotted home a penalty in the last minute of normal time to secure a 1-1 draw for Orient against Championship side Ipswich Town at Brisbane Road on Saturday.
The visitor’s had held a 1-0 lead for the majority of the game thanks to a debut goal from striker Balint Bajner, but James stepped up to place an accurate spot-kick into the bottom right corner after Kevin Lisbie was brought down in the box late on.
It was the O’s final pre-season game before Chesterfield visit E10 on the opening day of the 2014/15 campaign next Saturday and the result was no less than they deserved against strong opposition.
After a pleasing work-out against QPR in midweek, the O’s made four changes to their starting XI, with Russell Slade giving home debuts to goalkeeper Adam Legzdins and ex-Aston Villa man Shane Lowry.
Orient made a bright start to the game forcing a couple of early corners and Lloyd James struck the crossbar with a free-kick from the same position Joey Barton had curled one into the back of the net on Tuesday.
However Orient’s defence failed to deal with the resulting goalkick which ultimately led to Ipswich taking the lead on 10 minutes.
Jay Tabb bundled his way through the heart of the O’s defence and Legzdins narrowed the angle to make a good save before the ball broke loose allowing Ipswich striker Bajner to fire the ball into an empty net on his debut for the visitors.
Orient responded well and continued to look the brighter of the two sides when they entered the final third.
Chris Dagnall’s well-timed runs were giving the Ipswich backline plenty to think about and the striker had a shot blocked inside the area before turning provider for Bradley Pritchard, who fired narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
After scoring a delightful header in midweek, Romain Vincelot almost netted another of equal quality on the half-hour mark when he danced into the area and sent an effort goalwards with the outside of his right boot, only for Dean Gerken in the Ipswich goal to make a sprawling save.
Whilst being one of the side’s most consistent performers last season, the French midfielder finished the campaign without a goal but it looks unlikely he will continue that drought this season based on his last two displays.
Ipswich could have found themselves 2-0 up going into the break had substitute Cameron Stewart put his free-kick six inches to the right but his effort went just wide of the post before the referee brought a close to a half in which Orient were the dominant side.
Jobi McAnuff made his eagerly anticipated O’s debut, coming on as a half-time substitute, and didn’t take long to give the home fans a glimpse of what’s to come as he raced down the left wing and sent in a teasing cross early on.
Pritchard was inches away from getting his head on the cross on that occasion and he played a perfectly weighted slide-rule pass into Mooney not long after, but the striker couldn’t find the target from a good position.
A host of second-half substitutions – which included Jay Simpson coming on to make his debut in place of Mooney – disrupted the flow of the game somewhat, with Ipswich forward David McGoldrick looking the most lively threat in front of goal.
However the final ten minutes saw the tempo pick-up again and O’s winger Cox came close to equalising with a 30-yard free-kick that was parried away by Gerken who was made to stretch, before Legzdins was forced in to action at the other end – making a superb double save to deny Alex Henshall putting the game beyond doubt.
And soon after, Lisbie went on a long, mazy run down the right wing and somehow worked his way into the Ipswich box through a crowd of defenders before being brought down on the byline to win a penalty against his forme club in the 90th minute.
Midfielder James stepped up to take the kick and, just as he did in the play-off final in May, held his nerve to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and earn a draw for his side.
After dominating the first half and making a strong finish to the game, Orient will certainly be full of optimism going into the season opener against Chesterfield next week.
ORIENT: Legzdins; Omozusi, Baudry, Clarke (C), Lowry (Sawyer, 61); Pritchard (Cox, 66), James, Vincelot (Bartley, 66), Batt (McAnuff, HT); Dagnall (Lisbie, HT), Mooney (Simpson, 66)
SUBS: Woods, Lee, Okosun, Nikolaou
GOALS: James (90)
IPSWICH: Gerken; Parr (Stewart, 39), Chambers (C), Berra, Mings; Hewitt, Hyam (Wordsworth, 73), Skuse (Bru, 81), Tabb (Henshall, 81); Bajner (McGoldrick, HT, Marriot, 87), Murphy (Nouble, 73)
SUBS: Bialkowski, Crowe, Clarke
GOALS: Bajner (10)
REFEREE: Gary Sutton
ATTENDANCE: 2,052 (595)