A game of few chances at the Matchroom Stadium on Saturday afternoon left Leyton Orient still searching for their first home win of the season.
The stalemate also means Russell Slade’s side remain unbeaten since the opening day defeat to newly promoted Chesterfield, however this will have been a game the O’s would hope to take maximum points from.
Jobi McAnuff made his first start in front of the home crowd and he came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half when Darius Henderson’s flicked header allowed him to run clear of the Walsall defence before hitting his effort into the side-netting.
Both sides showed more inventiveness after the break but it was a bad touch from Orient ‘keeper Adam Legzdins which brought about the game’s biggest chance when Walsall winger Anthony Forde pounced only to put his back-heel wide of the target.
That incident sparked the liveliest period of the match 10 minutes after half-time, during which Dean Cox was denied by a brilliant one-handed save from visiting stopper Richard O’Donnell, but it didn’t take long for the action to die down again and neither side will have many complaints about the final score.
Slade made just a single change to the eleven he sent out against Bristol City in midweek. Darius Henderson came on to replace the injured Kevin Lisbie with just 23 minutes gone in Tuesday’s goalless draw and the latter failed to recover from his shoulder problem in time for today’s game, meaning Henderson led the O’s line from the start for the first time at home.
Walsall have struggled for form in the early part of the season and manager Dean Smith made two changes to the side that was defeated 2-1 by Yeovil in the week, with James Baxendale and Anthony Forde being drafted in at right wing and left wing respectively.
The opening exchanges were played at a decent pace and it didn’t take long for Orient to create their first chance of the afternoon. David Mooney, Dean Cox and Henderson linked up well with five minutes gone and the latter saw his header deflected just over the bar after Cox delivered an excellent in-swinging cross to the far post.
The O’s were the dominant side in possession, with wingers McAnuff and Cox seeing plenty of the ball – in central areas as well as on their respective flanks – but the patient build-up play from the home side was suiting Walsall who were happy to soak it up and play on the break.
McAnuff was by far Orient’s most lively threat going forwards however Mooney and Henderson were not able to find the target after getting on the end of a couple of the ex-Reading man’s deliveries from the right.
Henderson is a big presence for the O’s upfront however Slade’s side were perhaps guilty of playing it long to the striker on a few too many occasions throughout the first half – an approach which saw little reward.
Despite that, it was a big kick forward from goalkeeper Legzdins that was flicked on by Henderson which almost saw Orient take the lead on the stroke of half-time. The forward lost his man well and nodded the ball through to McAnuff who raced towards goal only to send his right-footed shot into the side-netting.
It was the closest either side had come to scoring throughout a largely uneventful opening period, however Orient have only scored one of their four league goals in the first-half so far this season so there will have been hope as the sides went in goalless at the break.
There was much more urgency about Orient’s play after the break but it was Walsall who almost took the lead against the run of play on 53 minutes.
Legzdins took a heavy touch after receiving a back pass inside his six-yard box and Walsall’s Forde beat the keeper to the loose ball – the winger looked like he couldn’t miss but somehow managed to back-heel his effort wide under pressure from Legzdins.
Minutes later, Orient came just as close to opening their account when Mooney’s ball sent Cox into the visitors’ box. The winger checked inside on to his favoured right foot to curl a shot which looked destined for the bottom right corner, only for Walsall ‘keeper O’Donnell to tip the ball round the post in stunning fashion.
The game became a more open affair after these two chances and the introduction of Romaine Sawyers for the visitors and Jay Simpson for the O’s added further intensity to both sides’ play.
Orient were playing much better football in the second half which saw Lloyd James becoming increasingly involved in their attacks. The central midfielder sent a decent drive from 25 yards narrowly over the bar before showing good vision to set-up McAnuff whose low shot was deflected wide of Walsall’s left-hand post.
Legzdins was called into action with 15 minutes left to play, doing well to block Tom Bradshaw’s attempt after a low cross into the box had caught out the O’s backline.
But aside from a couple of tame long-range efforts from both sides in the closing 10 minutes of the match, neither looked likely to break the deadlock before referee David Webb brought an end to proceedings.
Three more tough away trips await the O’s now, starting with the journey up to Birmingham on Tuesday to face Premier League side Aston Villa in the League Cup which will be a memorable occasion whatever the outcome.
ORIENT: Legzdins; Cuthbert, Baudry, Clarke (C), Omozusi; McAnuff, James (Bartley, 86), Vicelot, Cox; Mooney (Simpson, 67), Henderson (Dagnall, 82)
SUBS: Woods, Sawyer, Lowry, Pritchard
BOOKINGS: Vincelot (65)
WALSALL: O’Donnell; Taylor, Holden, Downing, Chambers (C), Bradshaw, Baxendale (Sawyers, 66), Kinsella, Grimes (Morris, 81), Clifford (Flanagan, 76), Forde
SUBS: MacGillivray, O’Connor, Benning, Bakayoko
REF: David Webb
ATT: 4,400 (225)