Orient failed to capitalise on a strong first-half performance against Preston North End on Tuesday evening and were eventually subjected to a 2-0 defeat, meaning it is now seven games without a win so far this season in E10.
Preston took a one-goal lead into the break thanks to Callum Robinson’s close-range finish on 19 minutes. The O’s had plenty of chances to level throughout an entertaining opening period but were unfortunate to find keeper Jamie Jones, returning to the Matchroom Stadium for the first time since his summer switch to Preston, in fine form.
A Paul Huntington header with 15 minutes left to play doubled the visitors’ lead and proved too much for Orient to come back from.
Mauro Milanese marked his first game at the helm by making three changes to the Orient XI that started the weekend’s 3-0 away defeat to Port Vale. Two of the switches were forced upon him with Darius Henderson serving the first of his three-match ban after being sent off on Saturday and skipper Nathan Clarke joining a growing injury list having suffered concussion in training on Monday, while Chris Dagnall dropped to the bench.
It meant that Dean Cox, who has missed three games in October through injury, made a welcome return to the starting line-up alongside Bradley Pritchard and Gianvito Plasmati; the latter making his debut having received international clearance on his free transfer.
Preston, who had won their last six League 1 games into the fixture, made a bright start and winger Chris Humphrey was unlucky to see a good effort glance just wide of the far post on five minutes having cut inside from the right flank.
And Gary Woods had to be alert in the opening stages – first racing off his line to beat Joe Garner to a through ball and soon after denying Callum Robinson with a good save low to his left.
However the Orient keeper could do little about the opening goal on 19 minutes despite getting something on the final shot before it hit the net. Paul Gallagher laid the ball out to Humphrey whose cross from the byline took a deflection en route to his opposite winger Robinson and the wide-man slotted home with a first-time finish.
Within a minute of falling behind, Orient could have been level when Cox sent Jay Simpson racing through on goal. The O’s striker applied a decent finish but was denied by an excellent save from former Orient keeper Jones, who deflected the ball behind for a corner.
Another Orient corner shortly afterwards saw Simpson do well to get to a loose ball before hitting a low shot on the turn only to have his effort cleared off the line by a Preston defender on the back post.
Humphrey continued to be a nuisance for the home side on the break and his deep cross shortly before half-time gave Garner a great opportunity to double Preston’s lead however his header was well held by Woods.
Playing at right-back, Shane Lowry was the man tasked with keeping Humphrey quiet but his night became even more difficult when he collected a needless yellow card on 38 minutes. It was his fifth booking of the season meaning Orient will be without yet another first-team player for the visit of Coventry at the weekend.
With minutes to go before the half-time whistle, the O’s twice came agonisingly close to leveling the tie. Jobi McAnuff showed great determination and pace to get the better of his man on the left wing before playing a square cross into Simpson at the near post who did well to direct a shot goalwards with the outside of his right boot, only for Jones to get in the way of it. The rebound fell perfectly for O’s debutant Plasmati and the Italian looked to have fired in the equaliser before Jones somehow recovered to block the shot and complete a heroic double save.
It was a strong finish to the first 45 minutes from the O’s and they were highly unlucky to go into the break a goal down.
Opportunities were limited for both sides early in the second half, with a wayward free-kick apiece the closest either came to troubling the scoreline.
The volume inside Brisbane Road was briefly lifted during a period that saw McAnuff deliver a couple of teasing crosses and a skillful flick from Josh Wright – an early second half substitution for Pritchard – to Plasmati spark a promising attack, however it was beginning to look unlikely that the O’s would find an equaliser let alone overturn the score to win at home for the first time this season.
Plasmati’s involvement in that attack was his last action on the pitch before being replaced by Shaun Batt on 65 minutes but the Italian will be satisfied with his first appearance in English football, showing promising signs in his link-up play especially.
Orient captain Nathan Clarke was absent on the night after doctors advised he did not play due to the concussion he suffered in training yesterday, however his sibling Tom Clarke did feature as a second-half substitute for Preston. The defender was predominantly brought on to shore things up in front of the visitors’ back four but little more than 60-seconds after being introduced, he was setting up his side’s second goal.
A free-kick from the right was sent deep to the far post and Clarke peeled away to head the ball back across goal where Preston defender Huntington was waiting to head home from close-range past the helpless Woods, giving the Lancashire side a two-goal cushion with 15 minutes left to play.
Whilst they were up against a side with the league’s second best defensive record, Orient will be disappointed by the lack of chances they created in the final quarter-of-an-hour when they really need to push for a way back into the game but Jones’ clean sheet never looked in doubt once Preston’s lead was extended.
It might not have been a positive result for the O’s on the night but there was a bright note to end on when Milanese brought youngster Scott Kashket on for a well-deserved first-team debut in stoppage time. The forward didn’t really have enough time on the field to effect the game but his energy and strong finishing could be a real asset to the side as the season progresses.
ORIENT: Woods; Omozusi, Cuthbert (C), Baudry, Lowry; McAnuff, Pritchard (Wright, 56), Bartley, Cox; Simpson (Kashket, 90+2), Plasmati (Batt, 65)
SUBS: Grainger, Lee, Ling, Dagnall
BOOKINGS: Lowry (38), Cuthbert (41), Bartley (86), Cox (90+1)
PNE: Jones, Wiseman, Humphrey, Kilkenny (Browne, 85), Gallagher (Davies, 53), Garner, Buchanan, Welsh (C), King, Huntington, Robinson (Clarke, 74)
SUBS: Stuckman, Laird, Reid, Brownhill
GOALS: Robinson (19), Huntington (75)
BOOKINGS: Buchanan (12), Davies (57)
REF: Carl Berry
ATT: 4,560 (771)