Having made an impressive second-half comeback, the O’s had victory snatched away from them in the final minutes of the game when Coventry winger Jim O’Brien fired home his second of the day to make it 2-2.
The pattern of Orient’s home displays so far this campaign has seen them register promising first-half performances without being able to carry this through to the second-half, however today saw that trend reversed when a disappointing opening period was followed by a tremendous comeback after the break, only for the visitors to deny them a first home win of the season in the 91st minute.
In an otherwise uneventful first half, Coventry took the lead 10 minutes before the break when O’Brien slotted home from Gary Madine’s cut-back.
Two headed goals, first from Scott Cuthbert and then Jay Simpson, saw the O’s reverse the scoreline by the 71st minute but O’Brien struck again in stoppage time to level the tie.
Tuesday’s 2-0 loss at home to Preston was Orient’s eighth straight defeat at home this season but there were certainly encouraging signs for the O’s, and manager Mauro Milanese made just two changes to his side for the visit of Coventry this afternoon.
Captain Nathan Clarke replaced the suspended Shane Lowry after recovering from a head injury sustained in training earlier in the week while loanee Josh Wright made his full debut for the club in central midfield in place of Bradley Pritchard.
The only incident of note during an uneventful and cagey opening 20 minutes of football was an early clash of heads between Coventry skipper Reda Johnson and Gianvito Plasmati which saw the former stay down for several minutes. The visitors seemed reluctant to substitute their influential captain however it soon became apparent that he was not going to be able to continue due to the head injury sustained.
Plasmati and Dean Cox were the O’s most lively players throughout a dull opening period and the duo linked up brilliantly just after the half-hour mark. The Italian did well to hold off his marker and skillfully flick the ball into the path of Cox, allowing the winger to compose himself and strike a trademark 25-yard volley which curled narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
Moments earlier, Mathieu Baudry had made a goal-saving challenge inside his own six yard box when Gary Madine looked certain to score having received a diagonal cross from Jack Finch which was made to order.
And it wasn’t long before the away side did take the lead when they capitalised on some sloppy defending from the O’s on 35 minutes. Clarke lost his footing to allow an otherwise tame pass forwards to bounce over him and Madine took full advantage, running in-behind before pulling a cross back to winger O’Brien who applied an accurate first-time finish into the far right corner.
Besides an in-swinging Cox free-kick from which Baudry managed to direct a weak header on target in the dying moments of the half, Orient did not come close to threatening a comeback before the referee brought an end to a poor opening 45 minutes.
There was an early scare for the O’s after the restart when Coventry winger John Fleck hit a powerful low drive at goal but Woods got behind the shot, crucially holding onto the ball when Frank Nouble was ready to pounce on any rebounds.
Orient had to wait until nine minutes into the second half before they won their first corner of the afternoon but it was worth it once it arrived.
Cox lofted his delivery deep to the far post where Cuthbert rose the highest and headed his side level on 54 minutes. There was a brief moment of hesitation from the match officials as to whether the defender’s header had crossed the line but they correctly awarded the goal to send the O’s fans wild.
The equaliser really raised the noise levels inside Brisbane Road and led to a sustained spell of pressure from the home side, even if this contained very few openings in front of goal.
And just as it looked like Coventry were beginning to take a hold of the game again, Orient took the lead on 71 minutes thanks to more great work by a defender in the attacking third.
This time Baudry found himself in the left wing position and delivered a perfect in-swinging cross and met by the head of Simpson who fired his effort high into the net beyond a helpless Lee Burge.
The O’s showed good game management after taking the lead and were doing an effective job of keeping the ball and limiting Coventry’s attacking threat, however all that good work was undone a minute into time added on when the visitors stole a point.
Woods came out to claim a cross from the left wing but was not able to hold on to the ball under a strong challenge and, when it dropped to O’Brien on the edge of the box, the winger made no mistake in firing home for his second goal of the afternoon despite the best efforts of Baudry and Clarke to keep it out on the line.
It was a killer blow for Orient after they looked destined to secure their first home win in nine games – a run they will again try to end when Northampton visit in the third round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 10 days’ time.
ORIENT: Woods; Cuthbert, Baudry, Clarke (C), Omozusi; McAnuff, Bartley, Wright (Pritchard, 77), Cox; Simpson, Plasmati (Batt, 77)
SUBS: Grainger, Sawyer, Lee Kasket, Dagnall
GOALS: Cuthbert (54), Simpson (71)
BOOKINGS: Wright (74), Batt (90+5)
COVENTRY: Burge, Willis, Johnsson (C) (Webster, 8 [Jackson,80]), Fleck, Madine, O’Brien, Barton, Nouble, Martin, Haynes, Finch (Maddison, 86)
SUBS: Allsop, McQuoid, Miller, Tudgay
GOALS: O’Brien (35), (90+1)
BOOKINGS: Fleck (45+4), Barton (70), Burge (87)
REF: Jeremy Simpson
ATT: 5,464 (1,161)