Leyton Orient’s relegation to League 2 was confirmed on the final day of the season as they let a two-goal lead slip at Swindon.
Swindon were reduced to 10-men early on when goalkeeper Tyrell Belford brought down Lloyd James, but the O’s midfielder was unable to score the penalty.
The O’s raced into a two goal lead when Dean Cox put them ahead five minutes before half time and Chris Dagnall extended their advantage on the 47th minute. Orient were unable to hold on however as Anton Rodgers pulled one back before Andy Williams equalised with a penalty five minutes from time.
Going into the final game of the season Fabio Liverani made two changes to the side that drew at home to Sheffield United.
Josh Wright replaced Shaun Batt in midfield while Luke O’Neill was handed a first start since the O’s win against Port Vale at the end of March, in place of Scott Cuthbert. Orient lined up in a 4-3-3 formation as Dean Cox and Jay Simpson took up positions on the flanks.
In need of a win to stand any chance of surviving, the O’s got off to an electric start and Jay Simpson was at the heart of the action in the opening minutes as he first had a powerful shot parried out by Tyrell Belford before seeing penalty appeals waved a way after the forward went down under a challenge.
The visitors were really going for it early on and Luke O’Neill was combining well with Simpson down the right. The on-loan Burnley man then whipped in a teasing ball into the box that Chris Dagnall knocked down for Dean Cox but the winger had his shot blocked by Raphael Rossi-Branco.
Alex Cisak was called into action just shy of the 15-minute mark as John Swift weaved his way into the penalty area and pulled it back for Andy Williams whose shot was brilliantly pushed away.
The game then sparked into life on the 18th minute when Orient were awarded a penalty and Swindon were reduced to 10-men.
Lloyd James broke the offside trap to reach a Josh Wright pass and Robins’ stopper Belford brought down the O’s midfielder as he knocked the ball to his right. Referee Dean Whitestone played advantage but Dagnall could only slice a shot into the side-netting and as a result, play was called back and Belford was shown his marching orders.
James stepped up to take the ensuing penalty, but following a lengthy five-minute delay, substitute goalkeeper – and the older brother of Tyrell – Cameron Belford guessed correctly as he dived to his left and kept the shot out.
Marvin Bartley was joining the O’s attacks well from midfield and moments later he ventured down the left and pulled the ball back across the six-yard line but Simpson’s shot was blocked behind.
Following the red card Swindon enjoyed a brief period of keeping chances at a premium until the O’s stepped up a gear.
Cox, Nathan Clarke and Dagnall all had chances in the matter of minutes before Orient managed to finally find a way through to grab a vital lead on the 40th minute.
As Swindon knocked the ball across their defence, Rossi-Branco dwelled on the ball on the edge of his area and Cox nipped in to steal the ball and expertly slide a shot beyond the onrushing Belford to send the travelling fans wild.
In first half stoppage time John Swift had a shot from distance fumbled by Cisak but the ‘keeper was able to gather at the second attempt and ensure the O’s went into the break ahead.
The O’s came flying out of the blocks in the second half and managed to double their lead when Simpson’s shot was parried back into the path of Dagnall who confidently curled the rebound home.
Less than a minute later Orient could have been three to the good when Cox was released down the left but despite getting the better of Belford, his effort cannoned back off the bar.
Swindon halved the deficit just after the hour-mark with a sublime free-kick from Anton Rogers, who had the ball scooped up for him by Swift before taking a touch and lifting a shot into the top corner.
Williams then tested Cisak with a shot from the edge of the box but the ‘keeper managed to parry his effort away before scrambling on top of the loose ball.
With just over 20 minutes remaining Williams then came within an inch of bagging an equaliser as he turned Mathieu Baudry and dragged a left footed shot across the goal line.
Swindon continued to push forward in a bid to level the affairs as Jack Barthram roamed forward down the right and delivered a splendid ball into the box that Swift could only direct over.
As the game entered the final stages Orient looked to preserve their lead as Scott Cuthbert came on in place of Cox but with five minutes remaining Swindon were awarded a penalty.
O’Neill was penalised for a foul on Sam Ricketts and Williams stepped up to send Cisak the wrong way.
With two minutes remaining Clarke ghosted in at the back post to get on the end of an O’Neill delivery but his header was blocked behind for a corner and Orient were unable to grab a late winner.
Following the O’s failure to win at the County Ground their relegation to League 2 was confirmed, ending a 9-year stay in the third tier of English football.
SWINDON: T Belford, Branco, Ricketts (C), Barthram, Turnbull (Stephens 46), Agombar (Marshall 62), Rodgers, Swift, Randall, Williams, Cooke (C Belford 21)
SUBS: Jones, T Smith, Barker, M Smith
GOALS: Rodgers (61), Williams (86 pen)
BOOKINGS: Williams (68)
RED CARD: T Belford (18)
ORIENT: Cisak, O’Neill, Baudry, Clarke (C), Omozusi (Lowry 55), Wright, James, Bartley, Cox (Cuthbert 81), Simpson (McAnuff 73), Dagnall
SUBS: Woods, Batt, Hedges, Mooney
GOALS: Cox (40), Dagnall (47)
BOOKINGS: Baudry (60)
ATTENDANCE: 8,609 (1,131 Orient fans)