Jay Simpson became the first Leyton Orient player since Peter Kitchen to score 20 league goals in a season as his stoppage time strike snatched a 2-2 draw at Stevenage.
Following a closely contested first half in which Jay Simpson had seen a shot cleared off the line, Orient made the breakthrough on the hour when Simpson registered his 19th of the season from the penalty spot.
Two goals within the space of five minutes were to turn the game around however as Stevenage substitute Armand Gnanduillet converted on both the 74th and 79th minute, but Simpson was to save the day deep into stoppage time as he rifled an equaliser to send the travelling fans crazy.
Ahead of the O’s first game of 2016 Head Coach Ian Hendon made one change to the starting XI from the defeat at Bristol Rovers as Frazer Shaw replaced the injured Jean-Yves M’voto.
Loan signing Calaum Jahraldo-Martin was confirmed on the morning of the game and made the substitutes bench, along with second-year scholar Aron Pollock.
In wet and cold conditions, the match saw the first incident come only 28 seconds in when Bradley Pritchard was hauled down on the edge of the penalty area. Despite appeals from the Orient players for a penalty a free-kick was awarded, though Jobi McAnuff’s delivery evaded everyone.
Both sides were cancelling each other out throughout the opening exchanges but on the 13th minute Blair Turgott had the first chance of the afternoon when his flicked shot from McAnuff’s cross was held by Chris Day.
Stevenage were looking to involve Jamille Matt at every opportunity and midway through the half a scramble in the O’s penalty area presented the striker with a chance, but McAnuff was able to block his shot.
In response to the chance Cole Kpekawa then curled a free-kick narrowly over the crossbar, before O’s stopper Alex Cisak reacted well to parry a low strike across goal from Matt away from danger.
Orient were being restricted to shots from distance but with 33 minutes on the clock that nearly presented the visitors with the opening goal.
Stevenage’s Day could only parry Turgott’s powerful strike from distance into the path of Jay Simpson who then took a touch before firing the ball beyond the ‘keeper, only to be denied his 19th of the season by Ronnie Henry on the line.
Simpson’s opportunity was the closest either side had come to breaking the deadlock and despite McAnuff coming close twice in the final minutes, the sides went into the break all square.
Having both opted against making any changes during the break, it was Orient who started the second half the brighter but it was the hosts Michael Tonge who had the first chance when he fired wide from distance.
As the hour mark approached the deadlock was then finally broken when the O’s were awarded a penalty after referee Darren Deadman adjudged Fraser Franks to have handled Simpson’s shot from the edge of the box.
Simpson then made no mistake from the penalty spot, rolling home the spot kick to his left to bag his 19th goal of the season before running off in celebration in front of the travelling O’s supporters.
Having scored the first goal of the calendar year, Orient’s lead was nearly wiped out three minutes later however when a Stevenage corner was headed inches over the bar by defender Jamie McCombe.
The hosts were not to be denied ten minutes later however when Tom Pett’s cross from the right was met by substitute Armand Gnanduillet who, despite appeals for offside, was on hand to glance a header beyond Cisak.
In response to the equaliser Orient then made their first change of the game as Calaum Jahraldo-Martin came on in place of Turgott to make his debut, but two minutes later Stevenage took the lead when Ben Kennedy played the ball through for Gnanduilet who then kept his composure to double his tally.
John Marquis was then thrown on as the O’s went with three up front for the final ten minutes, and in stoppage time the pressure was to pay off as a ball into the Stevenage box eventually dropped to the feet of no other than Simpson who then rifled in his 20th league goal of the season.
The drama was not to end there however as both Marquis and Palmer had chances to snatch the victory, but Day was able to deny both as the sides settled for a point each.
STEVENAGE: Day, Henry (C), McCombe, Franks, Ogilvie, Gordon (Kennedy 61), Tonge, Lee, Pett, McFadzean (Gnanduillet 64), Lee, Matt
SUBS: Crowe, Hughes, Johnson, Conlon, Gorman
GOALS: Gnanduillet (74 & 79)
BOOKINGS: Franks (24)
ORIENT: Cisak, Clohessy (C), Essam, Kpekawa, Shaw, Turgott (Jahraldo-Martin 77), Pritchard, Payne, McAnuff (Marquis 81), Palmer, Simpson
SUBS: Grainger, Dunne, Pollock, Moncur, Kashket
GOALS: Simpson (60 pen & 90+3)
BOOKINGS: Pritchard (66)
REFEREE: Darren Deadman
ATTENDANCE: 4,022 (1,175 Orient supporters)