Less than a minute in they lost skipper Robbie Weir to a red card for a challenge on the touchline, before Jimmy Spencer put the Pilgrims in front, only for O’s plight to get worse when debutant Jens Janse saw red. The defiant O’s never gave up though, and only a late strike from Ryan Donaldson sealed victory for Derek Adams’ side.
O’s interim manager Andy Edwards made two changes to the side which lost 3-1 at Notts County on Saturday with new signing Jens Janse handed his first start in place of the injured Yvan Erichot, while Sandro Semedo replaced Harry Cornick.
It was the worst possible start though as skipper Robbie Weir was shown his marching orders inside the opening 30 seconds having fouled Ben Purrington right in front of the Plymouth dugout.
Fans and players alike felt aggrieved by the decision from referee Charles Breakspear and their cause was hindered further with Liam Kelly receiving treatment on the far touchline.
It didn’t take long for the Pilgrims to break the deadlock as on 12 minutes a ball through from David Goodwillie found the run of Jimmy Spencer and he slotted past an onrushing Alex Cisak.
Kelly was forced off with the injury just after the goal, being replaced by Nigel Atangana, but it was to get worse for Edwards’ side as Janse was shown his marching orders for pulling back Jake Jervis midway in the half as Orient were now reduced to nine men.
Jervis continued to be involved and a minute later forced Cisak into a full-length save, then Goodwillie struck another effort goalwards which the Aussie stopper was able to gather at the second attempt.
Cisak did well to keep out a header, before Goodwillie went in late on the O’s third skipper of the night, Nicky Hunt, but referee Breakspear merely had a word with the former Blackburn striker.
The O’s goalkeeper was likely to be called into action on more than a few occasions as the game went on, and he again did well to keep out a Graham Carey strike, while on a forage forward, Semedo saw an attempt blocked.
Jay Simpson, now sitting in midfield, produced a fine mazy run through the centre before firing a shot which McCormick in the Pilgrims goal was able to hold.
Orient may have been at a numerical disadvantage for all bar 30 seconds of the half, but the desire and effort from the nine remaining was unquestionable as the O’s went in at the break 1-0 down.
No changes were made at the break, but Edwards was forced into one just three minutes in as Atangana was forced off through injury, with Harry Cornick on his place as O’s midfield four now consisted of three wingers and a striker.
Chances were few and far between in the opening exchanges, however, Plymouth thought they had doubled their lead when Goodwillie slotted home from inside the box, but the effort was ruled out for offside.
The O’s remained defiant throughout and Cornick produced a lung-busting run through the middle and found Massey on the right, however, the winger was offside and the effort of the players was not unnoticed from almost 3,500 O’s supporters, encouraging their every move.
Whatever the visitors could throw, the O’s were equal to and Jimmy Spencer let fly from fully 25 yards, only to be met by Cisak.
Simpson won Orient a set piece 30 yards from goal and up stepped Kennedy who saw his fierce effort take a deflection on its way behind for a corner as the O’s continued to battle like their life depended on it.
Plymouth did create the odd opening and after substitute Craig Tanner saw his effort saved, Spencer could only fire the rebound wide from an acute angle.
The second did come in the end though as the ball was played into Donaldson and he did the rest from close range. Despite the goal, the O’ supporters once more rallied behind the nine-men for their monumental effort.
Orient: Cisak, Janse, Hunt, Parkes, Kennedy, Massey, Kelly (Atangana 12 (Cornick 48)), Weir, Semedo, McCallum (Bowery 82), Simpson.
Subs: Sargeant, Palmer, Nnomo, Pollock.
Booked: Hunt (77)
Sent Off: Weir (1), Janse (14).
Plymouth Argyle: McCormick, Miller, Songo’o (Fox 57), Bulvitis, Smith (Donaldson 76), Goodwillie, Spencer, Carey, Jervis (Tanner 73), Bradley, Purrington.
Subs: Slew, Donaldson, Threlkeld, Dorel, Ijaha.
Goals: Spencer (11)
Booked: Carey (50), Purrington (71), Bulvitis (87)
Attendance: 4,366 (916 Plymouth Argyle fans)
Referee: Charles Breakspear.