Chris Brayford’s side started the New Year in fourth place with 18 points, meanwhile Stevenage went into the match sitting ninth in South East Division One with 10 points.
Orient got the game underway in their all red strip, kicking from right to left at Mile End Stadium. The hosts began with high intensity, passing the ball confidently and looking to conjure up an early opening.
With six minutes played, Sophie Le Marchand won a free-kick near the by-line on the right side of the penalty area. Hayley Barton delivered a teasing effort which lingered in the air before clipping the crossbar on its way over.
After some positive exchanges, the O’s broke the deadlock on eight minutes thanks to Chanel Richards. Le Marchand did superbly to ride a challenge, threading an exquisite pass into Barton who squared for Richards to guide the ball home from close-range.
However, Orient’s lead was short-lived as Stevenage bagged an equaliser just four minutes later. Nicole Emmings found herself with time and space in the box, controlling the ball and drilling a composed finish into the bottom corner beyond Naomi Ogunde in the O’s goal.
It had been an entertaining first quarter of an hour for the neutral, with chances and a goal at each end. A neat interchange set Barton through on goal but her powerful strike was excellently tipped behind by Stevenage goalkeeper Hannah Vandersluis.
Sadly, the O’s were forced into their first change of the afternoon when Tara O’Halloran hobbled off on 24 minutes to be replaced by Egle Trezzi in midfield. The game became rather scrappy with the sides all square as the half hour mark approached.
Then, Orient spurred a great opportunity to re-gain their lead on 27 minutes. Barton’s delicate cross picked out Le Marchand in the box, she guided her header back across goal only to see the ball drop agonisingly over the upright.
As half-time crept nearer, both teams continued to battle for a sustained spell of possession. Barton and Le Marchand combined dangerously with the latter sending a glancing header wide of the far post.
Down the other end, the O’s had a lucky escape. Emmings’ pass sent Amy Makewell through on goal, but the Stevenage number nine dragged her shot inches wide of Ogunde’s far post much to home sides’ relief.
At the break, there was nothing to separate the two teams. Orient started brightly and succeeded in snatching an early goal, but would have been disappointed to let their lead slip so quickly.
Stevenage goal scorer Emmings got the game restarted with the scores level at 1-1.
From a corner, Orient came close to a second when Francesca Cagetti and Chloe McNee saw successive efforts blocked in the goal mouth.
Although, the O’s did not have to wait long to restore their advantage. Vandersluis came a long way for a 50-50 challenge with Richards however, the ball fell kindly for Barton who calmly curled it into an empty net on 50 minutes.
Despite their breakthrough, Orient almost conceded within a matter of minutes when Stevenage were denied by the woodwork. Ellie Searle created an angle inside the box, striking across goal only to be frustrated by the right-hand post.
On 65 minutes, the referee brandished the first booking of the match with Paige Logie the recipient after a foul on Connie Montiel-McCann. Orient went searching for a third and were left reeling when Cagetti’s knock-down was deflected narrowly wide.
In what was becoming a tense affair, Cagetti received Orient’s first booking of the game after a cynical foul on the edge of the O’s penalty area. Swiftly, Orient raced up the pitch only for a strong recovery challenge to deny Richards a brace.
With fifteen minutes remaining, the O’s made their second change with goal scorer Richards making way for Suaila Cardoso Queni. The visitors continued to chase an equaliser as Erin Pope drifted into space, controlled the ball before miscuing her strike on the turn.
For the final ten minutes, Camila Pescatore replaced McNee in the O’s final switch of the afternoon. However, Stevenage managed to carve out an equaliser when Searle put the ball on a plate for Ashleigh Deacon to prod home from inside the six-yard box.
As the clock struck 90 minutes, Stevenage stunned the hosts with a dramatic late winner. Emmings drove into space which opened up ahead of her before squeezing a left-footed effort low into the corner, subjecting Orient to their first defeat in six games.
After the match, captain Danielle Griffiths gave an honest assessment of the performance:
“Obviously, the result is disappointing. We should never have conceded two goals in the last ten minutes, at 2-1 we should have been able to see out the game. We certainly had plenty of chances to go further ahead.
“I think we sat back a little bit too much in the last twenty minutes, invited too much pressure and we know they could take chances if they had them. We need to learn from that. I think we had good spells in the game, we certainly showed that we can create chances, but we need to put games away earlier.”
Next, the O’s return to FA Women’s National League action with Luton Town Ladies the visitors to Mile End Stadium this Sunday 13th January with kick-off at 14:00.