A late Lee Angol penalty deservedly gave Leyton Orient their first point of 2020 with a 1-1 draw at home to Grimsby Town this afternoon.
Despite dominating large parts of an entertaining game at The Breyer Group Stadium, the O’s fell behind with 16 minutes remaining when Billy Clarke found the back of the net on his debut. However Orient rallied and when Craig Clay was bundled over in injury time, up stepped Angol to smash home an equaliser.
Ross Embleton made four changes from the side that narrowly lost at Walsall on New Year’s Day. Josh Coulson, James Brophy, Hector Kyprianou and Connor Wilkinson came in – the latter returning from injury – with Marvin Ekpiteta, Craig Clay, Myles Judd and Ruel Sotiriou dropping to the bench. New arrival Lawrence Vigouroux also missed out, awaiting international clearance after his recent signing.
The visitors arrived with two successive wins under new manager Ian Holloway and were backed by a large, noisy following but it was the O’s who started the brighter and forced a number of early set pieces in the opening 15 minutes.
Dan Happe nodded an early corner wide and after Jordan Maguire-Drew’s free-kick deflected over, Connor Wilkinson saw a close-range effort cleared off the line.
With 17 minutes on the clock a fantastic crossfield ball from Wilkinson found Maguire-Drew, who cut back inside his man and curled towards the far corner, only for the stretching Lee Angol to divert the ball over in the chance of the half.
Orient continued to push forward and enjoy the best of the possession but couldn’t find the breakthrough that their pressure deserved.
The Mariners enjoyed their best spell as half-time approached but failed to hit the target with their chances, as Elliot Whitehouse dragged a tame shot wide of Sargeant’s near post and right-back Luke Hendrie saw a cross from the byline deflect over via his own player.
Back came the O’s though, with the final two chances of the half falling to the hosts. A driving diagonal run from Brophy saw Judd win a corner, from which Maguire-Drew’s delivery dropped just over the bar. Then a teasing cross from the winger in injury time was nodded just wide by Angol.
Under the cosh for much of the first half, the visitors came out fighting in the second half and could have opened the scoring four minutes after the break, but Whitehouse fired wide again after Hector Kyprianou’s clearance fell to him inside the box.
Max Wright sliced a half-volley over the bar as another decent opportunity came and went for Ian Holloway’s men before the action switched to the other end and a decent chance for the hosts. Another driving run from Brophy on 65 minutes found Maguire-Drew, whose deep cross was headed back across goal by Wilkinson, only for James McKeown to somehow keep the ball out.
With the home crowd now in good voice there was a fantastic atmosphere at The Breyer Group Stadium as the game got stretched with good possession for both sides.
Ludvig Ohman and George Marsh traded shots off-target before the visitors broke the deadlock, against the run of play, with 16 minutes remaining. Sub Billy Clarke latched onto a ball through the middle and with Sam Sargeant advancing towards him, coolly lifted the ball over the ‘keeper into the back of the net for a debut strike.
Orient immediately rallied and put considerable pressure on the Grimsby backline for the remainder of the game but with no clear-cut chances emerging and the visitors slowing the game down – McKeown finally receiving a caution for consistent time wasting – it looked like it was going to be another frustrating afternoon in E10.
However, just into five minutes of injury the men in red were handed a late lifeline. Concerted pressure in and around the Mariners box saw Craig Clay bundled over and a penalty awarded. Angol stepped up and fired hard and high into the top left corner to secure a deserved point, much to the delight of the home faithful.
One point could even have become three as Ross Embleton’s men piled forward looking for a last-gasp winner, but Wilkinson flicked over in the final seconds as the game ended in a stalemate.
Next up for the O’s is a trip to Port Vale, before successive home games against Northampton Town (Tuesday 21, 7.45pm) and Newport County (Saturday 25, 3pm). Tickets for these home games can be purchased at www.onlyoneorient.com.
Leyton Orient: Sargeant, Turley (Judd 25), Coulson, Happe, Brophy, Wright, Kyprianou (Clay 63), Marsh (Harrold 81), Maguire-Drew, Wilkinson, Angol
Subs not used: Janata, Ekpiteta, Dayton, Sotiriou
Grimsby Town: McKeown, Hendrie, Davis (Ohman 13), Hessenthaler, Whitehouse, Rose (Clarke 62), Clifton, Vernam, Wright (Hewitt 83), Pollock, Glennon
Subs not used: Russell, Cardwell, Buckley, Starbuck
Referee: Will Finnie
Attendance: 6,248 (1,276 away)