Leyton Orient battled hard but suffered a 2-0 defeat on the road to promotion-chasing Crewe Alexandra this evening.
A goal at each end of the game did the damage at Gresty Road, with Charlie Kirk scoring in the opening minute after Sam Sargeant slipped and Daniel Powell firing home late on to seal the points. However this was far from a routine victory for the Railwaymen as the O’s hustled and frustrated their hosts for large parts of this game and carved out a number of decent opportunities of their own but couldn’t make them count.
Ross Embleton named an unchanged side from Saturday’s 2-1 win against Newport County with the only alteration coming on the bench where Josh Coulson returned in place of Jayden Sweeney.
The O’s came into this game looking to stretch their unbeaten run to three games but were rocked within the opening minute as the hosts took an early lead. The ball was played back to Sam Sargeant but the ‘keeper lost his footing and slipped, allowing Charlie Kirk to nip in and slot home from close range.
It was the worst possible start for the visitors but they rallied and Craig Clay came close on 7 minutes when he met a George Marsh cross but fired wide.
The two teams continued to trade efforts with Kirk going close to a second in the opening 11 minutes with a fierce shot that Sargeant turned behind and Clay then setting his sights from 20 yards but driving wide of the near post.
The O’s grew stronger as the half progressed and started to put the Railwaymen under some great pressure, which resulted in some excellent chances of their own.
Ruel Sotiriou was at the heart of everything for the O’s and after seeing a 20th minute effort from a Maguire-Drew cross fly just the wrong side of the post, he then wriggled away from his marker two minutes later and won the visitors a corner from which Cisse headed wide.
Just past the half hour mark the youngster was at it again, collecting possession just inside the Crewe half and driving at goal before cutting inside both defenders and firing at goal. Jaaskelainen parried straight into the path of Wilkinson but the striker snatched at the chance first time and saw the ball fly over.
Ross Embleton’s men continued to press forward and won successive corners on 36 minutes. Brophy’s first was defended behind and when Maguire-Drew curled in the second, Cisse again headed wide under pressure.
Two minutes before the break some excellent interplay down the Orient right between Marsh and Wilkinson saw the latter get into the box and try to catch the ‘keeper out at his near post with a low effort that Jaaskelainen parried behind. From the resulting corner the O’s recycled possession and found Josh Wright on the edge of the area, but his curling effort was beaten away by the Crewe custodian.
The half-time whistle met grumbles of discontentment from the home faithful, which said as much about Orient’s performance in the opening 45 minutes, despite the hosts holding the lead.
There were no changes for either side at the break and Orient resumed where they’d left off, looking to dominate in the middle of the pitch and create chances where possible.
Maguire-Drew curled an early free-kick wide of the right-hand post just after the restart and eight minutes later Conor Wilkinson thought he’d equalised with a header inside the box, but the referee blew for a soft foul and cut the celebrations of the 164 travelling fans.
The O’s continued to hassle their opponents into several poor passes with Crewe’s fans howling their displeasure from the stands as their team failed to cope with the visiting pressure.
Eventually Crewe did muster a couple of efforts at Orient’s goal around the hour mark, but neither was troubling Sargeant.
Ross Embleton threw on Matt Harrold and Lee Angol as his side pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages and Harrold’s 78th minute flick from Wilkinson’s effort nearly caught Jaaskelainen out. Instead it was the hosts who sealed the points with two minutes remaining when Daniel Powell wriggled into the box and fired a low effort under Sargeant for 2-0.
Josh Wright fired over the bar during four minutes of injury time as the O’s just couldn’t find that consolation goal that their overall play over the 90 minutes deserved.
Next up is a trip on Saturday to bottom-of-the-table Stevenage, before the O’s return to E10 on Saturday 8 February for the visit of Macclesfield Town. Tickets for this game can be purchased now at www.onlyoneorient.com.
Crewe: Jaaskelainen, Ng, Pickering, Wintle, Powell, Kirk, Green (Lowery 70), Finney (Jones 74), Anene, Offord, Nottingham
Subs not used: Richards, Ainley, Griffiths, Dale, Sass-Davies
Leyton Orient: Sargeant, Marsh (Harrold 73), Ekpiteta, Happe, Brophy, Cisse (Angol 70), Clay, Wright, Maguire-Drew, Sotiriou, Wilkinson
Subs not used: Vigouroux, Widdowson, Coulson, Judd, Kyprianou
Bookings: Marsh (Orient, 59 mins), Pickering (Crewe, 81 mins)
Goals: Kirk (2 mins), Powell (88 mins)
Referee: L Doughty
Attendance: 3,249 (164 away)