Ross Embleton made two changes from the 2-2 draw with Oldham a fortnight ago. Josh Wright and Conor Wilkinson missed out with slight knocks and were replaced in the starting eleven by Ruel Sotiriou and James Dayton, while Jobi McAnuff was named in the match day squad for the first time this season. The O’s were without a recognised ‘keeper on the bench due to a minor shoulder injury to Sam Sargeant.
Orient came into this one well rested following the postponement of last weekend’s fixture with Forest Green and they started the affair brightly.
Josh Coulson nodded a free kick into the path of Sotiriou, who headed narrowly over. Shortly afterwards, Danny Johnson found space on the right-hand side of the box before hitting a fierce effort into the side netting.
The pressure continued throughout the opening ten minutes with both Jordan Maguire-Drew and Sotiriou testing Callum Burton in the Cambridge goal.
The positive start was rewarded with the game’s opening goal in the 17th minute. Craig Clay strode into the opposition half with the ball and kept on going until he reached the edge of the box, from there he showed great composure to pick out Maguire-Drew. The winger then calmly collected the pass and finished low into the bottom corner to give the O’s an early advantage.
Buoyed by the confidence from his assist, Clay then tested Burton with a rasping effort from 25 yards which sailed just over the crossbar.
Not content with the early lead, the home side continued attacking with intent and conviction. This time Maguire-Drew played an audacious scooped pass over the top of the U’s defence and into Sotiriou. On the volley, the Cypriot did well to get his effort on target, but it proved to be relatively comfortable for Burton.
With virtually their first chance of the game, the visitors almost drew level on the half hour mark, as Paul Mullin’s glanced header from Harrison Dunk’s in-swinging free kick struck the base of the post.
Minutes later, Maguire-Drew again gave Burton something to do, with his low driven effort forcing the Cambridge ‘keeper into a tidy save.
The first half looked like it was going to fizzle out with the O’s a goal to the good. However, James Brophy had other ideas as he drove into midfield, once on the edge of the area he laid the ball off to Dayton. The midfielder’s effort was then spilled into the path of Johnson who tapped into an empty net to give his side a two-goal advantage on the stroke of half time.
The first chance of the second period fell to Orient. Coulson met Maguire-Drew’s corner well, with the ball eventually falling to Johnson in the box, though, the former Dundee forward was denied his second of the game by a fine save from Burton at point blank range.
Maguire-Drew was cynically brought down off the ball in the 56th minute, and this gave him the chance to deliver a set piece into the danger area. The free kick was met by Ouss Cissé, who, unfortunately for the O’s, just couldn’t keep his header down.
Mullin pulled one back for the visitors just after the hour mark. The U’s forward swivelled in the area and finished low into the bottom corner to give his side hope.
Five minutes later saw the on-field return of club captain, Jobi McAnuff. The 38-year-old received a rapturous reception from the O’s faithful as he made his long-awaited return in place of Dayton.
Cambridge began to look more dangerous as the half wore on and, in an attempt, to stem the tide, Embleton made a double switch. The goal scorers, Maguire-Drew and Johnson were the ones to make way as Joe Widdowson and Lee Angol took to the field.
The change looked to have had the desired effect, as some neat interplay between George Marsh and Sotiriou saw the latter deliver a cross for McAnuff to hit on the volley. A smart save from Burton denied the former Jamaica international his Hollywood moment though.
Deep into stoppage time, Lawrence Vigouroux had to be called into action as he produced an exceptional save to tip Jack Roles’ effort out and away. That proved to be the final chance of the game, meaning Embleton’s side extended their unbeaten home record to seven games.
ORIENT: Vigouroux, Coulson, Clay, Maguire-Drew (Widdowson 75”), Dayton (McAnuff 66”), Happe, Brophy, Sotiriou, Marsh, Cissé, Johnson (Angol 75”)
SUBS: Ling, Dennis, Harrold, Kyprianou
BOOKED: Johnson 45”, Marsh 60”
GOALS: Maguire-Drew 18”, Johnson 45”
CAMBRIDGE: Burton, Knoyle, Taylor, Darling, Dunk, Davies (Roles 58”), Carruthers (O’Neil 48”), Maris, Lewis (Smith 74”), Adeboyejo, Mullin
SUBS: Mitov, Taft, Smith, Knowles, Coker
BOOKED: Darling 55”, Maris 80”
GOALS: Mullin 63”
REF: Paul Marsden
ATT: 5813 (1256)