O's earn a point against top of the table Bristol City
LEYTON ORIENT could take plenty of positives away from a lively 0-0 draw against top of the table Bristol City.
The O’s controlled long periods of possession and looked well-drilled at the back, whilst the forward line lead by the powerful Darius Henderson and tireless David Mooney ensured that home goalkeeper Frank Fielding was the busier of the two goalkeepers at Ashton Gate.
The clean sheet in particular will have pleased Slade most as the back four led by the immaculate Nathan Clarke did well to cope with a dangerous front pairing of Sam Balock and Aaron Wilbraham.
Russell Slade again made use of his squad as the O’s completed a gruelling seven days of travelling with Elliot Omozusi, Lloyd James, Kevin Lisbie and Jobi McAnuff coming into the starting eleven.
It was a line-up that conjured up memories of the 2013-14 campaign and of course brought home so many points on the road with McAnuff the only new addition, making his first start for the O’s.
It was an excellent playing surface at Ashton Gate and the home side put Orient on the back-foot early on in the opening five minutes but striker Sam Baldock was the only Robins player to test Adam Legzdins with a tame shot from distance.
It was a 3-5-2 formation for the home side but Orient coped with it well as David Mooney dropped deeper than his strike partner Lisbie to match the five in midfield at times and saw plenty of the ball as Orient strung plenty of passes together.
It was Lisbie though who was forced off midway through the half with a shoulder injury as Darius Henderson came on to replace him.
The substitute was straight into the thick of the action as Mooney slipped him in but Frank Fielding got down to save his driven low shot.
The Orient midfield impressed as Romain Vincelot tussled and toiled in midfield alongside James who remained calm and composed in possession and combined well with Mooney on several occasions. The only thing lacking was a goal.
It was the home side though, against the run of play, who thought they had taken the lead when Marlon Pack’s corner was turned in but referee Simon Hooper blew for a foul on O’s goalkeeper Adam Legzdins.
Henderson had wasted little time in winning most balls that came his way and almost broke the deadlock just before the interval when he used his strength to wrestle off Mark Little and gallop towards goal but his left footed shot was gathered by Fielding.
City looked more intent on pressing the O’s higher up the pitch in the second period but the O’s almost grabbed the lead with five minutes gone when Fielding had to palm James’s corner round the post.
Henderson was the next to go close when Fielding saved his header from a deep Cox cross as Orient took control of the game.
For a team that had travelled 1,200 miles in seven days, Slade’s side were relentless in their work rate, epitomised by a lung-busting recovery run from Mooney on the hour mark to twice win back possession.
If there was a loose ball landing anywhere in the South West you would have backed Henderson to be on the end of it as he looked the O’s most attacking threat and continued to link well with those around him.
Whilst the back four looked the most assured they have so far this season, led by Nathan Clarke who was at his best.
Orient were almost the architects of their own demise though when Vincelot and Legzdins made a mess of clearing a ball with 15 minutes to go but lady luck was with the O’s when the ball bounced back into the grateful arms of the O’s ‘keeper.
Five minutes later a ball into the box from Luke Freeman caused panic in the O’s box as a flurry of legs eventually cleared the danger.
Henderson went close again from a Cox corner and James had a deflected shot well saved as time ran out and City launched a late onslaught of corners but Orient hung on for their first clean sheet of the season.
BRISTOL: Fielding, Little, Williams, Flint, Smith, Elliott, Baldock (C), Wilbraham (Thomas 90), Pack (El-Abd 79), Ayling, Bryan (Freeman 79)
Subs: Richards, , Wagstaff, Cunningham, Burns
ORIENT: Legzdins, Omozusi, Vincelot, Cuthbert, Baudry, Cox, James, Lisbie (Henderson 23), Mooney (Simpson 89), McAnuff (Pritchard 81), Clarke (C)
Subs: Woods, Sawyer, Lowry, Bartley
Attendance: 11,692 (334)
Referee: Simon Hooper