A goal in either half from Jack Bridge helped Southend United to a 3-1 victory over Leyton Orient in Essex.
The visitors suffered from a slow start, and though they initially recovered from a 1-0 deficit they eventually fell to their first defeat of 2014.
Having scored eight goals in their previous two matches the O’s had every reason to feel confident heading into this fixture, but they were given food for thought as early as the sixth minute when Southend took the lead with their first attack of the game. Brandon Scott managed to work space on the right and send in a low ball that Alex Finney could only intercept into the path of Jason Williams, who couldn’t miss from two yards out.
Orient were further disrupted minutes later when defender Andys Nikolau was forced off with an injury to his hand sustained in the build-up to the goal. They were then thankful to goalkeeper Ben Bridle-Card as he produced a smart save to deny Rene Batlokowa, who threatened to double Southend’s lead.
But on 24 minutes the visitors began to show signs of improvement that led to an equaliser. Josh Uzun’s pinpoint corner picked out the head of Sam Ling, whose effort thundered against the crossbar before bouncing over the line for his second goal in three games.
However, Orient’s joy lasted only two minutes as Southend once more took the lead. The hosts were awarded a debatable free kick by referee Peter Newman that Bridge stepped up to before curling a 20-yard effort over the Orient wall and past Bridle-Card to make it 2-1.
The away side looked for an immediate response of their own as Uzun picked out Jerome Martelli in the left channel, and the striker broke through a couple of challenges and unleashed a powerful shot that James McRee did well to hold onto.
With half time looming Orient then produced their best move of the match so far that presented Scott Kashkett with a great chance, but the forward’s shot was the wrong side of the post.
The O's looked more urgent during the opening periods of the second half as both teams appeared to cancel each other out. But with an hour gone the Blues gave themselves breathing space through Bridge’s second goal of the game. The Southend captain produced a smart turn on the edge of the area to escape the clutches of Finney and arrowed his low drive past Bridle-card and into the far corner.
Orient refused to allow their confidence to subside, with Uzun’s 67th minute free kick causing confusion in the box that resulted in Kashkett conjuring an instinctive shot that Blues keeper McRee was equal to.
The home side remained a threat and it took a wonderful double save from Bridle-Card to deny Bridge his hat-trick and Harry Norman on the rebound. But despite their continued efforts Orient eventually ran out of time as they succumbed to their first defeat of the calendar year.
“We have to put today’s game down as a bad day at the office,” concluded Lawson Okameji after the game.
“We didn’t set off with our normal tone today. After coming off two good wins its disappointing to lose today, but we just have to kick on in our next game and work as hard as we usually do.”
Orient: Ben Bridle-Card, Sam Ling, Jack Humphrey, Lawson Okameji, Alex Finney (C), Andis Nikolau (Kane Adams, 10), Sinclaire Sandy, Montel Ageymang, Jerome Martelli (Freddy Moncur, 30), Scott Kashkett (Shola Oladipo, 72), Josh Uzun
Goal: Ling (24)
Southend United: James McRee, Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Harry Norman, Daniel Matsuzuka, Josh Banton, Brandon Scott, Rene Batlokowa (Ross Johnson, 76), Jason Williams, Jack Bridge (C) (Keith Orenuga, 76), Nico Cotton
Goal: Jason Williams (6), Bridge (26, 59)
Referee: Peter Newman