The O’s bounced back from a disappointing defeat last week to thump Crewe Alexandra 4-1 at the Matchroom Stadium on Saturday, taking all three points at home for the first time this campaign.
Strikers Gianvito Plasmati and Chris Dagnall will have been delighted with the quality of their finishes to send Orient into the break with a two-goal lead, while Dean Cox and David Mooney – making his first home appearance since September – slotted home either side of Anthony Grant’s belter for Crewe in the second half.
After the drama of last week’s late defeat to Gillingham, which saw Orient pull level in stoppage time only to concede again in the 98th minute, Mauro Milanese made two changes to his line-up for the visit of Crewe. Both changes were forced upon the O’s manager, with Jay Simpson and Shane Lowry both missing out through injury and being replaced with Elliot Omozusi and last week’s goalscoring substitute Chris Dagnall.
Meanwhile the home fans got their first look at recent signing Andrea Dossena who was making his home debut at left-back having started in the 3-2 defeat to the Gills last week, and Romain Vincelot returned to make his first start at home since the MK Dons game after undergoing knee surgery last month.
The excitement levels inside Brisbane Road rose a level each time Dossena found himself on the ball and he treated the crowd to a skilful turn in his own defensive third to spark an attack – in which he ended up delivering a good cross from the left – early on in the game.
Crewe had set-up with a defensive looking 5-4-1 system however they were still managing to cause Orient problems on the counter-attack, breaking at speed, helped by the creativity of central midfielder Grant who was pulling the strings for the visitors.
And Brad Inman gave Orient a scare on 18 minutes after one such break, drifting through the O’s defence before rounding Adam Legzdins only for Omozusi to recover in time to clear his cut-back before it was tapped in.
Josh Wright had a couple of efforts for the O’s inside the opening 20 minutes – his first a volley which was well blocked and then a low shot from just inside the 18 yard box which was held by keeper Ben Garratt, however Orient failed to create a clear goalscoring opportunity until Plasmati’s opener on 23 minutes.
With Dossena pushing up on the left wing, Dean Cox was given licence to come inside throughout – as he did so effectively last season – and this was allowing him to combine more with the Orient front two, which is how the O’s first goal came about.
Cox and Dagnall combined on the inside left before the latter dinked an enticing left-footed cross to the far post where Plasmati had pulled away from the three Crewe centre-backs and the 6’6” Italian made no mistake in directing his header into the far left corner of the net, well out of the reach of Garrat who was rooted to the spot.
Still in search of their first home win in the league this season, Orient will have been buoyed knowing that their visitors have not collected a single point this season in games that they have conceded the first goal and they looked in control from the moment Plasmati fired them in front.
The Italian’s strike partner Dagnall, who came on to score last week and had a superb game in Orient’s last home match against Northampton in the JPT, was putting in a typically energetic and impressive display and was rewarded with a goal on 35 minutes.
Wright sent a low curling cross into the box which proved too powerful for the Crewe defence to cut out before it reached Dagnall who struck it goalwards with a first-time effort – Garratt did well to get a hand on the stirker’s thunderous volley this time but it crept just inside the post to send Orient two-up.
It was an electric first-half display from the home side, reminiscent of so many last season, and good intricate play between Dagnall, Pritchard and Cox on the edge of the opposition’s box saw the latter test Garrat within a minute of the second period, however his effort was too tame to beat the Crewe keeper.
The game had even more of a 2013/14 season feel to it this afternoon, with a number of tickets given away to local schools contributing to a busy East Stand and the second-highest attendance of the campaign so far.
Meanwhile Dagnall continued to look lively, bringing his teammates into play effectively and cut inside from the left to whip a curling shot narrowly wide of the far post on 53 minutes. Moments later and Plasmati thought he had doubled his tally for the day when he headed Cox’s corner goalwards only for ex-Orient loanee Jamie Ness to clear the forward’s header off the line.
Soon after, Plasmati was replaced by Mooney who was making his first home appearance since September after returning from a long lay-off against Gillingham last week. Last season’s top scorer looked sharp when he came on, giving Orient fans further cause for optimism after witnessing a much more cohesive team display featuring the return of Vincelot too.
And the French midfielder played a pivotal role in the third goal of the afternoon when he burst through the midfield to unleash Dagnall who was through one-on-one with the keeper and his low shot was parried into the path of the on-rushing Cox who darted in to beat a cluster of Crewe defenders to the ball and fire home.
Still in search of his first league goal of the season, Mooney struck an audacious half-volley towards goal from 20 yards on 67 minutes but Garratt made an acrobatic save to his right to deny the Irishman a dream return to action at Brisbane Road.
Just when Orient seemed to have the game in the bag, the visitors managed to pull one back on 70 minutes. Grant, who was by far Crewe’s best player on the day, had an effort from range blocked but he did not hesitate to hit it first time when it came back to him, thumping the ball into the top right-hand corner giving the outstretched Legzdins little chance.
Crewe made a triple substitution immediately after grabbing one back and saw a lot more of the ball in the closing 20 minutes, and must have thought they had scored another when George Cooper got on the end of a chipped ball into the box before stabbing it goalwards only for Legzdins to make a brilliant reaction save from point-blank range.
And seconds later, with Crewe throwing most of their men forward, Orient made sure of the win. Cox sent Dagnall free and the striker kept his composure to play a square ball into Mooney who took a touch before slotting calmly into the bottom right corner to get that long-awaited first league goal of the season.
It rounded off a great afternoon for the O’s and, in particular, Dagnall who was responsible for assisting three goals in addition to scoring the goal of the game himself.
And Mooney could have doubled his own tally right at the death when Dagnall – again – played him through but his shot on the turn was kept out by Garratt at his near post, meaning it finished 4-1 – the first time the O’s had scored three or more since the Plymouth game back in August.
And not only was this Orient’s first win at home in the league this season but it also ended a run of four league games without a victory, and they could hardly have secured a more convincing three points than they did today, lifting them out of the relegation zone in the process.
ORIENT: Legzdins, Omozusi, Cuthbert, Clarke (C), Dossena (Sawyer, 67); Pritchard, Wright (Price, 80), Vincelot, Cox; Dagnall, Plasmati (Mooney, 56)
SUBS: Woods, Baudry, McAnuff, Batt
GOALS: Plasmati (23), Dagnall (35), Cox (61), Mooney (86)
BOOKINGS: Wright (27), Omozusi (34), Cox (42), Vincelot (75)
CREWE: Garratt, Davis, Ray, Dugdale (C) (Jones, 71), Turton, Inman, Saunders (Haber, 71), Waters (Cooper, 71), Leigh, Ness, Grant
SUBS: Shearer, Guthrie, Atkinson, Baillie
GOALS: Grant (70)
BOOKINGS: Cooper (84)