Orient denied first home points of 2015 by in-form Bradford City
Despite a strong finish to the game from the O's, two first half goals from Bradford were good enough to secure the points for the visitors on Wednesday night.
Orient knew they would be in for a tough game against a side whose five-game unbeaten run has included wins over Premier League sides Chelsea and Sunderland in the FA Cup.
And the task was made no easier after the O’s defence allowed James Hanson to latch onto Mark Yeates’ long pass on 21 minutes, with the Bradford man thumping home his volley.
It took just over 10 minutes for the visitors to double their lead when Hanson netted his second of the evening, this time directing a powerful header beyond Alex Cisak from six yards out.
After Orient’s dramatic late win away to Chesterfield at the weekend, manager Fabio Liverani made just a solitary change to his starting XI for this game with Marvin Bartley - who was making his first start since November - replacing Josh Wright in central midfield.
Bradford have been on a tremendous run of late and came into this game off the back of a 2-0 win over Premier League side Sunderland. Phil Parkinson was forced to make three changes to his giant-killing side, with in-form striker Jon Stead one of those not featuring tonight because of injury.
Dean Cox was involved in all three of Orient’s goals at the weekend – scoring one himself – and it was the winger who was proving the O’s biggest threat in the early stages of tonight’s game, drifting in off the left to offer support to his strikers, and he registered his first shot on target after just five minutes.
But it was a disjointed start to the game on the whole, with both sides relying on lofted balls into the box to create chances. While the majority of these deliveries were hit with hope more than anything else, Orient full-back Elliot Omozusi sent a diagonal ball with immense precision over the shoulder of Romain Vincelot.
The Frenchman couldn’t quite get the ball under control but Dagnall did before stretching to send a half-volley goalwards only for it to strike the crossbar. The ball bounced down into the ground, with Orient fans in the Tommy Johnston Stand behind the goal convinced it had crossed the line, but the referee said no.
Meanwhile, Mooney was alert to the rebound but found his path to goal blocked by two defenders and his shot was turned behind for a corner, with the noise levels inside Brisbane Road rising by the second.
With the momentum in Orient’s favour, it felt like only one side would be taking the lead, but the O’s switched off on 21 minutes and paid the price.
Mark Yeates’ long and looping pass from the right was allowed to bounce through the middle of the home side’s defence into the path of lone striker Hanson who fired the visitors in front. The Bradford forward still had work to do from the edge of the area but he could not have struck his volley more sweetly, giving Alex Cisak no chance in the Orient goal.
The O’s struggled to regain control of the game once they had fallen behind and found themselves two down just over 10 minutes later. Hanson was the man who struck again, this time escaping his marker Shane Lowry to send a powerful header past Cisak from six yards out. Filipe Morais’ excellent in-swinging free-kick had made the goal, pulling the O’s ‘keeper off his line to provide an open target for his teammate.
Bradford are a side who are clearly contenders for promotion this season – as well as their cup heroics which saw them beat Chelsea on their last visit to the capital – and they were much the better side in the opening half of football in E10.
David Mooney and Cox combined well inside the Bradford box on 35 minutes, however the latter sent a wild first-time shot well over the bar in what was the O’s last memorable foray into the opposition’s final third in the first half.
Bradford, with two pairs of fresh legs introduced at the break, came out of the blocks the more lively too. In the half’s first real action Gary Sawyer made a good challenge inside the area but his block had to be beaten away by Cisak and the O’s ‘keeper recovered well to make a second save from Francois Zoko, who had replaced Hanson at half-time.
A real scramble inside the Bantams’ box soon after could have seen Orient pull back a goal they were in desperate need of, however Vincelot’s shot from the edge of the box was blocked well after Cox’s initial attempt had been cleared to his feet.
Ryan Hedges was introduced for Cox shortly before the hour mark and the winger almost made an instant impact for the home side, sending in two low crosses in quick succession which Bradford struggled to deal with. It was a great spell of pressure for Orient, but one in which they needed to find a goal to be in with any chance of salvaging a point from this game.
Hedges continued to be a real bright spark for the O’s, however their dominance was not translating into chances. In a further attempt to generate some creativity, Liverani brought Jobi McAnuff on for the last 20 minutes in what was the Jamaica international’s first appearance since the Boxing Day win over Crawley.
Bradford should have gone three-up with 15 minutes left when Halliday cut in from the right but the winger was denied by a brilliant save from Cisak who got down well to deflect his low shot wide of the post.
Orient had a late flurry of chances and came agonisingly close to pulling at least one back as the clock ticked down. An excellent free-kick from Lowry was turned around the post by Bradford ‘keeper Jordan Pickford and Dagnall had an effort cleared off the line from the resulting corner before coming close again with a header minutes later.
It was a promising end to the match for the home side but Bradford’s rearguard stood firm, meaning Orient are still without a point at Brisbane Road in 2015.
ORIENT: Cisak, Omozusi, Clarke (C), Lowry, Sawyer, Pritchard (McAnuff, 72), Bartley (Wright, 64), Vincelot, Cox (Hedges, 59) Mooney, Dagnall
SUBS: Grainger, Baudry, Batt, Lisbie
BRADFORD: Pickford, Darby (C), Meredith, Davies (MacKenzie, HT), Liddle, Hanson (Zoko, HT), Clarke (Sheehan, 87), Yeates, Morais, McArdle, Halliday
SUBS: Williams, Knot, Kennedy, Routis
GOALS: Hanson (21, 32)
BOOKINGS: Zoko (68)
REF: Trevor Kettle
ATT: 4,760 (644)