Ten-man Leyton Orient dropped out of the League Two Play-Off places for the first time this season with a 1-1 draw at home to AFC Wimbledon.
Despite taking a 10th minute lead through Jay Simpson’s 15th goal of the season, Orient were forced to see out the final third of the match with a man less after John Marquis was dismissed for a second yellow card.
The red card swung the match increasingly in the favour of the visitors and despite a number of last-ditch blocks Orient were pegged back ten minutes from time when Adebayo Akinfenwa headed the Dons level.
Orient put in a spirited performance away to draw at league leaders Plymouth Argyle midweek and as a result O’s Head Coach Ian Hendon named the same starting XI. There was one change on the bench however as captain Mathieu Baudry returned following a hip injury.
Three of the starting line-up also achieved milestones as Jack Payne and Bradley Pritchard made their 200th career starts while Sammy Moore made his 200th start in a league fixture.
Tuesday night saw Jay Simpson give Orient an early lead, and it was to be a similar beginning for the O’s at The Matchroom Stadium as on the 10th minute Simpson bagged his 15th of the season after latching on to John Marquis’ through ball.
Following the goal referee Darren Handley showed little sympathy early on, distributing three yellow cards in the opening 15 minutes with some of the decisions appearing borderline preposterous.
Chances were proving a rarity throughout the first half but it was the visitors who ended half the strongest and O’s goalkeeper Alex Cisak was had to react swiftly to parry a deflected shot in the final minutes as Simpson’s goal proved the difference at the break.
Despite taking the lead into the break it was the Don’s who started the brighter following the restart and George Francomb came close twice in a matter of minutes, first curling a free-kick over the bar before crashing a shot inches too high having worked some space in the penalty area.
With 56 minutes Orient were then forced into making their first substitution of the afternoon when Mathieu Baudry replaced striker Ollie Palmer who appeared to be struggling.
Baudry’s introduction saw the O’s revert to a 3-5-2 formation with Sean Clohessy and Frazer Shaw providing an option on the flanks, but two minutes later the hosts were reduced to 10-men when Marquis was shown a second yellow following a collision with Paul Robinson.
Following the dismissal, the hosts found themselves pegged back deep in their own half and it was Dons skipper Barry Fuller who nearly grabbed an equaliser when his cross dropped just wide of the far post.
In response the the pressure Orient Head Coach Ian Hendon then made his second change of the match as he brought Blair Turgott on for Simpson, who had done well to reach 75 minutes having been forced off in the first half at Plymouth midweek.
Wimbledon were showing little signs of easing any pressure as the continued to search for an equaliser, and it was Reeves who was the next to come close as he sent an effort over from 25-yards.
Chances were coming thick and fast and Jon Meades looked set to equalise for the Dons when he got on the end of Fuller’s cross, but Cisak was on hand to expertly parry his header over the bar.
Cisak was not to be as fortunate a minute later however as Wimbledon finally found a way beyond the O’s rear-guard to equalise as Adebayo Akinfenwa headed in at the back post.
Substitute Tom Elliott then had a great chance to put the visitors ahead with four minutes remaining but the striker could only head Akinfenwa’s knockdown straight at Cisak and the old were able to cope with late pressure to come away with a point.
With Mansfield winning 3-1 at Barnet the O's drop out of the Play-Off places and down 8th, the first time they find themselves out of the top seven this season.
ORIENT: Cisak, Clohessy (C), M’Voto, Kpekawa, Shaw, Payne, Pritchard, Moore (James 90+5), Marquis, Simpson (Turgott 75), Palmer (Baudry 56)
SUBS: Sargeant, Dunne, McAnuff, Kashket
GOALS: Simpson (10)
BOOKINGS: M’Voto (12), Marquis (15), Cisak (90+5)
SENT OFF: Marquis (58)
AFC WIMBLEDON: Wilson, Fuller (C), Robinson, Osborne, Meades, Francomb, Bulman (Elliott 81), Reeves, Rigg (Azeez 71), Taylor, Akinfenwa
SUBS: McDonnell, Kennedy, Sweeney, Kaja, Toonga
GOALS: Akinfenwa (80)
BOOKINGS: Reeves (16), Fuller (39), Elliott (89)
REFEREE: Darren Handley
ATTENDANCE: 6,024 (1,274)