The O’s got our 2018 campaign underway with a point as we drew 0-0 at Dagenham & Redbridge this afternoon.
Both sides battled in a thrilling encounter at Victoria Road but there was to be no way through as they had to settle for a point apiece.
Having suffered a slender defeat at home to Bromley two days ago, Head Coach Justin Edinburgh opted to make two changes for the trip to Victoria Road.
Dan Happe came back into the centre of defence in place of Bondz N’Gala who was both unavailable to face his parent side Dagenham & Redbridge and serving a one-match suspension, whilst Josh Koroma was handed a starting spot as Jobi McAnuff missed out with a slight knee injury.
The O’s loss to Bromley had seen the side produce a spirited performance despite being a man down for 85 minutes, but did not show any signs of tiredness in the opening minute when Josh Koroma picked out David Mooney on the right and the forward delivered a cross just too far in front of Macauley Bonne.
Koroma was making his first start since November 25 and the winger was lively in the opening period as with five minutes on the clock he showed great improvisation to flick the ball up and attempt a looping shot which was just tipped over the bar by Daggers goalkeeper Mark Cousins.
The hosts responded with a chance of their own a minute later however, as a Sam Ling throw into the box fell to Fejiri Okenabirhie who could only poke an effort into the hands of Dean Brill.
There was a fast pace to the game as the sides faced each other for a fourth time this season, and Dan Sparkes was next to have a chance as a cross fell to him at the far post but he was also denied by Brill who was equal to the strike.
With the 20-minute mark approaching Orient then saw a penalty appeal waved away when James Dayton went down under Craig Robson’s challenge, but instead of pointing to the spot referee Alan Young opted to book Dayton for simulation.
It was very much a battle in midfield as the half wore on and Sam Ling drilled a low strike from the edge of the box straight at Brill before the former O’s Youth Team captain had to be alert to clear a dangerous corner from Dayton on the 34th minute.
With half time approaching Mason Bloomfield had the best chance of the half to open the scoring, but despite being picked out by Ling with a cross from the right his 42nd minute header was superbly tipped over the bar by Brill.
Having survived the scare Orient had a chance to break the deadlock just before the interval when Craig Clay combined well with Bonne before drilling a powerful strike which Cousins had to meet with a strong hand to push behind for a corner.
The corner then led to Orient having the ball in the back of the Daggers net through Dayton, but despite the winger drilling a strike through a crowd of bodies the whistle had been blown for a foul as the sides went into half time goalless.
Following the interval, the teams returned for the second half unchanged, and within two minutes of the restart Orient thought they had broken the deadlock when a superb cross from Joe Widdowson on the left found Mooney unmarked. Despite connecting well with a header, the O’s Club Captain was left with his head in his hands as Cousins somehow smothered the effort on the line to preserve the scoreline.
The chance then led to a lot of Orient pressure as the hosts dealt well with a number of balls into the penalty area, with the O’s looking superbly organised and disciplined throughout the pitch.
Orient almost benefitted from a slice of luck on the 60th minute when a loose touch from Ling inside the Daggers area fell to the path of Mooney, but his first-time shot was bravely blocked.
With 16 minutes remaining Orient then made their first change of the game, as Matt Harrold came on in place of Mooney for the closing stages, before a crowd of 3,144 consisting of 1,235 O’s supporters was announced.
The game was beginning to stretch even more during the final minutes and it was the hosts who looked the more threatening, but Orient kept their organisation until the final minute when Daggers substitute Morgan Ferrier drilled in a low ball for Okenabirhie who spurned the chance and blazed a shot over the bar.
Okenabirhie’s effort was to prove the final effort of the game, as the O’s registered a first point of the New Year at Victoria Road.
DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE: Cousins, Ling, Robson (C), Lokko, Howells, Okenabirhie, Boucaud, Robinson, Sparkes (Ferrier 62), Howell (Whitely 62), Bloomfield (Cheek 57)
SUBS: Moore, Doe
BOOKED: Howells (57)
ORIENT: Brill, Caprice, Coulson, Happe, Widdowson, Koroma, Lawless, Clay, Dayton, Mooney (C) (Harrold, Bonne
SUBS: Grainger, Sendles-White, Moncur, Dalby, Harrold
BOOKED: Dayton (19), Clay (79)
REFEREE: Alan Young
ATTENDANCE: 3,144 (1,235 Orient supporters)