Orient returned to the top of the National League table with a 3-1 victory over Bromley on a special afternoon at the Breyer Group Stadium.
Second half goals from Jobi McAnuff, Josh Koroma and Macauley Bonne cancelled out John Goddard’s first half opener as the O’s marked the month of remembrance in poignant fashion.
Before kick-off, wreaths were placed in the middle of the pitch and a minute’s silence was impeccably observed to commemorate the 41 players and club staff who signed up en-masse to fight at the Battle of the Somme.
Head Coach Justin Edinburgh made only one change to the side who began the 1-3 victory against AFC Fylde on November 3rd. Dale Gorman made his first league start of the season in the centre of the park, replacing Charlie Lee who missed out through injury.
Bromley got the game underway on an overcast afternoon in E10 but Orient, in their commemorative fourth strip, quickly retrieved the ball as they looked to start the game brightly. However, the visitors tried to cause problems with a couple of teasing crosses which the O’s were able to deal with.
Then, James Dayton won a free-kick in a central position but the wall was equal to his low left-footed effort. There was a brief stoppage in play as Marvin Ekpiteta received treatment after a hefty fall, but thankfully he was able to continue.
It was a quiet opening fifteen minutes in terms of chances with neither side able to create any clear-cut opportunities. Although, the ball did break kindly for Craig Clay on the edge of the box but he dragged his effort harmlessly wide.
Orient were growing in confidence as Koroma controlled the ball before turning and curling his shot wide of the far post. Moments later, Koroma faced up to his man before dropping his shoulder and fizzing a strike into the hands of David Gregory in the Bromley goal.
It was proving a physical encounter with two bookings in quick succession. Alan Dunne received Bromley’s first yellow for a late tackle on McAnuff, before Gorman went into the referee’s notebook with half an hour played.
For a spell, Bromley were on the front foot and broke the deadlock five minutes before the break. John Goddard drove a fierce free-kick into the box, which took a touch on its way through before nestling into the far corner and giving the visitors a 0-1 lead.
Shortly after, the O’s were forced into their first change of the afternoon as Dan Happe replaced Ekpiteta who appeared to be struggling with an injury. Bonne was slipped in on goal but flagged offside as he stretched for the ball which rolled out of play.
On the stroke of half-time, Orient came agonisingly close to an equalising goal as Gorman got the ball out of his feet and curled his strike inches wide of the right-hand post. The O’s went into the break a goal-down and would relish the chance to re-group for the second half.
Orient got the second half underway as the temperature dropped at the Breyer Group Stadium. There was a heart in mouth moment when Gorman’s back pass let Goddard through on goal but Happe produced a superb last-ditch tackle to deny him.
At the other end, Dayton drifted inside before flashing a miscued shot wide of the near post. Then, McAnuff ghosted past two defenders before crossing for Koroma who nodded the ball towards Bonne whose close-range effort was deflected over the crossbar.
After much persistence, the O’s drew level on 56 minutes courtesy of McAnuff who floated a delightful free-kick into the top corner beyond the reach of Gregory sparking wild celebrations amongst the players and supporters.
With the wind in their sails, Orient completed the comeback three minutes later. Bonne played a wonderful pass into Koroma who raced into the box and swept the ball fiercely in to the back of the net giving Orient a 2-1 lead.
The O’s had shown great character to turn this game on its head, but it felt as though another goal would be needed for the home side. They made their second change of the game on 76 minutes with James Brophy replacing Gorman who received a warm reception.
Finally, Orient netted a much needed third goal thanks to Bonne. Clay set McAnuff whose shot was fumbled by Gregory, falling for Bonne who buried the ball from close-range to put the O’s 3-1 ahead.
At the other end, Bromley went looking for a swift response but were denied by Dean Brill who produced a wonderful reflex save from point-blank range. Then, Marc-Anthony Okoye tried his luck from distance but the shot flew harmlessly over the crossbar.
In stoppage time, James Alabi replaced Dayton in the O’s final change of the afternoon.
Orient held out for the remaining minutes to clinch a vital three points and return to the National League summit.
ORIENT: Brill, Widdowson, Coulson, McAnuff (C), Clay, Bonne, Dayton (Alabi 90’), Judd, Gorman (Brophy 76’), Koroma, Ekpiteta (Happe 43’)
SUBS: Sargeant, Harrold.
BOOKED: Gorman (29’), Judd (40’)
GOALS: McAnuff (56’), Koroma (59’), Bonne (77’)
BROMLEY: Gregory, Johnson, Holland (C), Dunne (Luque 66’), Okoye, Porter, Ogedi-Uzokwe, Goddard, Wood, Brindley, Quigley (Goodman 73’)
SUBS: Enver, Rooney, Okoh.
BOOKED: Dunne (28’), Porter (59’), Holland (70’)
GOALS: Goddard (41’)
REFEREE: Richard Hulme
ATTENDANCE: 6058 (541 away)