Leyton Orient sealed back to back wins for only the second time this season with a 2-0 victory at Walsall. 2 goals in a 3 second half minutes made it 9 points from 12 for Fabio Liverani’s Orient side. On loan Swansea midfielder Ryan Hedges fired home on 56 from Shane Lowry’s through ball before Chris Dagnall fired home at the near post 3 minutes later to send Orient back to E10 with all 3 points. Orient climb closer to safety, sitting 1 point from safety but in an ever tightening division only 10 point separates Orient in 21st and Chesterfield in 7th.
O’s boss Fabio Liverani made only 1 change from last weeks victory with new signing Luke O’Neil making his debut ahead of Gary Sawyer, who dropped to the bench. Dean Smith made 3 changes with 2 enforced as Rico Henry and Anthony Forde missed out through injury while Ashley Grimes dropped out. Andy Taylor slotted in at left back while Smith welcomed back top scorer Tom Bradshaw and Romaine Sawyers.
In a scrappy start neither team were able to gain the initiative but the Saddlers had plenty of movement going forward. Smith’s men played a 4-1-4-1 system with Adam Chambers sitting in front of the back four allowing the four in front to be interchangeable when going forward. However the majority of the home sides play was in front of the O’s side who were defending well, Alex Ciask made 2 comfortable saves from 2 Saddlers free kicks. Walsall, who had only 1 home win in 6 were struggling to break down an O’s side who looked relatively comfortable. Orient grew into the game as the half went on but the final ball in the attacking third was of a poor quality, frustrating Liverani, on the O’s bench.
Jordy Hiwula, who has impressed since his loan move from Man City was the Saddlers bright spark and looked the main threat, forcing a corner after getting in behind O’Neil. The final ball for both sides was lacking but O’Donnell did well in the Walsall goal to prevent Jobi McAnuff latching on to a through ball smothering the Jamican midfielder as he bared down on goal. Chris Dagnall had the first shot in anger but fired wide on 29 after McAnuff played him through. McAnuff and Andrea Dossena were linking up well down the left but as has happened this season but Orient played to narrow at times with Ryan Hedges and McAnuff coming in from the flanks too much.
The away side could have taken the lead as the half ran out, first David Mooney received a throw in, held off James Chambers and curled a shot towards the far post but it went just wide. Second, with what was the best move of the match, McAnuff, Vincelot and Dossena all combined down the left with Dossena whipping in a ball for Dagnall but the Scot could only flash a header wide of the mark.
The O’s started the second as the first with miss placed passes but the game opened up after the break. Orient deservedly took the lead 9 minutes after the break, after a free kick wasn’t cleared by the Saddlers, the ball found Josh Wright who played to Shane Lowry. Lowry flicked a lovely through ball to Hedges and the on loan Swansea midfielder fired low under O’Donnell for his first professional goal to give Orient the lead. The away side grew with confidence after the goal, doubling their lead 3 minutes later. Hedges dispossessed Andy Taylor, Dagnall ran off the back of James Chambers and was found with a pass from Hedges. The Scot fired in at the near post for his 1st goal in 7 games to give Orient a two goal lead just before the hour.
Walsall looked shell shocked after the goal with Smith responding with Reece Flanagan replacing Michael Cain but the O’s continued in the same manner with McAnuff forcing O’Donnell into a save at his near post after Mooney and Dagnall linked up well. Orient were winning the majority of the second ball with Wright and captain Romain Vincelot dictating play in the midfield pushing for a third goal. Liverani’s men were working very hard out of possession with Dagnall leading as usual at the front with all players following. Walsall could have conceded a third but for a great interception from James Chambers as Vincelot bared down on goal after a forward run from midfield. Substitute Jay Simpson could have sealed a perfect away day for Orient but couldn’t curl his shot home 3 minuets from the end but Orient full deserved the win at the Banks Stadium.
Dean Smith’s men maintain their poor form at home with 1 home win in 7 and only 1 win in 8 against the bottom 6 in League 1. Orient have improved since their victory at Chesterfield with 9 points from a possible 12 closing up on the rest of the teams above them. In an every tightening division Walsall sit 16th, 5 points above the relegation zone but 7 points from the play offs so Dean Smith is aware that they are looking over their shoulder as much as they are looking up. Liverani seems to find some stability with a settled team who look like they are growing in confidence and with 2 clean sheets in a row since mid October. Performances are improving for the O’s with Hedges, McAnuff and Wright impressing once again for the O’s who face league leader Bristol City on Tuesday while Walsall face a trip to bottom side Yeovil.