Leyton Orient succumbed to the first defeat in three matches after Izale McLeod netted his 17th league goal of the season from the penalty spot. The former MK Dons striker was brought down by Orient full back Luke O’Neil in the 33rd minute, McLeod stepped up and converted to move the Red Devils to 19th; 1 point above the relegation zone. The defeat for the O’s leaves their safety hopes in the same position as pre- match as every side apart from Crawley lost. Orient sit 3 points from safety but sides up to 16th are involved with the relegation shakeup.
Crawley came in to the game on the back of two consecutive 3-2 away wins and Dean Saunders named an unchanged side. Fabio Liverani hinted at changes after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Barnsley and made two with Marvin Bartley and Dean Cox returning for Bradley Pricthard and Jobi McAnuff.
Orient knew what to expect at Crawley having not won on either trip to the Checkatrade stadium. Josh Wright popped a shot wide in the opening exchanges as neither side had got to grips with the windy conditions. Despite the environment, both teams were attempting aerial balls to their front men with the home side having more joy but McLeod dragged his shot wide after a neat one two with Mathias Pogba.
Orient began to go onto the front foot with both Dossena and O’Neil attacking as they had done in their past performances. First Dagnall had a fierce shot saved by Lewis Price after being played through O’Neil before the follow up was put behind for a corner. The O’s had obviously worked on short corners in midweek, trying to use O’Neil on the corner of the box for a different angle for a cross but were not having much joy.
The away side could have gone ahead in the 19th minute when a goalmouth scramble involved Dagnall and Henderson but neither could grab the imporant touch to put Orient ahead. Lewis Price picked up an injury in the scramble and was tested just 3 minutes later, Cox picked up the ball on the edge of the area but his dipping shot was tipped over for a corner. Dagnall again went close on 26 minutes with his shot saved but Orient knew that chances could not go begging in such an important encounter.
Crawley highlighted their danger with both Gavin Tomlin and McLeod heading wide before the half hour mark. The home side grabbed the advantage in the 32nd minute, Wordsworth played a diagonal ball to McLeod. His chest control took him inside Luke O’Neil and the on loan Burnley defender brought the striker down. There were no complaints from the O’s player before McLeod dusted himself down to slot Crawley ahead.
The home side pushed for a second and the influential Wordsworth went inches away of a second for Crawley. After good build up play on the O’s area, the ball was laid off to the on loan Ipswich midfielder, his curling shot was brilliantly tipped over by Alex Ciask in the O’s goal.
Brian Jensen replaced Lewis Price at half time as the Crawley keeper had failed to run off the knock suffered in the first half. But it was Crawley who nearly caught Orient cold seconds after the restart. Crawley kicked off with a ball played up to McLeod who won the initial header. Tomlin had gambled on the second ball with his first time shot going narrowly wide for the home side.
Orient could and should have leveled on 50 minutes, Ryan Hedges had gone central after the ball was played to O’Neil on the right. The full back whipped in a lovely ball but an unmarked Hedges headed over the bar from 7 yards, a guilt edge chance for the away side. Marvin Bartley was next to test the Crawley goal but his curling shot from outside the area was beaten away by Jensen.
Marvin Elliott was introduced for Mathias Pogba on the hour mark as the home side went more to a 4-5-1 shape with Wordsworth and Tomlin supporting McLeod. David Mooney, Jay Simpson and Jobi McAnuff were all thrown on for the away side as they struggled to make in roads on the Crawley goal.
Orient continued with possession football looking to break down and wear down Crawley but the home side maintained a good defensive shape. Dossena took aim for distance but Jensen saved easily. Scott Cuthbert was pushed forward for the O’s but that didn’t seem to work for Orient who knew the importance of the result. Wordsworth, Elliott and McLeod ran the clock down when they could, running the ball deep into the O’s half.
As the minutes ticked over Jensen saved well from a Ryan Hedges deflected effort before good saves from David Mooney and Hedges once more. Crawley managed to hang on for precious points which sees them move out of the bottom 4 in the battle for League 1 survival. Orient sit no worse off than pre match with all of their relegation losing apart from Crawley.
The next 4 games are do or die for the O’s who have trips to 18th placed Coventry and 21st placed Crewe in amongst home games with Port Vale and Gillingham. Orient will need to pick up a least 2 victories if they are to have an chance of surviving relegation to the fourth tier of English football. The O’s had chances at 0-0 to grab the vital opening goal but failed, Crawley took one of two opportunities they had and held on for the victory.
Liverani likes his teams to wear down the opposition, moving them out of position to create chances which seems to frustrate some O’s fans. Playing pretty football is nice but at this stage of the season, I think every O’s fan would take a scrappy 1-0 victory. Teams are fighting for their lives down the bottom but Cox and Henderson failed to live up the importance of the game.
Orient still have a chance of survival but it is imperative that wins are picked up in the next four games, if not then I feel it could spell the end of Orient’s stay in League 1.