Leyton Orient completed a second half comeback against Port Vale which leaves them just 1 point from safety at the bottom of league 1.
Second half strikes from David Mooney and Dean Cox were sandwiched by a Neil Collins own goal which gave Orient what could a massive win come the end of the season. Chris Birchall had given Vale the lead just before the half hour but Chris Neal’s red card for the penalty changed the game dramatically and Orient didn’t look back after.
In what only can ever be described as a game of two halves Vale were complete dominant for 40 minutes where they could only manage a one goal advantage. Orient looked down and resigned to League 2 football in the first half where the home side were thankful to Alex Ciask’s heroics but an amazing turn around in the second half has given them a massive chance of survival ahead of a trip to Coventry in midweek.
Orient made four changes from last week’s 1-0 defeat at Crawley with Gary Sawyer, David Mooney and Mathieu Baudry recalled with a debut for on loan Reading midfielder Jake Taylor. Andrea Dossena, Nathan Clarke, Darius Henderson all dropped out with Ryan Hedges unavailable due to being away on International duty. Vale, who were trying to stop a fourth consecutive defeat, made 5 changes with Carl Dickensen, Chris Birchall and Tom Pope recalled while Rob Page handed debuts to new loan signings Neil Collins and Francisco Junior.
Despite their recent form, Vale started the brighter in the early exchanges but the home side had the first chance of the afternoon. Marvin Bartley broke down the right after being found by Luke O’Neil, his cross found Dagnall but Chris Neal did well to smother the Orient striker. Orient looked low on confidence as Vale grew further in the match with Mark Marshall the outlet down the left for the away side.
The game began to get scrappy but O’Neil was having all sorts of problems dealing with Marshall with his mistake forcing Alex Ciask into a fine save. His ball found Cuthbert but his clearance only found Louis Dodds in the box, his left foot shot was brilliantly tipped over by Ciask. From the resulting corner, the ball was kept in at the back post by Vale and headed back to Chis Robertson. Robertson’s shot looked to have given Vale the lead but Gary Sawyer kept his position on the post to clear off the line.
Marshall continued to be a strong influence on Vale’s attacking threat but it was their opposite winger who gave the away side the lead on 28 minutes. A ball over Gary Sawyer found Birchall who progressed into the box, making enough space to shoot across Ciask and into the far post. Nothing more than the away side deserve in the opening half hour.
Orient continued to be poor in possession and struggled to make any inroads going forward with Vale increasing in confidence. Mix-ups across the pitch between defense and midfield were not helping the O’s who looked resigned to another home defeat. Tom Pope should have doubled Vale’s lead but failed to convert either of his two chances. First Carl Dickensen’s left wing cross was only headed straight at Ciask after he rose unchallenged. Then after a brilliant piece of play allowed Dodds to play Pope through in the inside right channel, his shot was half save by Ciask leaving Baudry to make another goal line clearance for the home side.
The home crowd were getting restless with Orient’s apparent lack of commitment and effort in their current predicament. The home side were struggling to string passes together but for all Vale’s dominance the O’s could have levelled before the break. Wright found Mooney in behind but his looping shot was turn over for a corner. Taylor volleyed wide from the resulting corner before Dean Cox clipped the post with a volley just before half time as Orient knew they had 45 minutes to save their season.
A massive half time talk for Fabio Liverani was needed and what a team talk it was. Orient started on the front foot straight from the whistle with Mooney forcing Chris Neal into a fine save 3 minutes after the interval. The home side continued their press for an equalizer going agonizingly close on 50 minutes, Dean Cox’s looping header found Chris Dagnall in an onside position but his left foot shot was brilliantly saved by Neal to keep Vale’s lead in tact.
Then the turning point on 55 minutes, David Mooney played Dagnall in behind, the O’s striker touched the ball past Neal who brought him down. The only question was red or yellow; referee Darren Handley brandished the red reducing Vale to 10 men and giving Orient the opportunity to level. Was it a clear goal scoring opportunity for Dagnall? I though no but Handley thought otherwise. Nevertheless, after a stoppage in play Mooney stepped up and calmly levelled for Orient.
Vale took off Francisco Junior for Sam Johnson as Louis Dodds dropped into midfield as Vale went 4-4-1. Orient needed the victory and after struggling against 10 men in games this season knew how important the potential three points could be. Orient could have taken the lead on 58, Cox got in behind the right back and crossed for Mooney, his shot was pushed wide by Johnson to Dagnall but the front man could only hit the post.
The home side were in the ascendancy and took the lead 6 minutes after the equalizer. Sawyer’s deep looping left wing cross resulting in a mix up between center half and keeper, Taylor saw an opportunity and headed across goal with Neil Collins putting through his own net giving Orient the lead.
Both sides made changes with Orient replacing O’Neil for Nathan Clarke with Cuthbert moving to right back. Vale looked for a route back in with Chris Birchall and Tom Pope replaced by Colin Daniel and Ben Williamson. Cox could have struck a third but failed to connect from a Taylor cross as the O’s pushed for a third.
Johnson who was struggling after coming on for Neal, brought down Mooney on 72 for another penalty after Cox played the Irishman in. But this time Johnson saved Mooney’s weak spot kick giving Vale a lifeline in the game. That was Mooney’s last involvement as Gianvito Plasmati replaced him.
Chris Dagnall had a header save after a Cox cross before Ciask made a good save from Michael O’Connor’s free kick. Orient did wrap up the three points with 6 minutes remaining after Plasmati found Cox, the winger progressed to the Vale box unleashing a pile driver from 25 yards which flew into the top corner. Relief was there for all to see at Brisbane Road with everyone knowing the importance of the result.
Lloyd James was introduced in the final stages after completing his comeback from a broken leg suffered at home to Colchester in September. Orient could have grabbed a fourth as Clarke headed wide from a corner and Dagnall hit the bar in the final minutes but Orient picked up a valuable three points.
After Notts County and Scunthorpe drew, Crawley’s defeat at home to Gillingham; Orient sit one point from safety and play before the rest of their rivals on Wednesday night. Orient did get away with one after with the first half performance being one of the worst in years at Brisbane Road. But Orient will not care about how they pick up points before the end of the season; points over performance is what matters at this stage.
Hopefully the O’s will build on the confidence built in their second half performance but were helped majorly by the sending off to Chris Neal. Orient travel to Coventry in Wednesday who have picked up since Tony Mowbray took over with 9 point out of their last 12. But Orient have picked up more points away from home and will look forward to their trip to the Rioch in midweek but have to continue their second half performace. If they play like the first half Coventry will run riot against the O’s.
What could have that 45 minutes done for the rest of the O’s season? Well, in a game where Orient could have been 3 or 4 down at half time they won 3-1, which is a massive turning point in the season. Let’s hope that they push on for the remaining 8 games of the season.