Leyton Orient manager Ian Hendon was disappointed that his side got caught so late on as they departed the League Cup at the first round. It was almost a perfect away performance from his side who took the lead when Dean Lewington put through his own net after 36 minutes. Hendon’s side should have added to their lead through a string of second half chances but failed to convert. With the clock ticking into added time, Mathieu Baudry headed beyond his own keeper to draw the scores level before Carl Baker stroked home 2 minutes into injury time sending the Dons to Round 2.
Dons manager Karl Robinson made 10 changes from his sides thumping 4-1 win at Rotherham at the weekend with captain Dean Lewington the only player to keep his place. Sergio Aguza, Matthew Upson and Cristian Benavente all made their debut at Stadium MK.
Orient who also picked up maximum points in their opening fixture made 4 changes with Fraser Shaw, Lloyd James, Paul McCallum and Jay Simpson all dropping out. Ollie Palmer, Blair Turgott and Alan Dunne all made their full debut while Scott Kashket started for the first time this season.
In a fairly timid start, the story of the game began to take shape with the Dons having the majority of possession passing around themselves looking to create options. Orient adopted a 4-4-1-1 formation with Kashket playing just behind Ollie Palmer with Hendon aware of the threat the extra man in midfield can have. From the opening minutes, Orient looked disciplined and organised with every player understanding their role in the team fully. Prevent the space between midfield and defense, press when you can but don’t over yourself.
Orient looked comfortable at all time with the only trouble coming after Carl Baker’s shot was saved by Ciask. Mathieu Baudry went close with a header before Bradley Pritchard nipped in, playing in Turgott who screwed his shot wide of the mark. The Dons remained at times camped in Orient’s half but to no avail, Orient’s shape was compact denying Aguza, Benavente and Baker space between the lines.
Orient began to grow in the match with Hendon’s tactics beginning to pay off. High pressing in the midfield was causing mistakes from the Dons. Orient’s decision making and final ball was lacking but the away side were threatening the counter attack. Minutes later after good play in midfield, Cox whipped in a free kick which made it’s way back out to the winger. Cox’s in-swinging delivery from the left caused Dean Lewington no end of problems and under pressure his touch wrong footed Cody Cropper in the Dons goal putting Orient ahead.
It was more than Orient deserved on the night, discipline was the word edging it’s way around the Orient end. The performance from the men in red was far from what they produced back in April where the O’s found themselves 4-0 down after 37 minutes. Aguza blazed over for the hosts before the break but Orient knew that this game was far from over.
As expected, with the words of Karl Robinson ringing in their ear the Dons tried to up the tempo at the start of the second half with Dale Jennings cutting in from left to fire a fierce shot which Ciask saved well. Orient continued to threaten on the counter, nearly doubling their lead on 51 minutes. After a ball forward was flicked on by Palmer into the path of Scott Kashket, the youngster played in Dean Cox but the winger’s shot was blocked.
With Orient pressing high in search of a second, Kashket who was bright all night for the away side, nipped in playing in Palmer but the summer signing from Mansfield fired over. Hendon’s men were holding their own against a side two divisions higher and were resorting the Dons to long range efforts as Orient’s disciplined remained.
The chances for the away side kept coming with Baudry heading over a Sean Clohessy cross on the hour mark before Cox nipped in on Hodson crossing for Palmer but his shot was blocked. The Dons look shell shocked with Orient going all out to put the game to bed, Kashket was starting to have a real impact on proceedings but it was Blair Turgott’s cross which had Cody Cropper scrambling as it was dipping in but he tipped over.
Palmer really should have put the game away on 66 minutes, Cox once again nipped in down the left playing Palmer in but Orient’s no 9 saw he shot cannon off the post on to the back of Cropper and go for a corner. O’s fans had seen this scenario unfold before will these chances come back to haunt us? You have to take your chances to win matches.
Robinson responded to the Orient pressure bringing on Ben Reeves, who provided an instant impact shooting over. Reeves who signed a new contract until June 2017 in the morning, was the spark that the Dons had been missing all match so far. There were faint signs that Orient were beginning to lose their shape with Pritchard picking up a booking after a foul in midfield. The discipline and organisation which had prevented the Dons was showing signs of weakness.
However Orient continue to relief pressure going close through Essam and Baudry through corners. Jay Simpson replaced Ollie Palmer for Orient and with his first touch he nearly put Orient into Round 2. After Kashket picked the ball up on the half turn, he played in Simpson but his left footed shot was pushed around the post by Cropper. Essam was next to see an effort come crashing back of the upright but all Orient fans could sense the inevitable.
In all the years of supporting Orient, you never feel secure with a 1-0 lead in the dying minutes and true to the pessimism of Orient fans the Dons equalised as added time started. A Ben Reeves cross for the right forced Mathieu Baurdy to head beyond Alex Ciask to draw the scores the level. The home side sense blood as just a minute later the Dons completed the comeback, Simon Church played in Carl Baker in the inside left channel and the former Coventry midfielder slid home for the winner.
Hendon “could not fault the effort of his players” who were out on their feet at the final whistle. Speaking to Orientplayer after the match Hendon stated that “we are not making excuses, we have to come to a Championship club and should have won”. Hendon added “we should have been out of sight, if we had got a 2nd we would have won the game, we can’t rant or rave, they are all disappointed. Would we have won the cup… No so look ahead to Saturday”.
The aim remains promotion for the East London side and with Hendon in charge; the O’s are upwardly mobile. The tactics were nearly followed to the letter but experience at times was lacking which proved costly in the end. The togetherness and unity has returned to the side and clear for all to see, a win on Saturday at Dagenham will make up for defeat to the Dons. The Best Side Loss a cliche used too much in football but I think you will find it hard to find a true football fan inside Stadium MK who didn’t think Orient deserve a place in round 2.
Bradley Pritchard, Alan Dunne, Scott Kashket and Connor Essam all impressed once more but it is harsh to single out any individuals. You win together, you lose together. It is encouraging to see the work rate of individuals which has sometimes been questioned. Dean Cox worked his absolute socks off including losing the ball in the second half and sprinting 70 yards to defend for his side. The season is moving in the right direction, I for one am excited for what can happen. Onwards and upwards to Saturday.