Kevin Nolan’s return to Brisbane Road saw his Notts County side grab a precious three points in their search for survival. Nolan returned after being sacked by Leyton Orient last April and inflicted defeat on his former side as the O’s sit three points from safety. Jorge Grant and John Stead put County ahead before Orient pulled level through Paul McCallum and Teddy Mezague. However Nolan’s County were to have the last laugh when Stead clinched the three points with six minutes remaining.
Fresh from their 3-2 win away at Plymouth on Tuesday, manager Danny Webb was forced into three changes. Both Nicky Hunt and Liam Kelly were suspended while Sam Dalby dropped to the bench. Teddy Mezague slotted in at the back while Nigel Atangana came in to the midfield and Paul McCallum started in attack.
Notts County fought back to force a draw in injury time on Tuesday against Exeter made three changes. Thierry Audel dropped out through injury while Alan Smith and Curtis Thompson were named on the bench. Josh Clackstone, Shola Ameobi and Jorge Grant all came in to the starting 11.
Orient looked to start brightly, clearly gaining confidence from their win on Tuesday night. However they were dealt an injury blow when defender Tom Parkes was stretchered off after a clash with Shola Ameobi. Sam Dalby replaced Parkes as Orient had to reshuffle their back line, Callum Kennedy moved to center half while Sandro Semedo dropped to left back, Gavin Massey moved to left midfield with Sam Dalby partnering Paul McCallum in attack.
The first chance of the game came on 17 minutes from Orient’s in form striker Gavin Massey. After a quick throw out from Sam Sargeant, Massey flicked around his defender and ran at the County back line. Massey reached the byline crossing for Dalby and McCallum but a brilliant combination of blocks from Richard Duffy and Marc Bola kept the ball out.
County started to gain a foothold on proceedings with Orient struggling to get forward. Mark Yeates saw a free kick blocked before Nigel Atangana volleyed a Sandro Semedo cross wide for the hosts. Nolan’s men took the lead ten minutes before the break through route one play. A long kick by Adam Collin was poorly dealt with by Mezague and Kennedy, Jorge Grant pounced, nipping in ahead of Sam Sargeant and slotted the away side ahead.
Despite falling behind, Danny Webb’s Orient had recovered well in recent matches and neat play between Massey and Semedo saw the latter fire over the bar. As the half came to an end, the home side were pressing for an equaliser forcing a succession of corners with Richard Duffy nearly putting through his own net but County held their lead at the interval.
With neither side making changes at the break, it was Nolan’s men who came out the traps the quickest, doubling their lead three minutes into the second half. Shola Ameobi held the ball up, laying off to Mark Yeates who looped a through ball to John Stead. Stead was quicker to the ball than Sargeant and poked the ball towards the goal, his shot clipped the bar, bouncing over the line to send County 2-0 up.
The home side needed an instant response and that is exactly what they got. Gavin Massey found Myles Judd on the right hand side, the youngster’s cross was headed towards goal by Nigel Atangana. The midfielder’s header clipped the bar but captain on the day, Paul McCallum was on hand to halve the deficit.
With Orient right back in the contest, they searched for an equaliser pushing men forward in attack. However, with the home side committing men high up the pitch, County posed a threat on the break wasting chances to make it 3-1. Shola Ameobi saw two efforts blocked before John Stead wasted a glorious opportunity when he headed wide from six yards out.
Massey was a constant menace for County looking to get behind their back line, coming close when he cut in from the left but saw his curling effort parried away by Collin. But Webb’s men fought back level when defender Teddy Mezague fired home with nine minutes left, to create a grandstand finish.
But they always saw you are at your most vulnerable when you have scored, Orient learnt this the hard way when County grabbed the winner just three minutes later. Bola beat both Judd and Koroma down County’s left, his cross found Stead unmarked at the back post where he diverted the ball home.
Orient searched for another route back into the game but were unable to fashion a real clar cut opportunity in the dying minutes and fell to defeat to one of their relegation rivals, leaving them three points from safety.
The main difference today, was the experience that County were able to rely on and the poor defending which cost Orient once more. Stead and Ameobi bullied Orient’s back line all game, helping to relieve pressure when they were under the cosh. The experience in attack ultimately won County the game but you cannot under estimate the quality or more like the lack of quality defending shown from Orient.
It was clear that Orient were missing Liam Kelly, Nicky Hunt and Tom Parkes; a major blow to a side full to the brim of youngsters. A make shift back line with a youngster at right back, left winger at left back, left back at center half and a center back who’s played only a handful of games in English football. The full picture of the difficulty Orient have to preserve their football league status.
With Kelly out for another five games and Parkes out for the forseeable future, Orient will be relying on the youth to try and pull them through. Sitting three points from safety, Webb’s men clearly have the fight and passion for the relegation fight but the lack of quality is showing.
The key is still the next three games against Cheltenham, Stevenage and Newport County the results in those will be paramount for Orient’s future as a football league club.