A long summer, the wait for the new season. Was all worth it with a late equaliser at the home of the bookies favourites, Salford City. Rory Gaffney swept the Ammnies ahead early in the second half and were in complete control but as the minutes ebbed away the O’s grew into the clash. A late corner was forced over the line to send Justin Edinburgh’s men back to London with an all important point.
In the first ever game in the National League, Graham Alexander named all of his high profile attacking talent. Rory Gaffney partnered Adam Rooney in attack while new recruit from Peterborough Danny Lloyd started on the right flank.
Summer signing James Alabi made his competitive debut partnering last season’s top scorer Macauley Bonne in attack while Josh Koroma earned a start on the right flank.
In a cagey opening period, Salford were looking to start on the front foot with left back Ibou Touray forcing Dean Brill into an early stop after he evaded the attention of Koroma. The O’s were slow to second balls in the midfield and had to be thankful to Sam Ling who blocked Rooney’s shot after he linked up with Gaffney.
Set pieces at any level are key and Salford were trying all they could to net the opener from one. In Liam Hogan and Carl Pierganni, Salford have center back who love attacking the ball and it was Hogan who headed wide at the back post.
Justin Edinburgh’s men were finding it hard to create going forward but Koroma did sting the hand of Chris Neal with a shot from outside the area. Salford responded and this time it was Pierganni who saw his header tipped over by Brill.
Then, what most Orient fans thought was the first goal of the season, nice link up play down the right saw Sam Ling pull the ball back to Alex Lawless. The former Luton man’s effort cannoned off the post to safety.
Salford had attacking talent aplenty in their ranks and it was Danny Lloyd who was causing problems. Drifting into central areas and cutting on to his left foot was proving troublesome for Orient. Tom Walker could have put them ahead just after the half hour mark, Lloyd drifted from the right and fed Walker in down the right but his tame effort was easily smothered by Brill.
Salford were enjoying the majority of possession but had nothing to show for until two minutes after the restart. Lloyd the creator, Gaffney the finisher. The former Posh man, drifted to the left hand side and his cross was swept home by the awaiting Gaffney to put the home side ahead.
Despite falling behind, Orient should have levelled just three minutes later. An Alex Lawless cross was headed back across goal by captain Jobi Mcanuff but Koroma somehow blazed the ball over the bar.
Graham Alexander’s men were growing into the contest and were linking up well in attack. James Brophy replaced Alex Lawless for Orient as McAnuff moved inside alongside Craig Clay. However, the change nearly had the opposite effect when Brill saved excellently from a Gaffney effort.
The O’s were making chance this time Macauley Bonne, who turned an effort over six yards out from a McAnuff cross. The game was becoming stretched as Orient searched for that elusive equaliser. Bonne latched on to an under-hit back past but his goalbound effort was smashed to safety.
With ten minutes to go, Edinburgh introduced Charlie Lee and James Dayton for Josh Koroma and Sam Ling. The substitutions galvanised Orient who couldn’t believe they didn’t equalise when Lee’s header hit the post. The awaiting Orient fans behind the goal were baffled to how Salford cleared the goal line scramble.
But, the goal that the Orient fans craved, a McAnuff corner was headed back across goal and after a scramble Clay’s effort inadvertently squirmed over the line to send 667 O’s fans barmy behind the goal.
Salford’s legs had gone, leaving Orient to search for a winner but Dayton could only fire over from a James Brophy cross.
A point is a point, no matter how it comes. The O’s didn’t play well, but when the score is only 1-0 you run the risk of letting a side back in to it. Salford will know this only to well after they will be ruing how they didn’t see the game out.
The Amnies will be in amongst at the end of the season, Lloyd looks an assured signing and Gaffney’s display highlighted the need for a physical presence in attack. But did Orient get out of jail with a point?
Some may say yes, others no, but I know who will be the happier manager right now… Battling back to gain a point at the team that every TV channel loves with a passion.
Onwards and upwards to Ebblsfleet at home Tuesday, if we want to challenge in the top end of the league, our home record will be key. The boys showed be buoyed by the point on Tuesday as Daryl McMahon team visit the Breyer Group Stadium.
Just how great is it to have the season back, I have missed the despair and ecstasy rolled into one. That equaliser was bloody worth it though…