Leyton Orient moved to the summit of the National League with an impressive 3-0 win at Harrogate Town. The O’s extended their unbeaten run to 12 games as Macauley Bonne and captain Jobi McAnuff gave them a 2-0 half time lead. Harrogate rallied in the second half but McAnuff clinched his second and Orient’s third to move them two points clear at the top.
For the seventh consecutive game O’s head coach Justin Edinburgh named an unchanged side. Midfielder Charlie Lee overcame an ankle injury to start in midfield alongside Craig Clay.
Harrogate who came into the game on the back of four straight wins made two changes from the side that won 2-0 at Maidstone last weekend. Captain Josh Falkingham returned from injury while Mark Beck started alongside Dominic Knowles in attack. Liam Agnew dropped the bench while Joe Leesley was left out.
In a feisty start, neither team were allowed time on the ball in midfield as they looked to assert themselves in the contest. Harrogate winger George Thomson saw an effort blocked before curling an effort wide of the Orient goal. The O’s were struggling to hold the ball up in attack but did have their first effort when Jobi McAnuff curled a free kick over the bar.
Town were a threat from set pieces with Callum Howe and Kelvin Langmead obvious targets and it was Howe who saw a header go wide of the far post. However, immediately afterwards Orient broke the deadlock. James Dayton knocked the ball round the corner and was taken out with referee Marc Edwards playing a great advantage the ball fell to Charlie Lee. The former Stevenage man found Macauley Bonne in the left channel and Orient’s top scorer made no mistake curling home.
Harrogate were resorting to long balls up to Beck but the front man was losing more than he was winning. The opening goal gave the O’s some momentum and Josh Koroma should have done better when he fired wide of the goal. But they didn’t have to wait long for the second as Dayton fed Koroma in down the right. Koroma’s cross was spilt by James Belshaw, McAnuff was on hand to slot home to double their advantage.
The second goal awoke Harrogate who started to play football and cause Orient a few problems. Thomson curled an effort wide of the post as he cut in from the right before Harrogate nearly halved the deficit. From another teasing corner, Liam Kitching’s header was destined for the corner only for Bonne to clear away.
The O’s needed the half time whistle as Harrogate were coming on strong and goalkeeper Dean Brill was tested with a Kelvin Langmead header but he turned it around the post for a corner.
Orient knew Harrogate would come out fighting in the second half but it was McAnuff who saw the first effort of the half go wide of the post. Town were a continual threat with crosses into the box and saw Brill make another key save when Langmead stabbed an effort on goal.
With Harrogate pushing men forward in search of a route back into the game, Orient were a danger on the break exploiting the empty spaces. Craig Clay broke forward and fed in Koroma but the youngster saw his effort saved by Belmar.
It was a test of Orient’s character as Harrogate continued to pump balls in the box and they were created some half chances. Marvin Ekpiteta recovered excellently when Jack Muldoon was in on goal as his tackle was time perfectly.
The O’s wrapped up victory on 68 minutes, Bonne played in Koroma inside the penalty area, he turned to find McAnuff on the edge of the box and the winger curled home to make it 3-0.
Orient could have added a fourth but Koroma could only drag his effort wide of the mark as he was set free down the right. A clean sheet was the last objective for Orient who had to be thankful to Brill who tipped a Warren Burrell header past the post after the full back was free at the back post.
McAnuff nearly capped a great Orient day by completing his hat trick but after making space inside the box, the 36 year old could only curl his effort wide of the post. Koroma made way for James Alabi as the game hit the last 15 minutes.
Alabi looked continue the way he finished last weekend’s game against Barnet and nearly grabbed his second for the club. After a mistake at the back by Harrogate, the former Tranmere man broke free but Belshaw in the Harrogate goal saved well with his feet.
Edinburgh introduced Dale Gorman and Matt Harrold as the game hit stoppage time. Orient held on for a deserved 3-0 victory, against a side who failed to score for the first time in 29 home league games (17th April, 0-3 loss to Halifax).
What a day, what a performance, that’s what supporting Leyton Orient is all about. Away to the league leaders a team that scores for fun, keep a clean sheet and move top of the table. What’s better than that?
Another test passed, another physical side that Orient have overcome. Last season they would have crumbled, this season is different and under Edinburgh and co they have the right men at the helm.
Orient scored when the chances were presented to them, Bonne with a lovely finish to set them on their way. Criticise referees but credit where it due, a fantastic advantage after a foul on Dayton.
McAnuff notched number two which gave Orient a cushion but the key moment was the clearance off the line from Bonne just before half time. 2-1 at half time is totally different game. Orient were resolute in defence and Brill had another top game, apart from the cross where he only collected fresh air and the ball sailed wide to his relief.
McAnuff sealed the victory with a third as the Harrogate fans in the unsegrgated appreciated my celebration right in their ears for a couple of minutes. A perfect away day, capped with a clean sheet, the most pleasing aspect, keeping the league’s top scorers at bay.
Braintree away up next, this won’t be easy, a team scraping for points at the bottom of the league. Orient will be favourites and rightfully so but will they be able to breakdown a team that’s going to sit back and invite pressure.
But sitting here top of the table on the train home, only thing to look at next is the next game. 34 games to go of a long season, with 12 down, the signs are there. But remember this is Orient, it’s never done the easy way…..