Clarke helps Orient to a point
17:06 22 March 2014
League One: Walsall 1 Leyton Orient 1
Captain Nathan Clarke’s deflected strike rescued a point for O’s at the Banks’s Stadium, but they lost ground on the top two in League One.
Leaders Wolves had beaten Sheffield United 2-0 in the early kick-off, while Brentford defeated Coventry at Griffin Park.
And a draw in the Midlands left Russell Slade’s men four points off the automatch promotion places, having played more games than their rivals.
Following their defeat against Brentford in the previous weekend’s lunchtime fixture, Orient welcomed Mathieu Baudry and Chris Dagnall back into their starting line-up on a sunny day.
But after a decent opening, they had Eldin Jakupovic to thank for a stunning save on six minutes which saw him push a Milan Lalkovic shot onto the post.
The early chance lifted Walsall, who put O’s under pressure and then took the lead on 14 minutes when Paul Downing smashed home from a corner.
Moses Odubajo saw his ball across the face of goal evade everyone, after being played in by Baudry, but Jakupovic then failed to claim Craig Westcarr’s ball into the box and breathed a sigh of relief as Downing wasted a gilt-edged chance to double the home side’s lead.
Orient tried to impose themselves on the game more as the half wore on and had Romain Vincelot booked for a foul, before Dagnall was flagged offside as he looked to latch onto a Dean Cox pass.
And the visitors ended the first half particularly strongly, going close to equalising when David Mooney glanced a header wide, before Baudry also came close.
James had his name taken soon after the restart for a late challenge before Mooney’s speculative volley dipped over the crossbar on 51 minutes.
O’s continued to pen Walsall back, but had a let-off just before the hour when Lalkovic broke clear and Jakupovic dived at his feet to smother the ball.
Richard O’Donnell was finally called into serious action at the other end midway through the half as he produced an excellent save to deny Dagnall, and was also seriously tested by Mooney after had Dagnall created the chance.
Slade sent Jamie Ness and Kevin Lisbie on for James and Dagnall in a double substitution and O’s enjoyed their best spell of the game, camping in Walsall’s end.
They drew level with 12 minutes left when captain Clarke fired goalwards and saw his effort take a wicked deflection to beat O’Donnell.
And O’s continued to push forward in search of a late winner, but grew increasingly frustrated and saw Baudry booked before five minutes of injury time.
Mooney headed a chance over from a Cox cross in the third extra minute and saw another effort held by O’Donnell, leaving O’s to now turn their focus onto Tuesday’s home meeting with lowly Oldham.
Walsall: O’Donnell, Taylor, Butler, A Chambers, Mantom, Lalkovic (Baxendale 81), Westcarr, Downing, J Chambers, Sawyers, Brandy.
Unused subs: Featherstone, Benning, Roberts, Hewitt, McQuilkin, Ngoo.
Orient: Jakupovic, Omozusi, Vincelot, Cuthbert, Baudry, Cox, James (Ness 69), Mooney, Odubajo, Clarke, Dagnall (Lisbie 69).
Unused subs: Jones, Sawyer, Lasimant, Bartley, Simpson.
Referee: Tim Robinson.
Attendance: 5,779 (including 613 Orient fans).