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Long time coming as Clarke breaks Orient duck

09:40 13 March 2014

Nathan Clarke heads his first goal for Orient. Pic by Simon O

Nathan Clarke heads his first goal for Orient. Pic by Simon O'Connor

Simon O"Connor/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way Braintree Essex

It had been a long time coming, but captain Nathan Clarke finally scored his first goal for the club at the 79th time of asking.

The defender headed in a Lloyd James corner just after the hour mark to clinch a 2-0 victory at Port Vale – Orient’s first at Vale Park in 57 years.

And with little brother Tom also scoring for Preston on Tuesday night, it was time for Nathan to restore some sibling pride.

“I was due one,” he said. “I’ve been getting a little bit of stick from my little brother, he’s now scored six this season.

“I was delighted to get the goal and it put us in a strong position.

For the second away match in succession the O’s started sluggishly. Clear chances were at a premium but Orient took the lead four minutes before the break with a goal of real quality, out of keeping with what had gone before.

James, David Mooney and Moses Odubajo worked the ball to Dean Cox, who curled the ball into the top corner off the underside of the crossbar.

After James made a superb goalline clearance to deny Doug Loft, Clarke doubled the visitors lead.

But it was far from plain sailing as Vale put the O’s under concerted pressure in the final half an hour.

Clarke was full of praise for goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, who denied former Trinidad and Tobago international Chris Birchall and Jennison Myrie-Williams with excellent saves.

It was his seventh clean sheet in 10 Orient games and the captain said: “Eldin has been a wonder to the club.

“He’s fitted right in from day one and his enthusiasm rubs off on everybody. I sit next to him on the coach and he doesn’t shut up.

“You see the relationship he has with the fans, to come to any club on loan and strike up the relationship he has done is amazing.”

Ben Williamson and Tom Pope had goals disallowed and Billy Knott crashed a shot against the bar as Orient held on.

Clarke thanked the 224 fans who made the long trip to Staffordshire and roared the O’s on to three vital points.

“The away fans were fantastic,” he said.

“It’s an expensive hobby being a fan. There’s a lot of time, money and effort going into it.

“Our supporters have proved all season they’re right behind us and the club.”

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