Charlton keeper gives Orient’s New Year a shot in the arm
League One: Leyton Orient 1 Charlton Athletic 0
In the final Football League fixture of 2011, a deflected goal from former Charlton midfielder Matt Spring gave Leyton Orient all three points in this London derby at Brisbane Road.
After five minutes of raucous singing from the sizable visiting contingent, but little action of note on the pitch, the game turned when a rush of blood from Charlton goalkeeper Ben Hamer gave the contest a quite literal shot in the arm.
Lee Cook’s intelligent chip forward freed David Mooney to race through on goal and attempt to lob an effort over the stopper who raced out of his area to block with his upper body, but instead watched it hit his upper arm.
As the home players furiously appealed for a handball, referee Dean Whitestone walked over slowly while considering his options before brandishing the red card.
Scott Wagstaff, who has waited patiently for a spot in the side before Danny Green’s suspension, was the named sacrificed by Chris Powell and it was nearly worse for the visitors from the resulting free kick but Jimmy Smith headed over from eight yards.
The sending off forced Yann Kermorgant to drop into midfield with greater regularity, but the home side still managed to control proceedings for the most part in the first period.
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After a prolonged spell of Orient pressure the breakthrough came in slightly fortuitous circumstances after 26 minutes.
Spring passed the ball with more conviction than most on the day but showed quick feet to jink past Michael Morrison and blast a shot which ricocheted off the leg of Matt Taylor and looped over replacement keeper John Sullivan.
Smith wasted another opportunity to score soon after when he headed Stephen Dawson’s cross wide of the right post, before Charlton’s defence had to be alert to block three shots after a succession of goalmouth scrambles.
Bradley Wright-Phillips had the Addicks’ best chance of the first period after being picked out by the ever-energetic Rhoys Wiggins, but he was out-muscled by Scott Cuthbert at a key moment.
Another controversial decision robbed Orient of the chance to go into the break with a two-goal advantage when, injury time, Smith finally hit the target from Spring’s cross - only to see it incorrectly chalked out for offside.
Orient continued to look the more impressive side after the break with Wiggins clearing off the line after 49 minutes, while Mooney, another former Charlton player in the home line-up, went close on two occasions.
First, the ball fell kindly to the striker’s feet but he drilled it wide before Sullivan produced a fine fingertip save to turn away his next effort after 68 minutes.
A grandstand finish finally arrived when Powell replaced the ineffective Wright-Phillips, who struggled in his role as the lone frontman, was replaced by the lively Bradley Pritchard.
Suddenly the visitors were on the front with Chris Solly, who was typically strong defensively throughout the evening, driving the side on from right-back.
The youngster unexpectedly found himself in a goalscoring position after 82 minutes but blazed over from the edge of the box.
For all their late pressure and possession, Charlton struggled to create clear-cut chances and the closest they came to an equaliser was when Wiggins’ drilled effort was cleared off the line by Ben Chorley.
Paul Hayes was introduced to try and snatch a point, but the rarely-used striker struggled to get hold of the ball and it was Kermorgant who continued to look the more lively.
Former Addick Kevin Lisbie frustrated the visiting supporters by holding the ball up well in the final moments before the whistle blew to cap a deserved home win.
Charlton remain on top of League One at the end of the year with a four-point lead and so a final-day defeat should do little to take the gloss off their celebrations.
For Orient, who enjoyed a surge up the table in the second half of last season, the victory may be just the catalyst to repeat that feat.
Leyton Orient: Butcher, McSweeney, Forbes, Chorley, Cuthbert, Cook (Cox, 82 mins), Dawson, Spring, Smith, Lisbie, Mooney (Tehoue, 72 mins).
Subs not used: Cureton, Porter, Laird.
Charlton Athletic: Hamer, Wiggins, Morrison, Taylor, Solly, Jackson (Hayes, 82 mins), Hollands, Russell, Wagstaff (Sullivan, seven mins), Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips (Pritchard, 63 mins).
Subs not used: Cort, Hughes.
Attendance: 5,097, inc 1,994.