Cook and Cox strike as Orient win at Walsall
League One: Walsall 1 Leyton Orient 2
Two stunning first half goals from Lee Cook and Dean Cox saw Orient bounce back to winning ways at Walsall on Tuesday night.
Cook netted with a fierce drive from the edge of the area while Cox scored with a wonder strike from his own half.
But Walsall turned the game on its head in the second half and after Will Grigg blasted home a penalty on 58 minutes, O’s had to weather a late barrage as the home side rattled the woodwork twice. But O’s survived five minutes of stoppage time to take the points.
Orient manager Russell Slade made two changes to the side that had lost 2-0 to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
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Martin Rowlands returned after recovering from a hamstring problem, while Anthony Griffith was restored to the starting line up after a one-game ban.
Jimmy Smith kept his place, as the O’s boss switched to a 4-1-4-1 formation. Mathieu Baudry and Ryan Brunt dropped to the bench with Rowlands sitting just in front of the defence and Kevin Lisbie operating as the lone striker.
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Walsall, who started the game in the top six, underlined their intentions after just eight minutes when James Baxendale chipped an audacious effort over the bar from just outside the area.
But suddenly the visitors put their foot on the gas and stunned the home side as Lisbie’s header sent Cook away down the left and he fired Orient ahead with a stunning strike from 20 yards, beating Karl Darlow at his near post.
The visitors, who struggled to get going in the first half on Saturday, took a firm grip and almost added a second when Cook went on a fine run and picked out Cox at the far post, but his flying header was superbly saved by Darlow.
With O’s in control the Walsall keeper denied Smith on 25 minutes, but there was nothing Darlow could do five minutes later when Cox added a second with a sensational effort from inside his own half – a contender for goal of the season.
When Griffith was clattered in midfield, the ball fell to Cox and he caught Darlow out with an unbelievable strike that flew into the net.
Walsall tried to respond and Ryan Allsop saved Florent Cuvelier’s shot from distance to ensure O’s retained their two-goal cushion.
O’s were soon back in the ascendancy and after a great passing move Lisbie’s shot was deflected for a corner as the visitors went into the break 2-0 ahead.
Former O’s assistant boss Dean Smith’s half-time team talk helped lift the home side and Walsall cut the deficit on 58 minutes from the penalty spot.
First-half hero Cook lost possession and tripped Ben Purkiss in the process and Grigg blasted the ball straight and past the diving Allsop.
Slade’s response was to make a double change as Moses Odubajo and Ryan Brunt replaced Cook and Rowlands respectively.
With Walsall pressing for a leveller Allsop kept Orient’s lead intact on 65 minutes when he saved Jamie Paterson’s drive.
Then goal hero Cox was sacrificed as Baudry entered the fray for the final 20 minutes to try and stiffen things up.
But Walsall continued to press and Taylor’s low drive was kept out by Allsop and as the pressure mounted the home side should have levelled six minutes from time when Andy Butler hit the post during a scramble following a free-kick.
However, the O’s held on to their lead and climbed into the top half of the table for the first time this season.
Walsall: Darlow, Butle, Holden, Featherstone, Cuvelier, Grigg, Paterson (Hemmings 80 mins), Purkiss (Taundry 88 mins), Bowerman, Baxendale (Brandy 75 mins), Taylor. Subs: Grof, Taylor, Jones, Downing.
Walsall bookings: Featherstone (49 mins foul), Cuvelier (78 mins foul)
Leyton Orient: Allsop; McSweeney, Chorley, Clarke, Sawyer; Smith; Cox (Baudry 70 mins), Griffith, Rowlands (Brunt 62 mins), Cook (Odubajo 62 mins); Lisbie, Subs: Symes, Laird, James, Mooney.
Orient bookings: Baudry (77 mins foul), Odubajo (79 mins unsporting behaviour).
Referee: Darren Bond
Attendance: 3,281 (inc 167 Orient fans)