Cook strikes as 10-men Orient battle to victory
Chorley sees red but O’s start New Year with a win
Stevenage 0 Leyton Orient 1
Brave Orient kicked off the New Year in winning style as they ended Stevenage’s unbeaten 13-match run - and they did it the hard way.
Russell Slade’s side dominated the first half and thoroughly deserved their advantage after Lee Cook fired them ahead on 14 minutes.
But the complexion of the game changed on the stroke of half-time when defender Ben Chorley was harshly dismissed after a clash with Chris Beardsley.
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However, despite their numerical advantage, Stevenage rarely tested Lee Butcher in the visiting goal as O’s dug deep and defended superbly, with Scott Cuthbert outstanding at the heart of the defence.
It was only in the closing stages, after Stevenage had gone down to 10 men following the dismissal of substitute Chuks Aneke did the home side finally threaten.
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But O’s weathered the late storm and deservedly took maximum points and have now taken 29 points from their last 15 games.
Slade made two changes from the side that had beaten league leaders Charlton Athletic two days earlier, as loan signing Adam Chicksen from MK Dons was handed his O’s debut at left-back and although he was thrown straight into the team without a full training session with his new team-mates, he passed the test with flying colours.
There was also a rare start for Marc Laird, as Jimmy Smith was ruled out with a knee injury and the former Millwall man turned in his best performance in an Orient shirt.
The O’s boss opted to play a five-man midfield, with Leon McSweeney on the right, while David Mooney operated up front on his own, as Kevin Lisbie dropped to the bench,
After a pedestrian start it was Orient who took the lead with their first real attempt on goal.
A Laird cross from the right was only half cleared and it fell neatly into the path of Cook who curled the ball into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box – his first goal since his arrival from Queens Park Rangers.
The goal settled the visitors and they almost added a second on 25 minutes when the impressive Laird tried a spectacular overhead kick from eight yards that flew into the arms of home keeper Chris Day.
Little was seen of Stevenage as an attacking force, but Chris Beardsley should have levelled on 30 minutes when the ball fell kindly for the Stevenage player, but he sliced his effort wide from 12 yards.
It was Beardsley who was involved again on the stroke of half-time in a controversial moment when he clashed with Ben Chorley near the touchline.
There looked little in it, but Beardsley played the pantomime villain and made a massive meal of the incident.
Referee Darren Sheldrake, after a consultation with the fourth official Ian Crouch, finally pulled out a red card, much to the astonishment of Chorley and the horror of the visiting players.
The decision incensed the O’s, who were still remonstrating with the referee after the half-time whistle and had to be dragged away by Kevin Dearden.
O’s reorganised at the break as Terrell Forbes moved into the centre of the defence to partner Cuthbert and McSweeney dropped in at full-back, as the visitors played a 4-4-1 formation and continued to work Trojan-like to deny the home side a chance.
The visitors looked comfortable and their hopes of hanging on were given a massive boost 16 minutes from time when referee Sheldrake evened things up when he pulled out a second red and dismissed Stevenage substitute Aneke, who had only been on the field for eight minutes, after he caught Forbes with a raised foot – although it did seem a little harsh.
O’s could have put the issue beyond doubt when McSweeney went on a wriggling run five minutes from time and crossed for the hard-working David Mooney who was denied by Day’s stunning save.
During five minutes of stoppage time Stevenage threw caution to the wind, but O’s held on and fully deserved their winning start the New Year.
Stevenage: Day, Wilson, Laird, Ashton, Byron Roberts, Beardsley, Bostwick, Henry (Cowan 80 mins), Harrison (Aneke 67 mins), Shroot (Freeman 46 mins). Subs: Julian, Edwards.
Stevenage sending off: Aneke (74 mins foul)
Stevenage bookings: Beardsley (75 mins foul)
Orient: Butcher 7; Forbes 8, Chorley 6, Cuthbert 9, Chicksen 7; McSweeney 8, Spring 7, Laird 7, Dawson7 , Cook 8 (Lisbie 60 mins), Mooney 8 (Porter 88 mins). Subs: Cox, Cureton, Cestor.
Orient sending-off: Chorley 45 mins (violent conduct)
Orient bookings: Spring (48 mins foul), McSweeney (48 mins dissent), Mooney 78 mins (handball), Lisbie (84 mins foul)
Referee: D Sheldrake
Attendance: 5,351 (inc 1,240 Orient fans)