Cox strikes as Orient stretch unbeaten run

Leyton Orient 1 Hartlepool United 1

Orient stretched their unbeaten run to eight games, but never looked convincing against Hartlepool United, who held on with 10 men to take a deserved point.

Russell Slade’s side grabbed a first-half lead through Dean Cox, but Hartlepool hit back and levelled with a second-half penalty from Neil Austin, before having Paul Murray sent-off 19 minutes from time for a second booking.

After the game Slade admitted he was disappointed his side had let their lead slip and said: “If I’m going to be critical, which I need to be, we lacked a little bit of quality at the right time.

It was Hartlepool that piled on the early pressure and they looked to have taken the lead after just three minutes.

Hartlepool’s Antony Sweeney sent in a powerful header from close range, but Jimmy Smith somehow scrambled it off the line.

The Hartlepool players were convinced the ball had gone into the net and surrounded the assistant referee – but he stood firm and their protests fell on deaf ears.

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As O’s struggled to get going, a wayward back pass from skipper Stephen Dawson played the home side into trouble and with the visitors still calling the tune, former Hartlepool old boy Leon McSweeney produced a great block as James Poole was about to pull the trigger.

Home goalkeeper Ben Alnwick, on loan from Spurs and back in the side following a groin injury, did well to keep the scores level when he blocked a Sweeney effort with his left foot.

The O’s were playing more like an away side and broke away to grab the lead on 24 minutes with a goal of real quality.

The dangerous George Porter, who was a danger down the right, played a neat one-two with David Mooney and then cut the ball back for Dean Cox to sweep the ball home from close range for this seventh goal of the season.

The strike seemed to lift Orient and Cox shot wide, before Alnwick was in action again when he made a smart one-handed save from Poole.

Porter, O’s most dangerous player, almost added a second when he cut in, but saw his effort tipped away by Scott Flinders in the home goal.

But Hartlepool continued to press and Andy Monkhouse headed wide 10 minutes before the break.

The visitors made a change at the interval when Gary Liddle replaced Ritchie Humphreys and they were on level terms within eight minutes.

Orient defender Terrell Forbes conceded a soft penalty with a push on Monkhouse as Tom Clarke was about to clear the ball.

Referee Craig Pawson pointed to the spot and Neil Austin chipped the ball into the corner of the net as Alnwick guessed wrong and dived to his right.

In truth, it was no more than the visitors deserved, however, they suffered a blow on 71 minutes when Paul Murray, who had picked up a first-half booking, saw red after he fouled Porter and picked up a second yellow.

That was the signal for Orient to pile on the pressure and Cox sent an effort just over the bar.

Then Mooney had a great chance to put the home side ahead on 79 minutes after Porter slipped him clear.

But he fired across the face of the goal and wide from close range and with it went Orient’s last chance of victory.

Orient: Alnwick 7, Clarke 6, Cuthbert 7, Forbes 6, McSweeney 7, Porter 8, Smith 6, Dawson 6, Cox 6, Mooney 6, Cureton 6. Subs: Lovelock, Omozusi, Laird, Cestor, Odubajo.

Bookings: Cuthbert (38 mins foul)

Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Humphreys (Liddle 46 mins), Collins, Horwood (Brown 82 mins), Poole (Luscombe 90 mins), Monkhouse, Wright, Sweeney, Murray, Hartley. Subs: Rafferty, Boyd.

Bookings: Murray (44 mins foul), Poole (82 mins dissent)

Sending-off: Murray (71 mins two bookable offences)

Referee: Craig Pawson

Attendance: 4,424 (inc 256 Hartlepool fans)