Dickson sees red again as Orient’s bright start fades
League One Sheffield United 3 Leyton Orient 1
Orient’s hopes of League One survival were boosted not by this result at Bramall Lane, but by the fact that Oldham grabbed a last-gasp leveller at Wycombe Wanderers.
That goal means the O’s have a three-point cushion instead of just one with three matches to go – and with home games against Yeovil and Rochdale still to come Russell Slade’s side still control their own destiny – especially with Wycombe’s difficult run in.
But O’s could have taken a giant stride towards safety as they took the lead through Kevin Lisbie and held it until just before the break when Lee Williamson levelled.
Michael Doyle put the home side ahead nine minutes after the restart, but the defining moment came when O’s defender Ryan Dickson was sent-off 29 minutes from time.
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It gave O’s a mountain to climb and Ched Evans finally wrapped things up for the promotion chasers seven minutes from the end.
Orient manager Slade made two changes to the side that had been beaten 3-0 at Exeter on Easter Monday.
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Terrell Forbes returned from injury and Solomon Taiwo came into the team as Adam Reed and Marc Laird dropped to the bench. There was also a return for fit-again Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who was named on the bench.
Orient started with Taiwo and Leacock sitting in central midfield in front of the back four, with Kevin Lisbie as the loan striker.
It took a while for both sides to settle as they needed points for very different reasons, but it was the home side who carved out the first opportunity when Harry Maguire just failed to scramble the ball home.
It looked as if Sheffield United were about to take control as the dangerous Evans fired in a fierce shot that Jamie Jones saved and Michael Doyle and Matthew Hill had efforts that were blocked.
But it was O’s who drew first blood and took a shock lead on 12 minutes when the home defence failed to deal with a long clearance from Jones and Lisbie cashed in as he raced onto the ball and fired a left-footed volley into the roof of the net for his 10th goal of the season.
The goal rocked the home side for a while as O’s had their fair share of possession, but United came close to a leveller on 26 minutes when Syam Ben Youssef’s headed clearance fell straight to Stephen Quinn who was just 12 yards out, but Jones came to the young full-back’s rescue when he tipped the shot over the bar.
On the half-hour Lisbie had a great chance to add to the lead as Orient broke away and David Mooney and Matt Spring combined to send the striker clear, but he dragged his effort wide.
Then Mooney sent a dipping volley from distance just over the bar and two minutes before the break Dean Cox fired just wide from 10 yards after Lisbie set him up.
But Orient suffered a hammer blow just a minute before the break when United broke quickly and Williamson swept the ball home from close range after Evans pulled it back to level things up.
It was tough on the O’s as they had frustrated the home side for long spells and created some good chances on the break.
But it was The Blades who took the game by the scruff of the neck nine minutes after the restart, when Taiwo lost possession in midfield and Evans slid the ball into skipper Michael Doyle who fired home from the edge of the box, despite Jones getting a hand to the ball.
Minutes later Taiwo was replaced by Campbell-Ryce as Orient tried to get back into the game, but the visitors pressed the self-destruct button on 61 minutes when they were reduced to 10 men.
On-loan defender Dickson saw red for the second time during his short spell at the club following a reckless challenge on Williamson.
The home side looked to turn the screw and Evans fired an effort against the post on 65 minutes and then three minutes later the same player looked set to stretch United’s advantage, but Ben Chorley did well to block his effort.
O’s did manage a spell of pressure, without managing to create an opportunity, but United went close again when substitute Ryan Flynn, who had only been on for 60 seconds, curled an effort past Jones, but his effort drifted just wide.
Nine minutes from time Adam Reed and George Porter were thrown into the fray in place of Matt Spring and Mooney.
But the home side wrapped things up seven minutes from time when Evans scored from 12 yards to keep his side in second place.
The defeat left Orient looking anxiously over their shoulders and the only crumb of comfort was that Oldham last-gasp leveller at Wycombe.
Sheffield United: Simonsen, Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Hill, Doyle, Williamson, McDonald, Quinn (Flynn 76 mins), Evans (O’Halloran 89 mins), Cresswell (Porter 25 mins). Subs: Howard, Williams.
Sheffield United bookings: Maguire (60 mins unsporting behaviour), Evans (84 mins unsporting behaviour)
Orient: Jones 6, Ben Youssef 4, *Chorley 7, Forbes 6, Dickson 6, Leacock 6, Taiwo 5 (Campbell-Ryce 58 mins); Mooney 6 (Porter 81 mins), Spring 6 (Reed 81 mins), Cox 6; Lisbie 7. Subs: Andrew, Laird.
Orient bookings: Lisbie (59 mins), Leacock (80 mins unsporting behaviour)
Orient dismissals: Dickson (61 mins violent conduct)
Referee: Tony Bates