Has Orient’s play-off push run out of steam?
McGleish’s milestone is overshadowed by defeat
Veteran hitman Scott McGleish scored his 200th league goal at Charlton on Saturday, but the striker’s personal milestone was overshadowed by Orient’s second-half capitulation.
It’s a day that will live long in the memory of the much-travelled Orient striker, but it’s also a day that the club’s play-off hopes could have gone into terminal decline.
After a 14-match unbeaten league run, the Orient Express seems to have run out of steam as the long season is taking its toll.
The O’s are now four games without a win and also look vulnerable at the back, as a side that won four games in succession during March without conceding a goal, has now conceded eight times in two games.
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Orient manager Russell Slade made four changes to the side that had crashed 5-1 at home to Yeovil, as fit-again Charlie Daniels, along with Terrell Forbes, Jimmy Smith and Alex Revell all returned to the side, while Matt Spring missed out through suspension, Ben Chorley was missing due to injury and Jason Crowe and Jonathan Tehoue dropped to the bench.
But while O’s went into the game looking to end a run of three matches without a win, it was even worse for Charlton.
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They have slipped out of play-off contention and went into Saturday’s derby duel without a win in 11.
And it looked as if that might stretch to 12, as Orient started confidently and played some impressive football in spells, without creating many clear-cut chances.
However, the first opportunity that came their way they gratefully accepted.
Elliot Omozusi combined with Revell down the right and the Orient striker fired in a cross to Dean Cox at the far post and when he sent an effort across goal, McGleish, lurking at the far post, stooped to head home, as Charlton waited for an offside flag that never came.
It brought up McGleish’s double century of league goals and he almost made it 201 just before the break when he rifled an Omozusi cross just over the bar.
After the break O’s looked a different side as Charlton pegged them back and denied them the time and space to play their neat passing game.
As Orient dropped deeper and deeper they looked in more danger and on 50 minutes Jamie Jones in the visiting goal parried an effort from Bradley Wright-Phillips and ex-Daggers striker Paul Benson smashed home the rebound.
Orient were rocking and Jones single-handedly kept them in the game as he made a reaction save from Benson’s close-range header and then tipped an effort from Therry Racon over the bar.
After soaking up the pressure, O’s looked to have hit the home side on the break.
Daniels sent in a perfect free-kick and Smith rose high to head home. The O’s players celebrated, unaware that referee Simon Hooper had ruled the effort out for a push.
It was a defining moment as three minutes later Jones turned from hero to villain, when the O’s keeper inexplicably threw the ball out to Charlton striker Wright-Phillips, who accepted the gift and raced through to score.
Three minutes from time it was game over. Substitute Michael Stewart crossed from the right and Jose Semedo arrived at the far post to head home.
O’s found a second wind and in stoppage time the visitors twice rattled the bar.
First skipper Stephen Dawson hit the woodwork and substitute Harry Kane headed over.
Then Cox tried his luck with a free-kick and watched in disbelief as it crashed against the bar.
It was too little, too late, Orient’s play-off push had well and truly stalled.