Injury-time heartbreak for Leyton Orient
- Credit: Archant
League One: Hartlepool 2 Leyton Orient 1
Substitute Luke James struck an injury-time winner for basement boys Hartlepool to send O’s home empty-handed from Victoria Park.
The visitors had taken an eighth-minute lead through a Martin Rowlands penalty and looked set to extend their unbeaten run to six matches in the north East.
But Peter Hartley’s 88th-minute header got Hartlepool back on terms and James saw his last-gasp effort deflected past Jamie Jones to send Russell Slade’s men packing.
Ryan Brunt’s header had proved enough to earn O’s victory when the two sides met at Brisbane Road in October and they were awarded an early spot-kick in this return meeting when Lee Cook cut into the box and saw his drilled cross handled by Neil Austin.
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Rowlands, having missed a penalty against table-topping Tranmere a week earlier before netting a stunning volleyed winner, stepped up to confidently smash his effort into the top corner from 12 yards this time.
And Jonathan Franks fired wide soon after for the home side, who had shouts for handball against David Mooney ignored on the quarter hour mark.
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Mooney went close to a second for O’s, heading narrowly over from Cook’s free-kick midway through the first half.
And Shaun Batt saw a header superbly tipped over by Scott Flinders, before Charlie MacDonald headed over from a Cook cross on 34 minutes.
Hartlepool, having taken eight out of a possible 12 points in their previous four matches, forced Jones into action late in the first half to save from Franks.
And the hosts made a bright start to the second half, but saw Orient’s Batt drill a low effort at Flinders on 50 minutes.
Rowlands beat two men to again test Flinders, who could not hold onto his shot and was grateful to see the lurking Mooney flagged offside.
But O’s then saw Gary Sawyer stretched off on the hour, to be replaced by club captain Nathan Clarke.
Moses Odubajo moved to left-back, to allow Clarke to slot in on the right side, and O’s had a let-off on 69 minutes when Franks fired a shot on the turn into the side netting.
Jones was almost caught out by an inswinging Evan Horwood free-kick from the right soon after, clawing the ball behind as the home side suddenly sensed their chance.
But O’s had another great chance to add a second on 76 minutes when Batt’s cross fell for Mooney, who missed the target.
Batt sent an attempt wide of the left hand post with eight minutes remaining and substitute Jimmy Smith missed from 20 yards after good work by Cook.
And the visitors were made to pay on 88 minutes when Hartley headed past Jones from Horwood’s corner.
Worse was to come for O’s, though, in the fourth of five minutes of stoppage time as James clinched all three points for Hartlepool.
Slade’s men will have to put the disappointment quickly behind them as they travel to Southend for the second leg of their Johnstone’s Pain Trophy are final on Wednesday, with a place at Wembley up for grabs.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Horwood, Baldwin, Hartley, Humphreys, Franks (James 80), Walton (Howard 61), Poole (Monkhouse 61), Wyke.
Unused substitutes: McHugh, Holden, Luscombe, Rutherford.
Orient: Jones, Sawyer (Clarke 62), Cuthbert, Baudry, Odubajo, Cook, Rowlands, James, MacDonald, Batt (Vincelot 89), Mooney (Smith 80).
Unused substitutes: Grainger, Omozusi, McSweeney, Griffith.
Referee: Scott Duncan.
Attendance: 3,773 (including 146 Orient fans).