Laird opens his goal account as Orient ruin Westley’s big day
League One: Preston North End 0 Leyton Orient 2
Marc Laird scored his first goal for the club to set Orient on their way to victory with a stunning strike midway through the second half, before Jimmy Smith put the seal on a fine performance with a second 10 minutes from time.
The victory was no more than the O's deserved as they dominated the first half and should have been in front before finally cruising to their fifth away win of the season - a result which lifts them up to 12th place and into the top half of the table for the first time this season.
It was the second time this month the O's have won away at a side managed by Graham Westley and the new Preston North End boss must be sick of the sight of Russell Slade's team following their win at Stevenage at the start of January.
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More than 11,000 turned up at Deepdale to watch the start of Preston's brand new dawn, but it was Orient who stole the show with an excellent footballing performance.
The O’s boss made two changes to the side that had drawn at home to Chesterfield, as new signing Dean Leacock and Laird came into the starting 11 in place of Adam Chicksen and Lee Cook, while there was a first appearance on the bench this season for keeper Jamie Jones, following surgery on his shoulder during the summer.
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Leacock, signed from Derby, made his Orient debut at the heart of the visiting rearguard alongside Scott Cuthbert, as Terrell Forbes switched to right back, with the versatile Leon McSweeney on the left.
It was Preston that had the first chance when Jake Jervis burst through, but under pressure from Cuthbert, he could only shoot tamely into the arms of Lee Butcher.
But it was Orient who started to take a grip and they looked to have taken the lead on six minutes when David Mooney appeared to have scored his eighth goal of the season, only for referee Andy Woolmer to cancel it out following a late flag from the assistant referee.
Then Dean Cox had a shot blocked from the edge of the area and Leacock fired the rebound straight at home keeper Thorsten Stuckmann.
Orient continued to dominated in terms of possession and should have taken the lead on 27 minutes when some excellent approach play by Kevin Lisbie set Cox up with a chance, but he fired over the bar.
As O’s continued to press Lisbie went close to breaking the deadlock, but Stuckmann made a smart save and the home keeper continued to deny the visitors.
Just seconds before the break the O's went desperately close again when Cox fired in another effort from the edge of the area, but Stuckmann parried the effort to keep his side on terms at the interval and Slade’s side would have been disappointed not to have cashed in on their first-half dominance.
The second half was a quieter affair, but O's still had the better of things and almost took the lead on 65 minutes when a neat move involving Cox, McSweeney, Smith and Lisbie carved open the Preston defence and the O's striker fired a shot against the woodwork, although the flag was up for offside.
But two minutes later Orient grabbed the goal they deserved when Laird made the all-important breakthrough.
McSweeney was the architect and Laird beat a defender before sending an excellent curling effort from just outside the area and into the far post and out of the reach of Stuckmann.
The goal was no more than Orient deserved and it took Preston 10 minutes to respond, however Forbes came to the rescue 12 minutes from time when visiting keeper Butcher’s punch fell to Paul Coutts, but the O's defender was on hand to clear.
But 10 minutes from time Slade’s side grabbed the second goal their performance deserved. Cox set it up with a cross from the left and midfielder Jimmy Smith blasted home from close range to complete one of Orient’' best performances of the season.
Preston North End: Stuckmann, Carlisle, Morgan, McLean (Gray 84 mins), McAllister (Tsoumou 81 mins), Coutts, Parry, J Procter, A Procter, Jervis (Nicholson 37 mins), Holroyd. Subs: Arestidou, Barton,
Preston bookings: Carlisle (85 mins handball)
Leyton Orient: Butcher, Forbes, Cuthbert, Leacock, McSweeney, Smith, Spring, Laird, Cox, Lisbie (Tehoue 89 mins), Mooney. Subs: Jones, Ben Youssef, Porter, Cureton.
Orient bookings: None
Referee: Andy Woolmer