Mooney and Cox lead the fight back as Orient squeeze into third round
FA Cup second round: Alfreton 2 Leyton Orient 4
Two goals apiece from David Mooney and Dean Cox saw Orient move into the third round of the FA Cup – but they were given a tough time at the Impact Arena by Alfreton Town on Sunday afternoon.
The home side took an early lead and then rattled the woodwork twice before Orient scored and Ryan Allsop’s goal continued to lead a charmed life in the second half.
But Orient held on to record six straight wins for the first time in more than 50 years and now face a trip to Hull City in the third round during the first weekend of the New Year.
O’s boss Russell Slade made just one change to the side that had beat Preston last weekend, with Fulham’s on-loan Alex Smith starting in place of the suspended Gary Sawyer.
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Leon McSweeney was expected to deputise, as Fulham did not want Smith cup-tied, but the Cottagers relented and gave O’s the go ahead to play him in the competition.
But Orient could not have scripted a worse possible start. The encounter was only four minutes when Alfreton, who have never beaten Football League opposition, took the lead.
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Nathan Arnold played in Paul Clayton and his low drive from inside the area beat Allsop and found the corner of the Orient net.
And it could so easily have been two on 15 minutes when the O’s, who struggled to make any sort of impact in the early stages, were rocked when Ben Tomlinson fired an effort against the inside of a post.
At that stage a cup shock looked on the cards and the non-leaguers hit the woodwork again after just 18 minutes when Josh Law’s free-kick was deflected onto the bar.
But the visitors dragged themselves back into the contest when Cox grabbed a leveller on 25 minutes after some excellent build up play.
Lee Cook threaded the ball through to Mooney and he fed Cox who curled the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net for his third goal of the season.
It was just the response Orient needed to quieten the hosts and five minutes later they took the lead.
Mooney, who scored in the last round at Gloucester, was the marksman when he volleyed home from close range at the far post following Cook’s corner.
And Orient completed the turn around with a third on 36 minutes.
Cook delivered a perfect cross from the left and Mooney was in the right place at the right time to head home and take his goal tally to three in this season’s FA Cup competition.
The Irishman could have completed a hat-trick just before the break following another Cook corner, but his effort was saved by Jon Stewart in the home goal.
But, after such a shaky start, O’s were mightily relieved to go in at the break 3-1 ahead.
However, Alfreton were determined not to throw in the towel and the second half was just seven minutes old when they grabbed a second to put them right back in the contest.
Tomlinson, who picked up a booking just after the restart, was the man who gave his side a lifeline when Orient failed to clear a corner and he rammed the ball home from close range.
It gave Alfreton renewed hope and on 57 minutes they almost levelled when Law’s free-kick flew just over.
O’s were living dangerously, but the did weather the storm and Mooney went close to scoring his third and Orient’s fourth on 76 minutes, but Connor Franklin blocked his effort.
The respite was brief and 60 seconds later Arnold tried his luck from distance, but Allsop watched the effort fly just wide.
In a bid to see out the game, Slade made the first change on 80 minutes when Jimmy Smith replaced Cook.
But Alfreton continued to press and Ben Chorley picked up his ninth booking of the season eight minutes from time when he fouled Clayton, before the home side rattled the woodwork once more when Law fired in another free-kick.
However, the visitors ensured there was to be no last-gasp drama when Cox grabbed his second goal of the game on 86 minutes, as he fired the ball past Stewart into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Sixty seconds later there was the long-awaited return of defender Scott Cuthbert, out since August with a hamstring injury, when he replaced Alex Smith.
As Alfreton pushed forward in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the tie, Mooney almost made them pay as he drilled another effort just wide, before Clayton headed over for the home side at the other end.
But O’s retained their two-goal cushion to book their place in the third round and after success against non-league Gloucester City and Alfreton, their trip to Championship side Hull City looks to be a daunting prospect.
Alfreton Town: Stewart, Law, Franklin, Kempson, Clayton (Worsfold 92+2 mins), Bradley, Arnold, Meadows (Emerton 90+2 mins), Streets, Tomlinson (Denton 82 mins), Killock. Subs: Barnes, Quinn, Brown, Russell.
Alfreton bookings: Tomlinson (46 mins foul)
Orient: Allsop; Odubajo, Chorley, Baudry, A. Smith (Cuthbert 86 mins); Cox, James, Rowlands, Cook (J Smith 80 mins); Lisbie (Brunt 90+5 mins), Mooney. Subs: Jones, McSweeney, Griffith, Symes.
Orient bookings: Chorley (82 mins foul)
Referee: Robert Madley.
Attendance: 1,104 (inc 281 Orient fans)