Moses paves the way for Orient triumph
Leyton Orient 2 Walsall 1
Moses Odubajo’s superb last-gasp winner earned in-form Leyton Orient their ninth victory in 10 games.
With the match seemingly headed for a draw after David Mooney’s opener was cancelled out by Sam Mantom, Odubajo burst forwards from right-back and volleyed in his third goal of the season with only three minutes left to play.
Orient boss Russell Slade made two changes to the side that began their last fixture – a 3-1 defeat to Scunthorpe two weeks ago – with Jamie Jones back in goal, while Leon McSweeney replaced injured left-back Gary Sawyer.
And Jones, making his first league start since August after an injury-ravaged spell, was almost caught out on two minutes when Jamie Paterson’s deflected effort had the stopper scrambling and relieved to see the ball sneak over the crossbar.
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Amid a subdued atmosphere it was Walsall who continued to make the good early running, but Jones was equal to low efforts from Paterson and Craig Westcarr.
Any questions about Jones’ sharpness after such a long-spell away from the first team were well and truly answered on 23 minutes with an acrobatic stop to keep out ex-Manchester United youngster Febian Brandy’s header with his finger-tips.
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The visitors, playing far better than their pre-match league placing of 16th would suggest they should, went close again on 31 minutes, but Westcarr shot straight at Jones from inside the box, after the O’s defence failed to deal with a long punt forwards by goalkeeper Aaron McCarey.
The home side finally showed some attacking intent five minutes before the interval, but Mooney’s deep cross was headed harmlessly wide by midfielder Dean Cox.
Though on 43 minutes Orient, somewhat undeservedly, took the lead when Mooney reacted quickest to gather a loose ball, after his own shot was blocked by defender Paul Downing, and struck low beyond McCarey from a difficult angle.
There were no changes in personnel at the break, but certainly in change in momentum as Orient began the second half with confidence.
Lee Cook saw a deflected drive pushed around the post by McCarey, while top-scorer Kevin Lisbie showed signs of his best form, linking up well with strike-partner Mooney to keep the Walsall defence on the back-foot.
On the hour the O’s almost carved out a spectacular second goal when Mooney sent a delightful diagonal pass into the path of Cox, whose first-time cross was headed wide by Lisbie at full stretch.
The game should have been made safe on 67 minutes by Mooney, who dispossessed McCarey after the keeper dallied on the ball, but the striker’s placed shot was blocked on the line by right-back Ben Purkiss.
Paterson and Mantom both saw long-range attempts blocked at the other end, as the Saddlers searched for a way back.
And on 78 minutes Dean Smith’s men got their equaliser when Mantom – on loan from West Brom – struck a fierce effort beyond the clutches of Jones from 30 yards.
The O’s had the final say though, when Odubajo burst into the box and volleyed Cox’s left-wing cross into the net at the far past to send the majority of the Brisbane Road crowd home happy.
Leyton Orient: Jones, Odubajo, Chorley, Baudry, McSweeney, Cox, Rowlands, James (Cuthbert 90), Cook (Griffith 75), Lisbie (Brunt 85), Mooney. Subs not used: Allsop, Symes, Obafemi, A Smith.
Walsall: McCarey, Purkiss, Butler, Downing, Taylor, Brandy (Cuvelier 66), A Chambers, Mantom, Paterson (Hemmings 90), Grigg (Bowerman 73), Westcarr. Subs not used: Grof, Benning, Baxendale, J Chambers.
Attendance: 3,865 (including 216 away supporters).