Orient safe despite defeat at Hartlepool
League One: Hartlepool United 2 Leyton Orient 1
Orient ensured they would avoid any last-day relegation dramas, despite slipping to their sixth defeat in the last seven matches at Hartlepool on Saturday.
After Antony Sweeney gave the home side the lead, Jamal Campbell-Ryce levelled before the break, but Ryan Noble headed home a second-half winner for the hosts.
Despite the result and Orient’s awful run, Russell Slade’s side were spared a horrendously-nervous final day survival battle as Wycombe Wanderers saw victory ripped from their grasp when Notts County struck two last-gasp goals.
Given Orient’s dismal home record and their fragile confidence a survival Saturday showdown against Rochdale next weekend would not have been easy.
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However, Alan Judge’s stoppage-time winner for Notts County spared Orient that prospect and it will make the County man a firm favourite at Brisbane Road.
Orient made just one change to the side that had drawn with Yeovil last weekend, as Jimmy Smith returned to the starting 11 in place of the injured Dean Leacock, while there was a surprise return for Mike Cestor on the bench.
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Smith, playing in a protective mask after undergoing surgery on his fractured cheekbone, started in the centre of midfield, while Adam Reed moved to the right.
As their relegation rivals were banging in the goals it was a quiet start at Victoria Park, but it was the visitors who carved out the first opening on 17 minutes when Dean Cox crossed from the left and top scorer Kevin Lisbie sent a header goal ward that Scott Flinders did well to save.
But it was the home side, who had scored fewer home goals than anyone else in the division, who grabbed the lead midway through the half.
Sweeney fired home from close range after Neil Austin crossed from the left and the O’s defence failed to clear.
However, Orient hit back and 11 minutes later were on terms. Campbell-Ryce, on loan from Bristol City, could not have chosen a better time to open his goal account for the club when he fired home from the edge of the area after running on to Lisbie’s pass.
After the break O’s went close to taking the lead as the man-in-the-mask Smith played in Lisbie, but home keeper Flinders stood firm and made a smart stop.
Orient had another chance when Lisbie beat Jack Baldwin and set up Campbell-Ryce, who saw his neat effort from 20 yards saved by the home keeper.
But it was Hartlepool who grabbed the lead 17 minutes from time when Evan Horwood’s cross from the left was headed home by Ryan Noble as a visiting defence were rooted to the spot.
O’s went within a whisker of a leveller when Smith’s volley from the edge of the box clattered the post, then Slade threw George Porter into the action in place of Cox.
In a desperate attempt to find a leveller the visitors had a penalty shout waved away after Reed went down in the box.
But, in the end, it was all academic, as the dramatic events at Wycombe meant Orient’s League One survival was assured.
Hartlepool United: Flinders, Austin, Baldwin, Hartley, Horwood; Sweeney, Liddle, Murray (Poole 61 mins), Holden (James 60 mins); Noble, Monkhouse. Subs: Rafferty, Humphreys, Richards.
Orient: Jones, Ben Youssef, Chorley, Forbes, McSweeney; Jimmy Smith (Mooney 88 mins), Spring, Reed, Cox (Porter 76 mins); Campbell-Ryce, Lisbie. Subs: Andrew, Cestor, Taiwo.
Orient bookings Cox (56 minutes foul)
Attendance: 4,502 (inc 230 Orient fans)