Smith strikes for Orient to keep record dream alive
Russell Slade’s side now unbeaten in 14 league games
Hartlepool 0 Leyton Orient 1
Jimmy Smith returned to the Orient side following a hamstring injury to score the winner as Russell Slade’s team equalled the club’s best-ever League run and kept their play-off dreams alive.
Orient are now unbeaten in 14 league games, to equal the record set in 1954-55, when they finished second in Division Three South.
The success means that the O’s are now just five points off the play-off places and have three games in hand over the MK Dons, who are currently in sixth place.
Orient boss Slade made two changes to the side that had beaten Oldham Athletic on Saturday.
Paul-Jose M’Poku, who scored a dramatic late winner against the Latics, and fit again Smith returned to a five-man midfield in place of Harry Kane and Tommy Carroll, who both dropped to the bench, while Alex Revell played as a lone striker.
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Hartlepool could have taken the lead after just three minutes, but James Brown fired a shot over the bar from inside the six yard box, then he blasted another effort over the top from the edge of the area.
But O’s started to settle and dominated the possession for the rest of the half as they knocked the ball about in style and Hartlepool struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Indeed, Orient had a good penalty shout waved away by referee Jonathan Moss when top scorer Alex Revell controlled a pass from Charlie Daniels, only to be sent tumbling by goalkeeper Scott Flinders.
Revell fired in a shot on 26 minutes, only for Sam Collins to block his effort, before two minutes later Smith announced his return in dramatic fashion when Andrew Whing provided a cross from the right and the midfielder rifled a shot into the top corner from 20 yards for his ninth goal of the season.
O’s continued to dominate and they almost added a second just before the break when a cross from skipper Stephen Dawson found Revell, who fired a 20-yard drive just wide of the upright.
O’s made a change on 49 minutes, when Dawson, suffering with a slight strain, was replaced by Adam Chambers.
But the move did not disrupt the visitors, who looked strong at the back with Elliot Omozusi, in excellent form since his return to the side and new loan signing Adam Barrett, both catching the eye.
Collins headed over following a corner from Leon McSweeney, as the home side tried to force their way back in the game. But Slade’s side, who were last beaten in a league game on New Year’s Day, gave as good as they got and on the hour Cox fired an effort just wide.
O’s keeper Jamie Jones, protecting his fourth successive clean sheet, denied Evan Horwood and McSweeney, before saving from Liddle as Hartlepool looked for a leveller.
Andy Monkhouse flashed a header just over the bar 12 minutes from time and then Jones saved from Joe Gamble.
But the O’s hit back and Smith was denied by home keeper Flinders before the home side tried desperately to force their way back into the game, only for the O’s to hold firm during five minutes of stoppage time and record their seventh win from their last eight league games.
Orient: Jones 7, Whing 7, Barrett 8, Omozusi 8, Daniels 7, Spring 7, M’Poku 7 (Kane 70 mins 6), Dawson 7 (Chambers 49 mins 7), *Smith 8, Cox 7, Revell 7 (McGleish 82 mins 6). Subs: Butcher, Forbes, Carroll, Tehoue.
Attendance: 2,313 (inc 101 Orient fans).