Leyton Orient’s play-off run halted by defiant Luton Town

Leyton Orient Match Report

Leyton Orient were beaten one nil at home after Jack Marriott’s strike for Luton Town in the League Two clash.

The Orient express was brought to a grinding halt on Saturday after Jack Marriott’s delicate lob for Luton settled a tense encounter between two in-form promotion hopefuls.

Both teams arrived at the Matchroom Stadium unbeaten in their last three games and with high hopes of a League Two play-off spot.

Leyton Orient player-manager Kevin Nolan rewarded Sammy Moore and Ollie Palmer for their fine recent form off the bench with starting places, while Luton boss Nathan Jones brought in goalkeeper Jon Mitchell and Dan Potts, making his first appearance since October.

The O’s dominated the early goings, but the tight pressing game of Luton was keeping space to a premium. Their vigilance paid off midway through the first-half in a move that started in their own goalmouth.

Mitchell was making his first start between the posts for the Hatters, and the Derby County loanee capped his debut by having a hand in the winner to his clean sheet.

His long clearance was flicked on by Craig Mackail-Smith, and after Shaun Brisley failed to deal with the awkward bounce, the ball fell at the feet of the onrushing Marriott.

A cushioned chip from his inside foot scooped the ball over the back-pedalling Alex Cisak from an acute angle for his fourth goal in five and 12th of the season.

Brisley’s afternoon went from bad to worse four minutes later. When Mitchell punched away an Orient free-kick, he collided with the centre-back, sending Brisley tumbling to the turf unconscious and opening a deep gash above his eye.

After a seven minute delay, he regained consciousness and was stretchered off before being taken to Royal London Hospital. The club say the player is recovering well after the blow.

His injury forced Nolan into a reshuffle. Jobi McAnuff was brought on, and took a position on the left of the midfield, while Moore shifted to right wing, Sean Clohessy to right-back and Nicky Hunt to centre-back.

Ollie Palmer had a chance to draw Orient level at the break, but headed Sammy Moore’s cross over the bar.

The sun was shining over the Matchroom Stadium but it was gloomy in the home stands at half-time.

The O’s made a slow start to the second half and were struggling to string their passes together.

Soon they had another head injury to worry about, Palmer dropping to the pitch clutching his face. Almost as soon as was back up, another player was down. This time Moore was the man to hold his head in pain.

The headaches were spreading, and they were offered little relief by the vociferous 1,400 Luton fans who packed the away stand.

Leyton Orient head injury
Headaches all round: Leyton Orient’s Ollie Palmer drops to the ground clutching his face. Credit Thomas Macaulay

“CHEAT CHEAT CHEAT!” they chanted as the Orient players writhed in agony.

“IT’S A MIRACLE!” they sung as the felled men returned to their feet.

As the sun made a rapid exit, the game was taking a dark turn. The Hatters were proving to be well-versed in the dark arts.

Things were getting testy on the pitch after a series of clashes in the middle of the park, with Nolan leading the Orient remonstrations against referee Charles Breakspear.

The downpour was descending into a deluge, and the O’s were raining down on the Luton goal. But the visitors dropped deep to soak up the pressure.

A trio of ex-O’s were returning to their former stomping ground. Luton first team coach Kevin Nugent had spent eight-and-a-half years at Orient, only leaving the club last January.

Before the game, Hatters manager Nathan Jones said his insights would mean Luton “won’t get any surprises,” and Orient’s attacks were all too predictable for the Hatters.

Unable to find a way through the middle, they pumped the ball into the box time after time. But Luton never flinched under the aerial bombardment.

Kevin Dearden was another man with a past at the O’s. The Luton goalkeeping coach would have been delighted with the work of his new charge, who twice made smart stops from substitute Armand Gnanduillet.

But it was defender Scott Cuthbert who made the deepest impression of the three. Leyton Orient’s player of the year in 2012 superbly marshalled a staunch backline that was proving impenetrable for his former side.

League Two top-scorer Jay Simpson cut a frustrated figure in the Orient frontline. The 27-year-old said before the game that his side were struggling to balance their training with the recovery after playing three games in a week.

Potts and Alan Sheehan both saw efforts from outside the area whistle past the Orient goal for the Hatters, before Nolan missed the target from close range for the O’s.

The downpour finally abated as the clock ran down, with Luton content to break up play and slow the game down.

The O’s fought to the end, but couldn’t find a way through a resolute Luton defence.

Luton’s fourth win in a row keeps their play-off hopes alive. Orient slip a place to eighth, ahead of a tricky trip to Oxford United next week, just outside the play-off spots on goal difference.

Nolan praised the performance of the visitors after the match, but bemoaned his side’s failure to convert possession into chances.

“They know how hard it is to come to Leyton Orient and get a result, but I’m more disappointed in our play in the final third,” he said.

“It was more down to us not getting the right crosses in or putting it in the right areas and failing to beat the first man and then over hitting a lot of things.”

A further worry for Nolan was the defensive errors that had crept into Orient’s game in recent home fixtures.

“The pattern is we are giving sloppy goals away. That is the only pattern I am worried about at Brisbane Road,” he added.

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