Orient recorded their seventh home loss on the trot as they failed to defeat relegation strugglers Torquay United.
Fans who came out to cheer on Justin Edinburgh’s men might have expected the team to produce something against a side who look bound to slip out of the division. Despite having the best of the game, the Os could not convert their chances, and it was the men from Devon who took all three points.
The Gulls’ captain, Sean McGinty, was lucky not to find himself with a yellow card after just five minutes, slipping on the badly damaged pitch and then making arm contact with the ball while on the deck.
The pitch had been badly hit by the Beast from the East, and those watching the game being played on a patchwork of sand, grass and clay at Brisbane Road on Tuesday night will testify to the ropy state of the turf. The Orient directors have promised investment in improving the pitch over the summer, and said they had “purchased rain covers that will assist in match preparation for the remainder of this season”, but for now the problem remains.
The visitors looked to soak up pressure and then exploit the Os on the break, playing with a back five. Sitting deep allowed Orient’s wide men plenty of space however and with ten minutes on the clock winger Lamar Reynolds sent a near perfect cross into top scorer Macauley Bonne, forcing a great save from from Gulls’ keeper Vincent Dorel.
Torquay were quiet in the early stages, only really inducing panic 25 minutes in, with frontman Elliott Romain diverting a Luke Young cross onto the post from close range, though this was ruled offside.
Soon after this, the away team were forced into a change when centre back Josh Gowling was caught by his own goalkeeper competing for a cross. Players from both sides frantically urged medical staff onto the push as the defender lay unconscious in the penalty box, and the crowd issued a relieved round of applause when Gowling rose to walk off the pitch after a nervous couple of minutes.
It was just a minute later that the visitors got the first goal of the match. The Gulls had edged their way back into a game dominated by Orient in the opening exchanges, but it was still somewhat against the run of play that Romain got the opener.
On loan from Dagenham and Redbridge, the striker had been a constant source of annoyance for the home defence, often battling for scraps on his own. His hard work paying off as he rose above a dozy defence and diverted a well-hit Brett Williams cross into Dean Brill’s goal.
The Os began the second half with a little more fight, quite literally in the case of Ebou Adams, who took exception to a late Romain tackle, with both players receiving yellows.
Pressure on the Torquay box intensified and the crowd roused as an equaliser looked more and more likely, with centre back George Elokobi producing a fingertip save from an increasingly beleaguered Dorel 55 minutes in. A goalmouth scramble just two minutes later would have only made United manager Gary Owers more anxious.
After three losses on the bounce, Torquay now sit nine points from safety, but they were forced to defend stoutly to withstand an Orient onslaught.
The home team brought on Joe Widdowson and Matt Harold in search of a goal, the latter combining well with David Mooney a few times, but to no avail. The Gulls were barely able to get out of their own half and made a few wild challenges in search of some control over a game the home side were dominating.
One challenge on Mooney gave the Os a chance from a free kick just 20 yards out. Elokobi drove a powerful left through the ball, only to see his swerving shop fly six inches over the bar.
The hosts had plenty of the ball but could not find a way of breaking down the hardy Devon men, with Edinburgh looking increasingly desperate on the sidelines. Bonne, who has 16 goals to his name this season, seemed isolated and unlikely to trouble the scorers.
His strike partner, Mooney, was brighter, hitting the near post in the final minute of stoppage time.
The Os were on top for more than 80 minutes of the game, but could not convert their chances. The defeat makes it seven losses on the trot for Edinburgh’s men at Brisbane Road.