Orient pay the penalty
16:57 21 March 2015
Simon O'Connor Photography
Sky Bet League One: Crawley Town 1 Leyton Orient 0
Leyton Orient’s hopes of avoiding the drop from League One were hit by defeat at relegation rivals Crawley.
Izale McLeod’s 33rd-minute penalty proved the difference between the sides, on a tense afternoon, after the striker had been bundled over in the box by Luke O’Neill.
The goal came after O’s had seen Lewis Price make three key saves for the hosts, to deny Chris Dagnall, Darius Henderson and Dean Cox.
But the visitors could not force an equaliser and were left still three points adrift of safety as a result.
Fabio Liverani made two changes to his starting line-up from the midweek slatemate with Barnsley, bringing Marvin Bartley and Cox into his midfield for Bradley Pritchard and Jobi MAnuff, who dropped to the bench where French defender Mathieu Baudry was included after a hip flexor injury.
Crawley were unchanged, following back-to-back away wins at Colchester and Port Vale, with Mathias Pogba – brother of Juventus star Paul – among their side.
The opening five minutes were largely scrappy fare, with both teams trying to cope with a blustery wind.
Josh Wright pulled a 20-yard effort wide for the visitors, though, after Andrea Dossena’s cross was only half-cleared by Crawley’s defence.
But the hosts went close on nine minutes when Pogba cushioned a pass in behind Scott Cuthbert and McLeod steered his shot across Alex Cisak and beyond the far post.
And Anthony Wordsworth could not get enough on his effort, from Sonny Bradley’s flick, before Nathan Clarke managed to clear the danger on 12 minutes.
They were worrying moments for the visitors, though, playing into the wind in the first half.
But O’s got a sight of goal at the other end when Cox found Dagnall on the right side of the box and his well-struck effort forced Price into a good save, before the follow-up attempt was deflected behind.
Then, on 20 minutes, Luke O’Neill played a ball in from the right which caused havoc, with Henderson’s close-range effort pawed behind by Price.
And O’s went closer still three minutes later when a Ryan Hedges’ corner reached Clarke on the far side of the box and he teed up Cox, whose swerving 25-yard drive was tipped over by Price.
Crawley rallied, with a long throw-in from Ryan Dickson causing a few headaches for keeper Alex Cisak, who came under heavy pressure from McLeod and managed to punch clear a couple of times before being awarded a free-kick.
Cox teed up Dagnall again on 27 minutes, though, and Price saved again, before the hosts countered and Gavin Tomlin’s shot on the turn flew wide.
Then came the breakthrough as a long ball out to the Crawley left found McLeod, who went down under pressure from O’Neill in the box.
Referee Andy Davies pointed to the spot and McLeod, after a nervous-looking run-up, slid the spot-kick down the middle past a diving Cisak for his 16th league goal of the season.
O’s looked for a quick response and Henderson unselfishly played the ball out to Hedges, in the inside right channel, but the Welsh under-21 international sent a left-footed shot high over the crossbar.
But they needed a superb diving save from Cisak on 38 minutes, as he pushed Wordsworth’s curling effort behind to deny the hosts a second.
O’s had a let-off within seconds of the restart as Tomlin sent a drive past the far post.
And Wordsworth saw a shot blocked after McLeod was given too much space on the left and set up the chance.
But Hedges headed over from O’Neill’s inviting cross on 50 minutes and Bartley forced a diving save from Brian Jensen, who replaced Price during the break, moments later.
Henderson fired wide from a quick Hedges throw-in on 54 minutes, but Crawley were fuming with referee Davies, who had overruled his linesman to give the home side the throw, only for Orient’s young midfielder to take it quickly!
Dossena curled a free-kick over the bar on the hour, before Crawley boss Dean Saunders made his second change and replaced Pogba with Marvin Elliott.
And the substitute was booked within four minutes after catching Dagnall as O’s looked to break forward.
Liverani sent David Mooney on for Bartley with 24 minutes left, to take up an unaccustomed central midfield role. Then McAnuff and Jay Simpson were thrown into the fray for Cox and Henderson a few minutes later.
The visitors applied some pressure, forcing corners, but Dossena’s 35-yard drive was comfortably held by Jensen.
And Clarke was shown a yellow card for a blatant body check on McLeod as Crawley, happy to sit deep and defend their lead, looked to counter.
Hedges followed the captain into the book for another mistimed tackle, as Orient’s frustrations grew in the closing stages.
And the visitors were left to rue more good goalkeeping during stoppage time as a diving Jensen pushed out Mooney’s drive from the edge of the box, then reacted sharply to push a close-range volley from Hedges over the bar.
Crawley: Price (Jensen 46), Lewis Young, Darren Ward, Richard Wood, Bradley, Tomlin (Oyebanjo 90), Wordsworth, Lee Fowler, Dickson, McLeod, Pogba (Elliott 60). Booked: Wordsworth, Elliott, Dickson.
Unused subs: Edwards, Smith, Morgan, Bawling.
Leyton Orient: Cisak, O’Neill, Dossena, Cuthbert, Clarke, Cox (McAnuff 69), Wright, Bartley (Mooney 66), Hedges, Henderson (Simpson 69), Dagnall. Booked: O’Neill, Bartley, Clarke, Hedges.
Unused subs: Sawyer, Baudry, Pritchard, Woods.
Referee: Andy Davies.
Attendance: 3,255 (including 823 Orient fans).