Craig Clay leveller gives Ross Embleton and Leyton Orient deserved point at home to National League leaders Dover Athletic
- Credit: Archant
National League: Leyton Orient 1 Dover Athletic 1
A deflected Craig Clay effort in the 78th minute helped Leyton Orient fight back to pick up a point at Brisbane Road against National League leaders Dover Athletic.
The Whites looked to be heading for all three points after Nortei Nortey opened the scoring in the first half.
But Ross Embleton’s team showed plenty of spirit and character to salvage a draw with a strong second half showing.
Orient remain 19th in the table and just three points above the bottom four, but will hope to have turned the corner after a terrible two-and-a-half months.
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Embleton made four changes to the team which lost 2-1 at Ebbsfleet United last weekend, which ultimately cost Steve Davis his job.
Joe Widdowson, Clay, Jobi McAnuff and Macauley Bonne returned with Mark Ellis, Zain Westbrooke, David Mooney and Matt Harrold dropping to the bench.
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O’s interim head coach was forced to make a late change to his starting XI though when Charlie Grainger injured his hip in the warm-up.
It meant Sam Sargeant, 20, was handed an opportunity to show what he could do after demonstrating his potential last season.
Less than a minute had been played when Widdowson tried to clear the ball, but could only hit it into the body of James Alabi.
Alabi ran through on goal, but Sargeant made himself big and brilliantly blocked to ensure it remained goalless.
Orient managed to counter well from the resulting Dover corner and stand-in captain McAnuff won O’s a corner of their own in the second minute.
James Dayton swung the ball in and found Bonne at the near post, but he headed over at a dark and gloomy Brisbane Road.
Despite the poor weather, the Orient fans were making plenty of noise and getting behind the team.
The Whites showed their threat again in the eighth minute, however, when Mitchell Pinnock curled a free kick wide from 30-yards.
It was a warning sign for O’s though in the 14th minute it was the hosts who created an excellent opportunity.
Dan Happe showed superb calmness on the ball to beat two opponents before picking out Bonne.
Bonne found Clay and he played in James Brophy, who cut back for Dayton, but Manny Parry blocked his shot before Mitch Walker scooped up the loose ball.
With Embleton on the touchline urging his players on, it had been an encouraging opener quarter of an hour for Orient.
Alex Lawless tried his luck soon after, but saw his shot deflected wide before McAnuff couldn’t test Walker from 25-yards.
Dover then had the ball in the net with 21 on the clock when Manny Parry rolled in after Sargeant had dropped the ball.
The referee Joe Hull correctly adjudged the Whites defender to have fouled Orient’s goalkeeper and it was ruled out.
Almost straight after that chance and Alabi caused Widdowson more problems, holding off the left-back before smashing over from a tight angle.
O’s didn’t heed that warning though and in the 23rd minute, they fell behind to the league leaders.
Alabi held off Widdowson too easily and found Nortei Nortey unmarked in the area and he curled past Sargeant from 12-yards.
Orient responded brightly after conceding and McAnuff drilled wide once more in the 27th minute before Mitch Brundle made a timely clearance from an excellent Caprice cross with Clay ready to pounce.
Embleton remained on the touchline urging his players on throughout, but another stoppage occurred in the 38th minute.
Former Dagenham & Redbridge defender Josh Passley smashed into the advertising hoardings after going shoulder to shoulder with Brophy.
The pair had clashed heads in the eighth minute and the Dover full-back immediately needed medical attention.
After two minutes of treatment, Passley was finally back to his feet, but bizarrely wanted to carry on playing straight away without being tested for concussion.
Dover’s physio did seem to do a check and wasn’t happy the defender wanted to carry on, but he did, yet in the 41st minute Passley went down again.
Following another three minutes of treatment, the full-back eventually came off with Loui Fazakerley replacing him.
Due to the aforementioned stoppages, there was five minutes of additional time at the end of the first half and O’s went close in the second minute.
Brophy checked inside his marker impressively before firing towards goal, but Walker saved well and the half ended with Orient 1-0 down.
After a slow start to the second period, the hosts clicked into gear again and won two corners in quick succession in the 52nd minute.
They were unable to test Walker with either, but it helped lift the crowd and get O’s on the front foot.
Connor Essam nearly grabbed a goal against his old club four minutes later, yet he headed over from a good position.
Brophy then embarked on a stunning run in the 58th minute, going past four rivals, but he was eventually halted in his tracks.
Orient did go extremely close in the 59th minute when Bonne’s header at the near post forced Walker into a top-drawer save.
O’s kept the ball alive with Jamie Sendles-White having a stabbed effort blocked, it then came to Bonne at the back post, but Essam cleared his shot off the line.
It was another case of so close, yet so far for the home side and Embleton made a change in the 65th minute.
Harrold came on for Lawless and Orient switched to a 4-4-2 with McAnuff in the middle with Clay.
Embleton’s team upped the ante with Brophy central to most of their attacks, but the key final pass was lacking.
O’s went close again in the 73rd minute when Brophy tried to cut back for Harrold, though Essam intercepted before Dayton saw an effort blocked.
With time running out, it seemed like Orient were going to have another frustrating day, but their luck changed in the 78th minute.
Clay and Dayton combined wonderfully in the middle of the pitch and Clay cut back inside the area and let fly with his low shot deflecting off Essam and ending up in the back of the net.
After an improved second half, it was exactly what Orient deserved, but now they scented a chance of winning.
Wonderful play by McAnuff three minutes later forced Giancarlo Gallifuoco into an excellent challenge.
In the 85th minute they went even closer when Dayton crossed towards the back post and Bonne headed goalwards, but Walker made a stunning save on the goalline.
There was still time for more drama with Dayton winning a free kick on the edge of the area, yet McAnuff could only blast over the crossbar and with that, O’s best late chance was gone.
It finished 1-1 and Orient in the process ended their run of five consecutive league defeats at Brisbane Road.
Embleton could reflect on a good start to his life as O’s boss with the interim head coach receiving a huge round of applause as he left the pitch.
After a difficult week, Orient had ended it in positive fashion and will look for more of the same on Tuesday at home to Chester.
Leyton Orient: Sargeant; Caprice, Sendles-White, Happe, Widdowson; McAnuff, Clay, Lawless (Harrold 65), Dayton, Brophy; Bonne.
Unused substitutes: Brill, Mooney, Ellis, Westbrooke.
Dover Athletic: Walker; Passley (Fazakerley 44), Essam, Parry, Ilesanmi; Brundle, Gallifuoco, Nortey; Alabi, Bird (Daniel 76), Pinnock.
Unused substitutes: Richards, Okosiemi, Jeffrey.
Attendance: 4,548 (537 Dover Athletic supporters).