O’s take another step towards Wembley with fine comeback win

Leyton Orient's Dan Happe flicks the ball on (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Leyton Orient's Dan Happe flicks the ball on (pic: Simon O'Connor). - Credit: Archant

FA Trophy quarter-finals: Brackley Town 1 Leyton Orient 2

Leyton Orient produced a superb comeback at FA Trophy holders Brackley Town to reach the semi-finals of the competition this afternoon.

At half time things were looking bleak for Justin Edinburgh’s team as they trailed by a single goal at St James’ Park.

Even a missed penalty failed to knock O’s off their stride, though, as goals from Matt Harrold and Dan Happe in the second half earned the visitors an excellent 2-1 victory.

Given Orient’s inconsistent form in 2019 so far, they easily could have suffered more disappointment, but they demonstrated tremendous character to fight back and claim a win against one of the best sides in the National League North.

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In previous rounds Edinburgh had rotated his squad, but he kept in all of his big guns for this tie in Northamptonshire.

Only three changes were made to the team which lost 1-0 to Maidenhead United last weekend as Charlie Lee dropped to the bench while Jamie Turley and Joe Widdowson missed out completely.

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Marvin Ekpiteta made a welcome return, in the process starting his first match for O’s since January 12 and Myles Judd and Dale Gorman earned opportunities from the off.

The first chance of note didn’t occur until the 11th minute, but it was the Saints who threatened and it was a sign of things to come.

Dean Brill saved from Matt Lowe and it lifted Brackley’s spirits as they laid siege to the away goal.

James Armson was the next to go close as he ran through one-on-one with the Orient stopper, but Brill stood up well and saved with 13 gone.

O’s couldn’t clear the danger, though, and gave away a free kick on the edge, but Glenn Walker saw his effort stopped by the ex-Luton Town goalkeeper.

After appearing to weather the storm, Brackley came again and in the 24th minute the deadlock was broken.

Lowe managed to get past Sam Ling and he squared for Lee Ndlouv to fire home and make it 1-0 to the FA Trophy holders.

Orient were all at sea now and the Saints almost doubled their advantage with 27 on the clock, but Gareth Dean’s header was stopped by Brill on the line.

Finally Edinburgh’s team produced a moment of attacking note in the 33rd minute as Jobi McAnuff and Macauley Bonne combined to set up Ekpiteta, yet his effort failed to find the net.

Although O’s were controlling possession now, they were still looking shaky at the back and Brill was called into action again on the stroke of half time to deny Armson.

It was only 1-0 at the break and the National League promotion hopes were counting their lucky starts Brackley hadn’t shown a clinical edge in the final third.

Bonne headed over four minutes into the second period before Orient were forced into a change after 55.

Ekpiteta suffered a blow to the face and had to be replaced by Josh Coulson, who was making his first O’s appearance since January 5.

Moments later and Jordan Maguire-Drew was introduced for Judd as Edinburgh made a change from his usual 4-4-2 formation.

Orient made their final change with 25 minutes left as Harrold replaced Gorman and soon after the visitors earned the perfect chance to level the scores.

Substitute Maguire-Drew was adjudged to have been brought down inside the area, but Bonne saw his effort from 12-yards saved by Danny Lewis in the 69th minute.

At this point O’s could have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t their day, but one of Edinburgh’s replacements made his mark with 16 minutes left.

Brophy did well out wide and his cross came for Harrold, who made no mistake from close range to score his fourth goal of the season.

Orient were in the ascendancy now and pushed for a winner as the National League North hosts looked to hold on for a replay.

Maguire-Drew continued to impress and he set up an opportunity for Jay Simpson, but his effort went over with 10 minutes remaining.

The pressure from O’s was constant now and with 83 on the clock it paid off again as they completed a superb turnaround.

Ex-Lincoln City loanee Maguire-Drew whipped in a corner kick and Happe jumped highest to nod home his first goal for the club.

It was a special moment for the young defender and justified his selection when head coach Edinburgh could have gone with the more experienced Jamie Turley.

As the clock hit 90, six minutes of stoppage time was added on and O’s had to survive an almightily goalmouth scramble to make it through, but they did to book their spot in the last four.

Following last weekend’s loss at home to Maidenhead, Orient had delivered the best type of reply, although only after a poor first 45.

Next up for O’s is a trip to Havant & Waterlooville in the National League where they will aim to move back up the table in pursuit of a historic non-league double.

Leyton Orient: Brill; Judd (Maguire-Drew 56), Ekpiteta (Coulson 55), Happe, Ling; Brophy, Clay, Gorman (Harrold 65), McAnuff ©; Bonne, Simpson.

Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Lee.

Attendance: 1,563.

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