Leyton Orient’s Ollie Palmer strikes late on to give Andy Edwards another point
- Credit: Archant
Sky Bet League Two: Leyton Orient 1 Cambridge United 1
Ollie Palmer struck in the fourth minute of stoppage time to rescue a late point for Leyton Orient at home to Cambridge United.
It seemed for long parts of the League Two encounter that Harrison Dunk’s first half strike would be the only goal of the game.
But Andy Edwards team showed tremendous character to find a late leveller and make it three unbeaten at Brisbane Road.
After a 2016 full of more lows than highs, this was an exciting way to finish the year for O’s and their supporters.
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Edwards kept faith with the same team that started Monday’s thrilling 3-2 win against Crawley Town.
The only changed was to the bench with left-back Callum Kennedy returning in place of Jay Simpson.
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Simpson was heavily linked with a move away from Brisbane Road in the summer transfer window and his absence for the visit of Cambridge added fire to the rumours.
After scoring 25 goals in League Two last season, there will no doubt be a plethora of teams interesting in taking his services.
Simpson is among the highest earners at the club and therefore Edwards could be able to bring in reinforcements if the striker departs.
But at 1pm focus turned to the pitch and Michael Collins got O’s underway at a loud Brisbane Road with the U’s supporters making plenty of noise.
The first significant chance occurred in the seventh minute when Luke Berry came inside and curled a cross just wide of Alex Cisak’s post.
Uche Ikpeazu was close to getting a touch and it demonstrated the ability of the Cambridge number eight.
It had been a frantic start in east London with tackles flying in and both teams trying to move the ball about.
Orient nearly produced a fine move with quarter of an hour played, but Sandro Semedo’s pass to Gavin Massey hit the heel of his team-mate.
Nigel Atangana and Paul McCallum combined nicely two minutes later before releasing Sam Dalby.
The young forward cut inside and crossed into the area, though Cambridge cleared and it remained goalless.
Moments later and Nicky Hunt attempted an ambitious volley from range, which flew just past the post.
And then Massey produced a stunning turn to take two U’s players out of the game and feed McCallum.
Orient’s number 10 played in Semedo and he tested Will Norris with a fierce shot before Brad Halliday cleared for a corner with the Portuguese winger ready to pounce on the rebound.
Cambridge survived the resulting set-piece before scoring arguably against the run of play when O’s failed to defend a throw.
Berry had two bites at the cherry, though was denied by Teddy Mezague and then Myles Judd.
Yet the loose ball fell perfectly for Dunk to slot past Cisak from close range in the 21st minute.
Orient supporters reacted positively, however, and they immediately urged the hosts to get back level.
A Michael Collins free kick caused panic in the away area with Tom Parkes heading across goal, yet O’s couldn’t test Norris in the 28th minute
Edwards was then forced to make a change five minutes later when Mezague appeared to pull a groin muscle.
The French defender signalled to the bench straight away and Yvan Erichot replaced him at centre back.
Although Orient got forward well on a couple of occasions, the decisive final ball was lacking the required quality.
Three minutes of stoppage time were added on, but the east Londoners couldn’t find an equaliser and it remained 1-0 to the visitors at the break.
Judd and Massey combined impressively two minutes into the second half, but the cross by the latter was held by Norris.
A poor pass by Collins and a lack of anticipation from Semedo got Cambridge on the attack moments later, but Dunk dragged an effort well wide.
Edwards was handed another problem when Dalby went down with a problem and had to be replaced in the 53rd minute.
Palmer was introduced, yet the U’s fashioned the next attack from an Orient corner, but Ikpeazu fortunately fired tamely at Cisak after a quick break.
But O’s hit back with Semedo delivering a sensational ball in the Cambridge area, which was cleared behind.
From the resulting Collins corner, McCallum headed goalwards, but Norris claimed with nobody able to get a crucial final touch.
Palmer showed he was fired up on the hour mark with a great run before having a shot deflected over.
Cambridge had the ball in the back of the net three minutes later through Ikpeazu, but it was ruled out for offside.
It handed the visitors the upper-hand and they should have doubled their advantage less than 60 seconds later.
Dunk attacked from the left and tried to pick out Ikpeazu, but Hunt got a vital slight touch on the cross.
Berry ran onto the ball and fired goalwards, yet Atangana blocked the shot and it stayed 1-0 to Cambridge.
Orient lost a third player to injury shortly after with Semedo going down and Josh Koroma being introduced.
The U’s wasted another great chance to make it 2-0 in the 69th minute when Dunk headed over with the goal at his mercy from a Max Clark centre.
Cambridge’s miss gave O’s a boost and another Collins free kick caused problems in the away area.
McCallum jumped higher than away custodian Norris, but the U’s goalkeeper got a slight touch to send the header over.
With the seconds ticking away at Brisbane Road, both teams pushed for the crucial second goal of the game.
Koroma tried his luck with 10 minutes remaining, though dragged wide before two Palmer’s cross failed to find an Orient player.
The O’s continued to lump the ball forward, yet couldn’t find a way through the away back four and were starting to lack width.
Five minutes of stoppage time were added on and Orient carried on pushing to finish the year with a positive result.
And with less than 60 seconds remaining, McCallum made a nuisance of himself in the area and Palmer lashed the loose ball goalwards.
The effort from the substitute took a deflection and beat Norris to take the roof off of Brisbane Road.
All the O’s players ran into the corner to celebrate, yet there was still time for Cambridge to have one final chance.
Piero Mingoia fired just wide from outside the area with the last kick of the game before referee Lee Swabey blew for full time.
It brought a terrific game to an end and ensures Orient end 2016 with a two-match unbeaten run.
Leyton Orient: Cisak; Judd, Mezague (Erichot 33), Parkes, Hunt; Massey, Collins, Atangana, Semedo (Koroma 67); McCallum, Dalby (Palmer 53).
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Kennedy, Weir, Bowery.
Cambridge United: Norris; Halliday, Legge, Roberts, Taylor; Dunne, Newton (Clark 62); Mingoia, Berry, Dunk (Williamson 87); Ikpeazu (Pigott 90).
Unused substitutes: Gregory, Adams, Long, Dallison.
Attendance: 5,897 (1,391 Cambridge United supporters).