Josh in Wright place at right time to help O’s start with win
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
League Two: Leyton Orient 1 Cheltenham Town 0
Josh Wright ensured Leyton Orient remembered late manager Justin Edinburgh in the best possible way with a 1-0 win over Cheltenham Town on the first day of the new League Two season.
It was always going to be an emotional occasion at Brisbane Road - which proved the case - and it was fitting the last signing made by the legendary O's head coach got the Londoners off to a victorious start in front of over six thousand spectators.
Ross Embleton would have been delighted with his players, who recovered from a slow opening period and the loss of Dean Brill to dominate possession against the Robins and earn a deserved win despite being lucky not to give away a penalty early on.
After suffering relegation from League Two in such frustrating fashion two years ago, a return to the division was meant to be a cause for celebration.
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It still was to an extent, but one man was at the forefront of everyone's mind ahead of kick-off and that was the O's legendary manager from last season.
Edinburgh galvanised the club when he was appointed head coach in November 2017 and the transformation he oversaw in such a small space of time was incredible.
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He led by example from the outset and was overjoyed to lead the east Londoners back into the Football League.
The joy was short-lived for everyone associated with Orient and Edinburgh when he suffered a cardiac arrest at the beginning of June and passed away days later.
It was heartbreaking for the family of the former Tottenham Hotspur left-back and hit the club hard, but together and with the support of the fans and the football world they have got this far in truly inspiring fashion.
Charlie Edinburgh, Justin's son, has been a continued source of inspiration for not only his mum Kerri and sister Cydnie, but everyone who knew the great man that took O's back into the Football League.
They were all present for this League Two opener against Cheltenham, which would have always been monumental, but even more now.
A touching tribute from the visitors got plenty of media attention and their giant flag was unveiled before kick-off and plenty of others were present inside Brisbane Road.
Orient's faithful started the chants for Edinburgh long before kick-off and a minute's silence occurred before the game in memory of only the third manager in the club's history to win a league title with O's.
Embleton stuck with the 3-4-1-2 formation which served the team so well last season and Dean Brill was fit enough to start in goal after a disjointed summer due to fitness, but Joe Widdowson missed out through injury.
It meant James Brophy started at left wing-back with Jordan Maguire-Drew in the 10 role behind Lee Angol and Conor Wilkinson.
Not long into the game Ben Tozer's long throws caused the hosts' problems before Brill had other issues to worry about and was lucky not to give a penalty away in the sixth minute when Luke Varney rounded him and went down.
Referee Michael Salisbury took his time and eventually awarded Orient a free kick and booked the Robins forward, which looked the wrong decision.
O's number one was in the thick of the action four minutes later when he smartly saved down low from Will Boyle's header, but it saw his afternoon end early.
Sam Sargeant was called upon and in the process Orient's academy graduate made his first competitive appearance since November 2017.
Eventually the home side settled with Maguire-Drew lashing over from range and a long throw by Ling causing Scott Flinders problems in the Cheltenham goal.
The Robins looked a threat on the break while Orient were dominating possession, but not creating much, although Craig Clay's energy was evident as always as he tried to boss things in the middle of the park.
By the 30-minute mark the hosts' had not significantly tested Flinders while Varney was giving Marvin Ekpiteta a real challenge, constantly getting at him down the right.
In the 42nd minute O's thought they were off the mark for the campaign, but the linesman ended very bright celebrations after a superb one-two between Angol and Wilkinson after Brophy's initial pass.
Angol applied a wonderful finish from a tight angle, yet it was chalked off and made sure it remained goalless at the break after two minutes of stoppage time.
During the interval, a cheque of £1,700 was presented to Charlie Edinburgh for the Justin Edinburgh 3 Foundation from James Knight and Owen Robinson, of the 1887 Red Army supporters group.
Clay had Orient's first opportunity of the second period, but his effort from 25-yards was sliced and went harmlessly over in the 56th minute.
The Robins made two substitutes soon after with Josh Debayo and Tahvon Campbell withdrawn and then Orient created a chance of genuine note.
Angol nodded a long ball down for Wilkinson and although his shot was blocked, it rolled perfectly for Wright, who made a fantastic late run into the area, and he slotted past Flinders with 68 on the clock.
It was a goal full of emotion for the midfielder and everyone inside the stadium and he raced over to the West Stand where Edinburgh's family were sitting and unveiled an O's shirt with Edinburgh 3 on the back.
Wright had netted here last weekend against a Norwich City XI, but this one clearly meant so much more to him.
Orient were not able to build momentum following the opener, though, after referee Salisbury took centre stage and not for the first time.
In the 70th minute he gave Varney his marching orders for catching Ekpiteta and that was not the last red card for the visitors.
Before play had got back underway, Rohan Ince saw red - two minutes after team-mate Varney - and Cheltenham's task was now a whole lot harder.
Embleton's team almost made it 2-0 in the 78th minute when Maguire-Drew's corner found Josh Coulson, but his downward header was sensational saved by Flinders in scenes reminiscent of Gordon Banks' legendary stop to deny Pele in 1970.
With the numerical advantage, as well as the scoreline, O's looked for a second which would have wrapped the game up and James Alabi got the nod with six minutes to go in east London.
He almost confirmed the three points in the 88th minute, but his shot-cum-cross evaded Angol at the back post and six minutes of stoppage time were then added on at the end of the 90.
Flinders made another fine stop in the first minute of time added on following Brophy's dangerous cross with Angol unable to force the ball home from close range, yet it didn't matter too much as Orient held on to start the season with a victory.
After the most traumatic of summers, the players were back to doing what they love best - playing football - and remembered Edinburgh in the best possible way with a professional performance which earned a win and clean sheet.
Leyton Orient: Brill (Sargeant 12); Ekpiteta, Coulson, Happe; Ling, Clay, Wright, Brophy; Maguire-Drew (Dennis 90); Wilkinson (Alabi 84), Angol.
Unused substitutes: Judd, Gorman, Harrold, Sotiriou.
Cheltenham Town: Flinders; Raglan, Tozer, Boyle; Long, Ince, Broom, Sheaf (Addai 75), Debayo (Hussey 63); Varney, Campbell (Reilly 67).
Unused substitutes: Lovett, Thomas, Clements, Doyle-Hayes.
Attendance: 6,534 (367 Cheltenham Town supporters).