O’s top at Christmas and have four-point cushion after home comforts over Chesterfield
- Credit: Archant
National League: Leyton Orient 3 Chesterfield 1
Leyton Orient moved four points clear at the top of the National League table with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Chesterfield at the Breyer Group Stadium.
Goals from Josh Koroma, Marvin Ekpiteta and Macauley Bonne handed the O’s and their supporters an early Christmas present against Martin Allen’s physical side.
The visitors made life difficult for Orient for long periods, but the division leaders showed their mettle and characteristics of champions to secure a crucial victory.
With title rivals Salford City and Wrexham both dropping points, it turned out to be the perfect day for Justin Edinburgh’s team a couple of days before Christmas.
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The O’s received a big boost before kick-off as Charlie Lee returned to the starting XI after seven weeks out through injury.
He last featured for Orient on November 3 away to AFC Fylde before a knee issue saw him subbed off early on.
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Boss Edinburgh made six changes to the team which saw off Beaconsfield Town 4-0 in the first round of the FA Trophy last weekend.
Josh Coulson, Ekpiteta, Joe Widdowson, Jobi McAnuff, Bonne and Lee came into the starting XI.
As a result, George Elokobi, Jayden Sweeney and Alex Lawless dropped out of the 16-man squad while Dan Happe, James Alabi and Matt Harrold were substitutes for the visit of the Spireites.
Chesterfield included ex-Orient loanee Jerome Binnom-Williams from the off, but there was no place for Robbie Weir even among the replacements.
The O’s got proceedings underway in mild conditions compared to last Saturday and it was the visitors who edged the opening exchanges.
Orient created the first genuine chance when Widdowson got into the area, but his shot was blocked by Sam Muggleton in the seventh minute.
It seemed to give O’s the kick-start they needed as less than 60 seconds later James Brophy picked up the ball and ran at the away defence.
He beat three Chesterfield opponents, but neglected the chance to shoot and saw the resulting cross from McAnuff easily claimed by Callum Burton in the visiting goal.
Edinburgh’s team were pressing for the opener, after a sloppy start against Boreham Wood two weeks ago, and with nine on the clock it arrived.
McAnuff hooked the ball over his head and Koroma’s presence put off Haydn Hollis and allowed the Orient attacker to pick up the loose ball.
Koroma now had Hollis exactly where he wanted him – backpedalling – and he got into the area, sent the Spireites defender one way and cut back before his low strike was hard enough to beat Burton and make it 1-0.
It was another terrific goal to add to the O’s number 19’s highlight reel and it gave the east Londoners’ a perfect start.
Orient pushed to extend their advantage afterwards with Sam Ling side-footing wide in the 15th minute after more good play by Koroma.
Chesterfield then began to get a foothold in the contest and created a decent chance in the 18th minute.
The tall and bulky frame of Tom Denton held the ball up well and Alex Kiwomya made a yard of space, but dragged his effort wide from 18-yards.
Martin Allen’s team continued to press and Jonathan Smith drilled off target in the 25th minute before O’s goalkeeper Dean Brill grabbed a loose ball following a corner to thwart Levi Amantchi with 29 on the clock.
The pressure from Chesterfield continued and another opportunity went begging with 32 minutes gone when Binnom-Williams’ ball back forward fell for Amantchi, but he sliced wide under pressure from Coulson.
It felt only a matter of time before the Derbyshire-based club levelled and in the 35th minute they did.
Kiwomya was the man at the heart of it. The Doncaster Rovers loanee ran at McAnuff and passed out wide to Lee Shaw.
Shaw’s centre was good and Kiwomya continued his run into the area and cushioned a header into the top corner from 12-yards.
It was a brilliantly well-worked goal, but Orient would have been frustrated. After taking an early lead, they had failed to kick on sufficiently.
O’s did respond well to the equaliser as Koroma won a free kick just outside the area, but Chesterfield defended McAnuff’s free kick well and it remained 1-1.
Koroma appeared the key and he had Will Evans booking on the stroke of half time for a cynical block while the Orient attacker was trying to race through.
Two minutes of stoppage time was added on at the end of the opening 45, but it went by with little to note and remained all square at the interval.
Allen made a change at the break with Muggleton replaced by Alfie Beestin and the two teams got the action underway seeking to give their supporters an early present for Christmas.
Edinburgh’s team, after finishing the first half strongly, pushed for a second again and almost grabbed it in the 54th minute.
McAnuff chipped a wonderful ball into the area from the right and Ling ghosted in unmarked, but screwed his header wide and a superb opportunity had been missed.
Orient went arguably even closer less than a minute later when Widdowson’s ball over the top put Bonne through and he raced into the area, but saw Burton stand up tall and deny him.
The loose ball rolled for Koroma and he side-footed towards goal, but Hollis got back on the line well to block with what looked his thigh.
It was another excellent opening for O’s and Chesterfield almost made them pay in the 57th minute.
Beestin’s corner into the area was headed towards goal by Denton, but Brill managed to pat the ball down and then scoop it up before it was adjudged to have passed the goal line.
The Spireites remonstrated with referee Quelch, but he waved play on and Orient had survived a scare.
In the 62nd minute O’s produced another threatening moment and this time they made it count.
McAnuff’s corner was headed back to him inadvertently by Lee, who couldn’t direct an effort towards goal, and the captain kept his cool, beat his marker by the touchline and squared for Ekpiteta to smash home from a few yards.
Orient had actually wanted a penalty from McAnuff’s initial delivery and Coulson and Ekpiteta celebrated wildly after the goal.
The hosts maintained their pressure on Chesterfield and Koroma nearly caught out Burton in the 70th minute, but his low effort was well saved.
As the seconds ticked away in east London, the visitors began to keep the ball more and push for an equaliser.
O’s were happy to defend though, and eager to keep hold of a lead which would take them four points clear of Salford and six ahead of third-placed Wrexham.
Edinburgh saw his team waste a good chance to wrap the game up in the 79th minute, but it went amiss.
Bonne harried Hollis and forced him to lose possession near the touchline, which let the Orient forward through on goal. He had Koroma to his left, but decided to go on his own and saw Burton save well.
Fortunately for the O’s they didn’t have to wait too much longer for a third goal and a chance to wrap the points up.
McAnuff and Brophy combined and the latter was brought down inside the area by substitute Joe Rowley in the 84th minute.
It allowed Bonne the opportunity to grab another goal and confirm Orient’s spot at the top of the table come Christmas and he duly delivered.
He fired hard and low into the corner to take his tally to the season to 18 and put O’s on the verge of victory.
Four minutes of stoppage time was added on at the end of the 90 and it passed by with Orient keeping the ball excellently.
When the full time whistle was blown the news confirmed Edinburgh’s team were at the top come Christmas and by four points ahead of nearest challengers Salford.
It is a wonderful achievement by this group of players and now they will aim to keep the good times rolling away to in-form Dagenham & Redbridge on Boxing Day.
Leyton Orient: Brill; Ling, Coulson, Ekpiteta, Widdowson; McAnuff ©, Clay, Lee (Gorman 79), Brophy (Harrold 87); Koroma, Bonne (Alabi 90).
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Happe.
Chesterfield: Burton; Muggleton (Beestin 46), Evans, Hollis, Binnom-Williams; Weston, Smith ©, Kiwomya (Rowley 67); Shaw, Amantchi, Denton (Ofoegbu 76).
Unused substitutes: Anyon, Nelson.
Attendance: 4,755 (255 Chesterfield supporters).