10-man O’s almost snatch winner in thrilling stalemate with Monkey Hangers

Leyton Orient's Joe Widdowson is sent off (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Leyton Orient's Joe Widdowson is sent off (pic: Simon O'Connor). - Credit: Archant

Leyton Orient 0 Hartlepool United 0

Leyton Orient produced a superb performance to clinch a point at home to Hartlepool United despite playing most of the second half with 10-men.

Joe Widdowson saw red just before the hour mark and despite this, Justin Edinburgh’s team always looked most likely to make the breakthrough.

Although they didn’t, the battling National League display ensured the six thousand O’s fans inside the stadium could go home satisfied after watching their team battle until the end.

The Orient head coach made one change to the team which defeated Maidenhead United 2-0 in wet conditions last weekend.

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Charlie Lee dropped out of the squad completely and was replaced by James Brophy in a move which saw captain Jobi McAnuff move into the middle.

On the bench, Alex Lawless returned while Josh Koroma was able to shake off a recent knee problem to line up among the substitutes.

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A big crowd was present for this one with Orient having no more tickets available come the day of the match.

The atmosphere was electric from the off, but Hartlepool were eager to spoil the party and visited east London in terrific form with only one defeat from their last 12 games and sitting sixth in the table.

Edinburgh’s team dominated possession for the opening five minutes and then Pools began to exert their stamp on the contest.

Niko Muir, formerly of north London club Hendon, tried his luck from range in the ninth minute, but blazed high and wide of Dean Brill’s goal.

Although this was the fifth tier of English football, both sides were trying to pass the ball about and O’s James Dayton made the most of some space with 13 played, but could only fire over from 30-yards.

Dayton and Brophy were both prominent figures in the opening exchanges of the game with the former hitting off target again in the 20th minute.

Hartlepool threatened themselves moments later when Luke James did fantastically well to hold off Myles Judd just outside the Orient area, but just as he set himself to shoot, his standing leg hit the ball sideways and the forward scuffed well wide.

Macauley Bonne was the next attacker to try his luck, but his miscued past Scott Loach’s post as the game remained goalless in front of a partisan crowd.

The first caution of the match went to Peter Kioso in the 24th minute for a late tackle on Brophy after fine pressing by Craig Clay, but goalmouth action remained elusive in E10.

Orient needed to create more overload situations out wide and did in the 27th minute as Judd went past Dayton and it allowed the winger to cut inside and try to find a team-mate inside the Hartlepool area.

While the cross didn’t find the intended target of Brophy, it showed O’s an area they could get joy from.

More good play out wide in the 33rd minute, this time by Widdowson, won Orient their first corner of the match, but it come to nothing.

The O’s were getting into some good areas and yet so far had failed to make the most of them while Hartlepool were looking a threat when they did venture forward.

A mistake by Kioso presented Brophy with plenty of space to run into with 36 on the clock and he cut back for Bonne, who unselfishly set Clay for an effort, but he could only curl over from 20-yards.

It was a fine move and yet again the required quality in the final third was missing for the O’s.

Dayton had another opportunity five minutes before the break and this one looked his closest yet, but it took a deflection and flew wide.

The fourth official signalled for a minute of stoppage time come the end of the first 45 and it went by with little to note as an entertaining opening half finished goalless.

Edinburgh’s message at half time was clear as Orient immediately looked to get the ball out wide.

From the kick-off, Brophy raced down the left and fizzed a centre across the face of the visitors’ goal, but no one in a red shirt could get a touch.

Dayton latched onto the loose ball and his cross ricocheted perfectly for Clay, but he saw a shot blocked and Hartlepool survived.

Judd went into the book with 50 played after he caught Mark Kitching late and by the touchline in front of the fourth official.

A slight delay occurred after the Pools wing-back needed treatment and yet another stoppage occurred in the 54th minute when James went down after an innocuous collision with Judd.

He was eventually able to resume, but the intervention affected Orient’s momentum and this all occurred after Hartlepool were late coming back onto the pitch for the start of the second half.

Minutes later another lengthy delay would occur as Widdowson and Michael Woods come together in the 56th minute.

Orient’s left-back, after a heavy touch, lunged to win the ball and caught the Pools midfielder which saw several Hartlepool players surround the referee.

Both players were down receiving treatment and during the protests Dayton went into the book of Quelch.

The referee, after two minutes of deliberation, eventually pulled out a red for left-back Widdowson and the visitors Carl Magnay also got a booking for his part following the initial tackle.

With over half an hour left, Orient were facing a big task with only 10-men and yet this seemed to galvanise the club’s biggest crowd of the season.

Alabi was brought down in the 61st minute and the noise was thunderous as McAnuff swung a free kick in which Marvin Ekpiteta headed across goal, but unfortunately none of his team-mates were on hand to power home.

Orient, despite the numerical disadvantage, were unbelievably pushing for a winner and it nearly arrived in the 70th minute.

Clay, running around like Duracell Rabbit, won the ball deep inside Hartlepool’s half and Bonne put Alabi through, but with the angle tight, he saw Loach save his low shot with his legs.

It was a fantastic chance and yet an even better one was created with 72 on the clock as Clay put Brophy through, but with only Loach to beat, he side-footed wide with his weaker right foot.

Edinburgh had already decided to make a change and it was Brophy’s last involvement as he made way for Josh Koroma and Sam Ling replaced Judd.

The O’s scented blood and continued to push and Ekpiteta almost scored the opener when he met Coulson’s flick from a free kick, but Loach tipped over the crossbar.

After that opportunity, the frantic pace of the clash slowed with more substitutions made by both sides.

Orient’s final roll of the dice occurred with 10 left when Matt Harrold come on for Dayton as the hosts surprisingly went for it.

More half chances were created with Bonne having a shot deflected into Loach’s hands and Koroma seeing a cross in a dangerous position sail behind for a goal kick.

When the fourth official signalled for six minutes of stoppage time, the home crowd roared to signal their belief the home side could still find a winner.

It almost arrived but to the visitors as Hartlepool went close twice in quick succession.

First of all when substitute Marcus Dinanga cut inside and fired towards the corner, but Dean Brill got down low to save.

Pools kept the ball alive and it dropped for another substitute, Connor Newton, inside the area, but his near post strike was brilliantly parried by Brill to keep it 0-0.

Buoyed by this, Orient attempted to find a dramatic late winner and Koroma nearly produced it when he beat a couple of opponents and saw a shot take a deflection and drop wide.

The resulting corner was cleared to the teenager and he again raced past his marker and this time whipped a low ball into the area which was cleared for a throw.

Ling went over to take, but it was cleared back to him and referee Quelch then brought a pulsating content to an end.

It had been a wonderful game of football and all that was missing was a goal with the O’s performing fantastically, especially with 10-men for such a lengthy period of time.

Wrexham’s 2-1 win nearby at Dagenham & Redbridge has seen them jump to second which sees Orient drop to third, but with leaders Salford City dropping points at home to Braintree Town, the top four, including Harrogate Town, are separated by one point.

Next up for the O’s is an FA Cup encounter away to Maidstone United as they take a break from the league for two weeks.

Leyton Orient: Brill; Judd (Ling 72), Coulson, Ekpiteta, Widdowson; Dayton (Harrold 80), McAnuff ©, Clay, Brophy (Koroma 72); Alabi, Bonne.

Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Lawless.

Hartlepool United: Loach; Kioso, Davies ©, Magnay; Donaldson, Woods (Hawkes 81), Featherstone, Noble (Newton 88), Kitching; Muir, James (Dinanga 82).

Unused substitutes: Hawkins, Richardson.

Attendance: 6,877 (594 Hartlepool United supporters).

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