O’s caught cold by Salford and suffer painful defeat
- Credit: Archant
National League: Leyton Orient 0 Salford City 3
Salford City signalled their intent in the National League title race with a superb 3-0 win at Leyton Orient this afternoon.
Justin Edinburgh’s leaders were looking to move eight clear of the visitors with all three points, but were caught on their heels in E10.
Goals by Carl Piergianni and Rory Gaffney inside eight minutes put the Ammies in control and they never let it slip before adding a third through Piergianni late on.
It was a frustrating result for O’s, but they are still top and will have to try and bounce back when they return to league action on January 19 away to Ebbsfleet United.
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Edinburgh kept faith with the same group of players which defeated Dagenham & Redbridge 1-0 on New Year’s Day.
It meant Dale Gorman again remained in the starting XI and Alex Lawless was still on the bench despite a number of impressive cameos of late.
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Orient continued to be without midfield lynchpin Craig Clay, but new boy Jordan Maguire-Drew was among the substitutes.
The January signing from Brighton & Hove Albion displaced forward James Alabi, who dropped out of the match day 16 for the visit of the Ammies.
Salford were also unchanged from their victory over Wrexham earlier this week, but had big guns Adam Rooney and Danny Lloyd among the substitutes.
A big crowd had come through the gates at the Breyer Group Stadium and a real sense of anticipation was in the air.
This was a big game with first taking on third in the National League and there was a real buzz in the ground before kick-off.
Both teams went for it from the off with Orient forcing a corner inside two minutes and Salford winning one of their own with six on the clock.
Danny Whitehead, who won the title with Macclesfield last season, went over to take it and he produced a wonderful delivery to help break the deadlock.
The Salford number 18 drilled a ball into the area and at the back post Piergianni was able to get away from Marvin Ekpiteta and head home the opener in the sixth minute.
Dean Brill initially came, but remained on his line and Whitehead’s delivery was just too good for O’s.
It was not the start they expected and there was a big element of shock in the ground, but the home crowd immediately tried to lift the spirits of the team.
Unfortunately it failed to stop what happened next – Salford doubling their lead in the eighth minute.
Again Whitehead was involved, this time picking up a loose ball from Josh Coulson’s header, and he chipped into the area to find the head of Gaffney.
It was another sensational cross and with less than 10 on the clock, Orient were facing an uphill task.
O’s wanted a penalty with 13 on the clock when James Brophy went down under the challenge of Ibou Touray.
The contact seemed minimal, though, and referee Richard Hulme shook his head and gave a goal kick.
Two minutes later and Orient did get a decision when Josh Koroma went down under the challenge of City captain Liam Hogan.
Referee Hulme awarded a free kick and Ammies defender Nathan Pond went through the youngster after the whistle was blown.
It sparked a big coming together with both sets of players and away from Koroma and Pond going toe-to-toe, Charlie Lee and Piergianni got to grips with each other.
Lee appeared to put his hands around the neck of the Salford ace, but when it settled down, the aforementioned foursome received bookings.
Orient looked to have got away with one with Lee still remaining on the pitch and yet they were unable to make the most of the free kick with Jobi McAnuff’s effort hitting the wall in the 18th minute.
The title clash settled down a touch after, but in the 25th minute City threatened once more and Sam Ling needed to head clear a cross by Gaffney to prevent Tom Walker grabbing a third for the away side.
Edinburgh’s men had began to get into their stride by this point and Koroma did test Chris Neal for the first time two minutes later, but his curling effort was easy for the Ammies custodian.
Orient continued to probe and press and McAnuff forced the Salford goalkeeper into a better save eight minutes before the break.
Brophy passed into the path of his captain, and the experienced ace turned away from his marker and fired towards goal, but Neal got down low to parry away from goal.
By this point Edinburgh had countered Salford’s midfield three by dropping McAnuff into a central position and pushing Brophy up top with O’s now in a 4-3-3.
It appeared to be working but with half time approaching, the Greater Manchester-based club still had a two-goal lead.
Three minutes of stoppage time was added on at the end of the 45 and with almost the final kick of the half Orient came so close to pulling a goal back.
McAnuff’s corner was partially cleared and Lee knocked the ball back in and Coulson headed towards goal, but Gaffney blocked the shot on the line and Salford survived as it remained 2-0 at the break.
No changes were made at the interval with Edinburgh keeping faith with the same set of players and it almost paid off in the 47th minute.
McAnuff played a through ball and Hogan failed to intercept which allowed Koroma to get through, but Neal made himself big and saved superbly to deny the youngster from 12-yards.
Brophy, Koroma and Gorman all had efforts over the next 10 minutes, but Salford, to their credit, were defending resolutely.
O’s were keeping the ball well and doing their best to create an opening and on the hour mark they did.
Lee burst forward and passed out to Ling, who delivered a good cross to the back post where Koroma was.
After controlling, Koroma teed up McAnuff and he got a shot off inside the area, but again Neal got down low to save well.
Edinburgh had seen enough and a double change was made in the 63rd minute when Alex Lawless and Maguire-Drew replaced Gorman and Lee with Maguire-Drew on for his debut.
Unfortunately for Orient they had to make another substitution just three minutes later and an enforced one.
Coulson went down innocuously and was unable to carry on, so Dan Happe replaced him and O’s were out of changes with 24 minutes remaining in E10.
The game carried on in its pattern with Edinburgh’s side dominating possession, but the Ammies remaining organised and compact.
Maguire-Drew went close with 77 on the clock from a free kick, yet his 25-yard shot flew inches wide.
Time was running out for Orient and in the 80th minute Salford put the game to bed with a third goal.
Happe was harshly penalised for fouling Green and so the visitors had a free kick by the touchline.
Tom Walker stepped up to take it and whipped in a wonderful cross for Piergianni to head home his second of the afternoon and confirm the points were heading back up to Salford.
Again it was poor defending by O’s and you could only hear the 251 away fans in the East Stand now with some Orient supporters heading for the exit doors.
The league leaders did receive some good news further up the country when the score came through that Dover Athletic had taken the lead at Wrexham.
Orient fans then began to sing about being top of the league as the fourth official put his board up for seven minutes of stoppage time.
A couple of corners came to nothing for O’s and Koroma had a weak penalty appeal turned down before substitute Devante Rodney blazed over deep into time added on.
The home fans sang ‘we’re top of the league’ once referee Hulme blew for full time and they are, but they must ensure this is a blip.
Edinburgh’s team remain in a great position and will look to get back on track away to Wrexham in the FA Trophy next weekend.
Leyton Orient: Brill; Ling, Coulson (Happe 66), Ekpiteta, Widdowson; Brophy, Gorman (Lawless 63), Lee (Maguire-Drew 63), McAnuff ©; Koroma, Bonne.
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Harrold.
Salford City: Neal; Wiseman, Hogan ©, Pond, Piergianni, Tourway; Whitehead (Rooney 90), Nolan, Walker; Gaffney, Green (Rodney 86).
Unused substitutes: Crocombe, Lloyd, Dieseruvwe.
Attendance: 6,937 (251 Salford City supporters).