O’s almost up after stalemate at Solihull and shock Salford defeat
- Credit: Archant
National League: Solihull Moors 0 Leyton Orient 0
Leyton Orient are on the cusp of promotion back to the Football League following another dramatic day in the National League title race.
The O’s held rivals Solihull Moors to a goalless draw at Damson Park which means the West Midlands-based club can essentially no longer catch Justin Edinburgh’s side.
Further up north, there was a shock result at Salford City with the Ammies losing 1-0 at home to AFC Fylde.
It means with one match to go, Orient have a three-point advantage over Salford and Solihull and a better goal difference over the pair heading into the final weekend of the season.
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Edinburgh made just one change to the team which defeated Harrogate Town 2-0 on Good Friday with Jamie Turley coming in to replace Jordan Maguire-Drew, who was part of an attacking bench.
This switch saw Turley line up as right wing-back with James Brophy moving further forward and playing just before Macauley Bonne and Josh Koroma.
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A big crowd was in attendance at Damson Park and although O’s were only given 700 seats, the travelling faithful were making a load of noise prior to kick-off.
Two years to the day since Orient were officially relegated from League Two, the east Londoners were potentially 90 minutes away from sealing a return there.
It was an afternoon for calm heads with the sun shining in the West Midlands and the temperature well into the twenties.
Virtually the whole of Edinburgh’s squad was present with Myles Judd, Sam Ling, Alex Lawless, Dale Gorman and James Alabi watching from behind the dugout.
James Dayton – on crutches after fracturing his ankle at Sutton United – was also at the ground, although sitting in the stands.
After an expected cautious start from both sides, O’s created the first genuine chance of note in the seventh minute when Joe Widdowson passed into Koroma’s path, and he cut inside Liam Dalby, but Ryan Boot was equal to his effort and saved well.
Solihull responded with Jamey Osborne lashing over from range before Adi Yussuf almost opened the scoring in the 12th minute.
The Moors forward chased after a long ball by Tyrone Williams and beat Dan Happe and Josh Coulson to it, but he was unable to poke past Dean Brill and Orient survived.
It was a nervy moment though, and added to the tense feeling inside the stadium with both clubs aware of what was at stake.
Moors continued to press and Lee Vaughan fired wide with quarter of an hour played after Widdowson had headed a long throw clear.
Home boss Tim Flowers would have been the happiest of the managers at this point, but back came the O’s with 18 on the clock.
Widdowson found Koroma, who passed into Brophy and after a lucky ricochet he saw an effort blocked before Koroma had a shot deflected up in the air from the edge, but it was comfortable for Solihull custodian Boot.
It was more end-to-end now with both teams enjoying moments of attacking play, yet by the midway point of the first half it remained goalless.
A brief break in play occurred in the 28th minute when Koroma needed treatment after a challenge with Darren Carter.
He was eventually able to resume, but only after receiving some words from Solihull assistant Gary Whild, who was clearly trying to wind up the teenager.
Moments later and the Moors bench was nearly up on their feet when Osborne curled a free kick over the wall and towards Orient’s goal, but Brill stuck out a hand and made a wonderful fingertip save to prevent the opener.
From the resulting corner Bonne cleared and was clattered by Danny Wright, which added to the frustration of the visitors.
The away fans broke out in song seconds later and the catalyst was AFC Fylde taking the lead away to Salford City.
It seemed to lift the away players too and in the 35th minute the breakthrough was almost made by O’s.
Brophy whipped in a corner and found Coulson at the back post, but his effort was put behind by the boot of Moors goalkeeper Boot.
Another coming together occurred with eight minutes of the half left when Craig Clay cleared and went down with Kyle Storer in close proximity.
Play continued, but once it came to a halt Solihull captain Storer squared up to Clay and referee Martin Woods had to come between the pair.
Both were handed a caution for the incident and it was the last moment of note from a half which didn’t show much quality.
Chances were at a premium and the match was all about hard-working and being first to the second balls.
It had been a typical Solihull game, but Orient had stood up to the challenge well and knew if they could start to show more quality in the second period it may be decisive.
The influential Osborne dragged an effort wide two minutes after the restart and then Brophy put a dangerous ball into the area for O’s.
Moors survived the slight scare, yet it was the beginning of a dramatic 45 minutes at Damson Park.
Orient threatened with 53 on the clock when Ekpiteta went down inside the area, referee Woods remained unmoved, but Clay crossed in towards the back post where Koroma was unmarked.
However, he could only head over with the centre just too high for the forward, yet it was really heating up as a contest now.
Great defending by Ekpiteta thwarted Yussuf in the 56th minute when Wright had got in behind Happe and cross into the area.
Back came Edinburgh’s team and they forced a corner when Koroma nearly teed up strike partner Bonne in the area.
From the resulting set-piece Brophy’s cross came for Turley, but he headed wide and now the chances were coming.
Moors goalkeeper Boot was tested by Turley and Brophy afterwards before Orient’s first substitutions were made.
Charlie Lee and Matt Harrold were summoned with 64 played and it was McAnuff and Koroma who made way.
O’s captain looked to be holding his groin as he walked off the pitch and his enforced departure was a blow to the away side.
Solihull reacted with a sub of their own, but it was also forced on them with Yussuf going down and needing to be replaced by Jermaine Hylton with 20 minutes left.
Almost straight after that Orient thought they had taken the lead, but again Boot was on hand to deny them.
Brophy did well on the left and turned away from two players before he set Bonne, yet his powerful drive was brilliantly parried wide by Moors custodian with 71 gone.
Flowers introduced Nathan Blissett with 17 remaining and the hosts went very close themselves in the 76th minute.
Vaughan overlapped impressively on the right and crossed in for Hylton, but Brill was able to make himself big and stop the close range effort before he grabbed the loose ball right on the goalline.
Somehow the ball had stayed out and it remained goalless at Damson Park and it was still 1-0 to Fylde at Salford.
Edinburgh made his final change with nine minutes to go and Turley made way for Maguire-Drew and the tension inside the ground was almost unbearable now.
Both teams knew what was at stake and any chance now could be key and only great defending by Tyrone Williams denied Harrold from close range in the 83rd minute.
A stoppage occurred soon after when referee Woods halted play with some trouble in the crowd between home and away fans.
Eventually it was sorted out and then Solihull had the chance to snatch the points and chance the title race in stoppage time.
Four minutes of time was added on at the end of the 90 and in the first Widdowson pulled down Hylton near the corner flag.
Carter whipped the ball in and picked out Storer - who was unmarked and only a few yards out – but he nodded wide and dropped to the floor in astonishment after.
It was the last significant opportunity of the match and the full time whistle followed moments later.
With Salford losing 1-0 at home to Fylde, it means Orient have one hand on the National League title ahead of Saturday’s home match with Braintree Town.
O’s could afford to lose at the weekend and still go up because their goal difference is superior to both City and Solihull.
Promotion is not a forgone conclusion though, but Edinburgh’s men will be confident of completing the job in front of their own fans on Saturday.
Solihull Moors: Boot; Williams, Daly, Gudger; Vaughan, Carter, Storer, Osborne, Reckord; Yussuf (Hylton 70), Wright (Blissett 73).
Unused substitutes: Carline, Hawkridge, Sbarra.
Leyton Orient: Brill; Coulson, Ekpiteta, Happe; Turley (Maguire-Drew 81), Clay, McAnuff © (Lee 64), Widdowson; Brophy; Koroma (Harrold 64), Bonne.
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Simpson.
Attendance: 3,681 (726 Leyton Orient supporters).