‘Most important goal’ for Leyton Orient hero
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO
Talisman Cox reflects on play-off semi-final strike
An emotional and shirtless Dean Cox sipped a well-earned beer as he reflected on his “best ever” season – and there could yet be one more glorious Wembley chapter to be written.
As so often the diminuitive winger was Orient’s talisman, setting the O’s to on their way to a 2-1 win against Peterborough on the night – and with it their first appearance at English football’s HQ for 15 years.
And Russell Slade’s heroes are just 90 minutes away from a return to the second tier for the first time since 1982.
A teary Cox said: “That’s the most important goal I’ve ever scored – it was jubilation when it went in.
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“I’ve never played in a football match where the crowd have erupted like that.
“To see those fans chanting like that after the match was the best feeling I’ve ever had in football.
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“No-one expected us to be here. If you watched Sky Sports it was all about Peterborough but never underestimate little Leyton Orient.”
It was a raucous night at a sell-out Brisbane Road. But as most O’s fans have become accustomed to over the years, they did it the hard way.
A cagey first half was followed by a dramatic second, but it was Posh who had the two best chances when Danny Swanson blazed over and Mark Little grazed the outside of the post.
But Orient’s ground witnessed scenes seldom seen before when Cox gave them the lead with his 16th goal of the season just after the hour mark.
His initial free-kick was blocked by the wall, but he was alert enough to smack the rebound beyond goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik.
Cox found himself on the bottom of most of the Orient players and scores of fans who joined in the celebrations by the corner flag.
And substitute Chris Dagnall looked to have booked the O’s passage to Wembley three minutes from time when he converted fellow sub Shaun Batt’s cross.
Conor Washington pulled one back for Posh in stoppage time, though, and Olejnik came up for a couple of corners to create nervous tension in Orient’s defence.
But the final whistle was greeted with wild celebrations and the obligatory pitch invasion as the fans saw the players off to Wembley.
Cox explained what happened to his shirt after the match, adding: “A young woman with cancer came out of hospital to watch the match.
“It brought tears to my eyes when I heard her story and I was more than happy to give her my shirt. It puts life into perspective.”
Cox, who has never played at Wembley before, confirmed he was withdrawn with 20 minutes remaining due to a groin complaint.
He expects to be fit for the play-off final a week on Sunday week (May 25) and claimed “not even a broken leg” would keep him out of the showpiece finale.
That will be music to the ears of the Orient faithful.