Orient suffer heavy loss but stay top
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO
Sky Bet League Two: Exeter City 4 Leyton Orient 0
Leyton Orient remain top of the League Two table despite suffering a four-goal defeat at Exeter City.
The dreaded manager of the month curse struck for Ian Hendon and his side as they were beaten heavily at St James Park.
But the scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection on the whole match as the O’s enjoyed lots of possession throughout and had chances, they just weren’t clinical enough.
Charlie Grainger was one of two changes Hendon made from the team that defeated Bristol Rovers last weekend.
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After starting against Luton Town midweek, the young stopper was unsurprisingly retained at St James Park and in the process made his league debut.
Alan Dunne also made his first start for the O’s in the league, replacing Frazer Shaw at left-back with Orient looking to add more experience to their back line with first choice keeper Alex Cisak still away on international duty with Australia.
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New signing Jack Payne was on the substitute’s bench alongside young goalkeeper Sam Sargeant – amongst the replacements for the first time this season.
It only took five minutes for Grainger to be in the thick of the action and unfortunately it was the type of involvement he would have liked.
Ryan Harley moved the ball forward and Tom Nichols had run off Orient skipper Mathieu Baudry and was charging towards goal.
Baudry was desperately trying to bring down Nichols, but he got into the box and Grainger came out and caught the Exeter forward just inside the penalty box.
Referee Kevin Johnson pointed to the spot and Nichols dusted himself down and slotted into the bottom corner to put the O’s behind for the first time in the league this season.
Sean Clohessy immediately had a word with Grainger after the goal, presumably to tell him to keep his head up after making an error early on.
Hendon’s men quickly regrouped and Paul McCallum had a headed effort easily saved by Exeter stopper Bobby Olejnik in the eighth minute as they looked to respond.
Orient started to settle into their stride after that and Bradley Pritchard might have won the visitors a spot-kick of their own in the 20th minute.
A nice move involving Dean Cox and Clohessy released the Zimbabwean and he clashed with a Grecian opponent, but tried to stay on his feet and no penalty was given and the hosts survived.
The pressure continued from the O’s and Exeter’s Jamie McAllister was booked for bringing down Pritchard on the edge of the area. They couldn’t capitalise on the set piece, though, but continued looking for a leveller.
Pritchard whizzed a strike over the bar in the 27th minute after lovely build-up play by Clohessy and Cox.
Orient were producing some fantastic football and came so close to equalising just past the half an hour mark when McCallum headed across goal and Jay Simpson’s effort was cleared off the line by McAllister.
The Grecians began to grow into the contest a little bit more after that opportunity, though, and eight minutes before the break they doubled their lead.
A corner by Harley was only cleared back out to the Exeter man and the ball eventually worked its way to Alex Nicholls who smashed into the corner from outside the box.
Orient were trailing by two and despite enjoying lots of possession in the first period, found themselves in a tricky position.
The half time whistle came without the O’s having another chance and Hendon’s side needed to find a way of coming back and threatening the Exeter goal in the second period.
It took just 10 seconds after the break for Dunne to bring down Grecians midfielder David Wheeler and pick up a booking in the process.
The hosts now had a free kick in a dangerous position, but fortunately it came to nothing.
Minutes later and McCallum received a caution for a late challenge as the visitors didn’t make the start they had hoped to the second period.
Orient’s first effort of the second half was after nine minutes, but Cox fired over the bar and moments later things were to get worst for Hendon’s side.
Nichols made a nuisance of himself and won the first header and David Wheeler ran across Dunne and the pair clashed inside the box. Although referee Johnson didn’t give anything, the linesman flagged for a penalty and it was duly awarded.
Exeter gratefully accepted the chance to go three goals up as Nichols beat Grainger again to put the Grecians into a seemingly unassailable lead with 35 minutes remaining.
Blair Turgott came on and O’s remained in the ascendancy in terms of possession and created a good opportunity in the 63rd minute when Lloyd James brilliantly picked out Pritchard inside the box.
He teed up Cox just inside the area, but the diminutive attacker dragged his shot wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Harley nearly put the home side four ahead three minutes later when he smashed an effort against the underside of the bar from outside the box. Nichols followed up and Grainger made a superb block with his feet.
Scott Kashket was introduced after that as Orient continued to press and first Turgott saw a shot blocked before Clohessy volleyed over the bar from close range.
A long-range strike by Kashket whizzed over the crossbar before Hendon made his final roll of the dice by bringing Ollie Palmer on.
Unfortunately two minutes later, in the 77th minute, the Grecians put the game to bed after a mistake by Connor Essam, who had performed well.
Harley smashed another effort at goal and Grainger made a fantastic save, but the ball bounced up in the air and Essam didn’t head it away far enough.
Wheeler made the most of his opportunity by playing the ball through Essam’s legs and into the corner of the net.
It was 4-0 to the hosts, but Orient didn’t deserve to be losing by that margin. They had simply not been as clinical as the home team.
The O’s continued playing their football as the game entered the final exchanges, but they were struggling to break down the Exeter back line.
Turgott forced Olejnik to save during four minute of stoppage time before the full time whistle followed to conclude a disappointing day for Hendon’s team.
Although the contest wasn’t as one-sided as it sounds, they will look to bounce back next weekend at Cambridge United.
Exeter City: Olejnik, Noble (Oyeleke 87), McAllister (Woodman 80), Ribeiro, Harley, Oakley, Nicholls, Nichols, Wheeler (McCready 83), Tillson, Brown.
Unused substitutes: Pym, Butterfield, Morrison, Reid.
Leyton Orient: Grainger, Clohessy, Baudry, Essam, Dunne (Kashket 68), James, Pritchard, Moore (Turgott 58), Cox, Simpson, McCallum (Palmer 75).
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Shaw, Payne, Maguire.
Attendance: 3,648 (505 Leyton Orient supporters).