Simpson strikes again to earn O’s point at Luton

Leyton Orient players celebrate after Jay Simpson scores again (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Leyton Orient players celebrate after Jay Simpson scores again (pic: Simon O'Connor). - Credit: Archant

Sky Bet League Two: Luton Town 1 Leyton Orient 1

Jay Simpson scored his 11th goal of the League Two season to earn Leyton Orient a point at Luton Town.

Ian Hendon’s side dominated the first period, but switched off and came in trailing at the break.

But their top goalscorer netted just two minutes into the second period and that was how it finished at Kenilworth Road.

The draw sees the east Londoners drop to sixth in the table, but is another respectable point considering the home side were tipped to challenge for promotion this year.

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After impressing off the substitutes bench against Oxford United, Jack Payne and Ollie Palmer earned starts at Kenilworth Road.

Blair Turgott and Dean Cox were the duo to miss out, the latter a surprise despite being replaced in the O’s last two matches.

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It meant Palmer, Simpson and John Marquis all started with the east Londoners looking to get back to winning ways against the Hatters, who were without a victory in three matches in all competitions.

Former Orient man Scott Cuthbert started and captained Luton against his former side on a chilly evening in Bedfordshire.

Jack Marriott started as well despite the forward receiving a red card against the O’s in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash earlier this season for gesturing towards the away fans at Kenilworth Road.

Hendon’s men began the game well and Simpson had an early effort saved, but it was adjudged to be offside.

Orient continued to have joy in the opening exchanges and Palmer flicked on for Bradley Pritchard with nine minutes played, but Cuthbert cleared his dangerous cross.

Luton responded, however, and Sean Clohessy did well to prevent the opener when Connor Essam and Mathieu Baudry got caught out of position and Craig Mackail-Smith’s centre to Marriott was cut out by the O’s defender.

Fortunately it was straight at Alex Cisak before the visitors attacked down the other end with Clohessy prominently involved during the first quarter of an hour.

Orient’s strong start continued and they really should have taken the lead with 16 minutes gone after excellent play by Palmer.

He outmuscled Cuthbert, ran into the box and cut back for Marquis. The Millwall man’s low effort was saved by Hatters goalkeeper Mark Tyler and Luton survived.

Payne fizzed a shot wide form outside the area moments later as the home crowd began to get a little bit edgy and that only increased after a sliced clearance by Jonathan Smith gifted the away side a corner.

They couldn’t make it count, however, and the threat of the Hatters was also there with Paddy McCourt showed his class in the 24th minute.

He back heeled the ball between Payne’s legs and Potts ran into the box, but Baudry cleared his dangerous centre and the resulting corner came to nothing.

Luton hadn’t posed much of a threat during the opening half an hour, but they went close when McCourt picked out Cuthbert from a corner and Payne had to clear his effort off the line.

Orient broke after that and Marquis brought the ball forward, but it eventually came to nothing.

The O’s had enjoyed lots of possession so far at Kenilworth Road without creating enough clear cut opportunities. In the 32nd minute, they were made to pay.

Potts picked up the ball on the left-hand side, his cross took a deflection off Pritchard and the away defence was caught on their heels.

It ran all the way through to the back post where Marriott had ghosted in and he left Cisak with no chance, smashing into the roof of the net.

Hendon’s side didn’t deserve to be losing, but once again they failed to make their possession count and were caught out at the other end.

The hosts were full of confidence now and Mackail-Smith brought the ball forward, had his shot blocked by Baudry, but it ran through to Marriott in space. He fired wide and the O’s survived.

Orient hit back, though, as Palmer had an effort saved before Marquis ran into the box, but he couldn’t pick out Simpson.

Simpson and Palmer linked up with five minutes of the half remaining, but the latter shot straight at the Hatters goalkeeper and another chance went begging.

A minute of stoppage time was added on and Payne picked out Palmer, he knocked it down for Marquis, but his volley went well wide and with that O’s final change of the first period.

It had been a frustrating first 45 for the visitors because they had dominated possession and created the more chances, but were trailing at the break.

Luton began the second half and Smith smashed over inside the opening minute as they looked to build on their lead.

But Orient hit back and finally made a chance count in the 47th minute. Pritchard waited for Clohessy to overlap and passed to the defender.

He cut inside his marker before delivering a wicked ball into the box and Simpson was on hand on to tap in his 11th goal of the campaign.

It was just what the O’s needed and no more than they deserved after dominating for long spells in the first period. Now they had a platform to build upon. The home crowd were starting to get nervy again and the discontent was obvious to all inside the ground.

Luton remained a threat and McGeehan nearly played Marriott through on goal, but Adam Chicksen did well to clear for a corner.

Hendon’s side went close again, however, when a corner was cleared to Payne on the edge and he cut back and forth before his curling strike was blocked.

The ball was worked out wide before it came back in and Simpson rose tallest, but headed wide of the goal.

McGeehan tested Cisak in the 69th minute from range and forced the Australian to parry before gathering the rebound.

Cox was introduced two minutes later, replacing Palmer, with Orient looking to find a winning goal at Kenilworth Road.

He had an instant impact delivering some dangerous balls which only contributed towards the nervousness creeping into the Luton supporters.

A dangerous ball by Moore with 13 minutes remaining came through to Pritchard at the back post, but he could only poke it wide.

The pressure was building from the O’s and Cox’s corner was cleared out to Moore. He volleyed towards goal, but Tyler got down low and ensured it remained 1-1.

Still’s team hadn’t threatened too much but Potts put in a dangerous ball with nine minutes remaining. Fortunately Payne was able to clear.

Luton then had a great chance to go back ahead when Marriott was played through on goal, but he fired wide and Orient had survived.

Marquis was replaced by Lloyd James with three minutes remaining after clashing with Cuthbert moments earlier, which might have prompted Hendon to remove the Millwall loanee.

Cox moved up front following that substitution and four minutes of stoppage time was added on with both teams keen to get a winner.

Unfortunately it didn’t come and the O’s had to settle for a point which takes them onto 23 for the campaign from 14 matches.

Luton Town: Tyler, Potts, Long, Cuthbert, Wilkinson, Smith, McGeehan (Guttridge 64), McCourt, Mackail-Smith (McQuoid 76), Marriott, Lee (Doyle 57).

Unused substitutes: Justham, Lawless, Mpanzu, O’Brien.

Leyton Orient: Cisak, Clohessy, Baudry, Essam, Chicksen, Payne, Pritchard, Moore, Marquis (James 86), Simpson, Palmer (Cox 71).

Unused substitutes: Grainger, Shaw, Dunne, Turgott, Kashket.

Attendance: 8,022 (638 Leyton Orient supporters).

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