League Two: Walsall 1 Leyton Orient 0
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Leyton Orient made a losing start to 2020 with a slender defeat against the Saddlers at Banks’s Stadium on New Year’s Day.
Interim head coach Ross Embleton named an unchanged starting line-up, following Sunday's 1-1 draw at Newport County, with fit-again Louis Dennis replacing Dale Gorman on the bench.
And the home side were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box early on, for a foul on Josh Gordon, with Rory Holden's effort taking a deflection off the defensive wall and looping behind.
Gordon headed well over from the resulting corner, before O's had their first sight of goal on six minutes when Ruel Sotiriou rose highest at the near post to meet a free-kick from the right but saw his header comfortably saved by Liam Roberts.
Sotiriou drove into the box soon after, but claims for a foul on the Cypriot were waved away by the referee, before Walsall were forced into a change as Shay Facey was replaced by Cameron Norman on 17 minutes.
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Holden found space in the box for the home side soon after but got his header all wrong, before Myles Judd was booked for a rash challenge.
Danny Guthrie sent the free-kick from the left across the box and behind for a goal kick, before O's attacked and saw Judd control a superb crossfield pass from Josh Wright and cross to the far post, where Lee Angol nodded down to Sotiriou, who sliced wide.
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And the referee showed no interest when Walsall's Gordon went down in the box under a challenge from Jamie Turley on 31 minutes, before Marvin Ekpiteta deflected a shot from Gordon behind.
Guthrie's corner then fell to Gordon, but Sam Sargeant produced a fine save to keep his effort out, and Gordon volleyed the next corner wide as the scoreline remained blank.
Walsall had to make a second change on 37 minutes, as Guthrie limped off to be replaced by Alfie Bates, and Turley flicked on Wright's free-kick to Craig Clay, whose sweet volley was saved by Roberts.
O's had another decent chance soon after as Jordan Maguire-Drew sent a free-kick to the far post, where captain Wright volleyed wide.
But Walsall broke the deadlock two minutes before the break when a long ball bounced through to Gordon, who rounded Sargeant and slotted into the net.
And O's saw an injury-time effort from Sotiriou, after he was picked out by Clay, fly high over the crossbar.
Embleton made two changes during the break, replacing Wright and Angol with James Brophy and Matt Harrold.
And the second half was only three minutes old when Maguire-Drew skipped inside and saw a shot blocked, while Brophy had penalty claims ignored after going down in the box on 51 minutes.
Cameron Pring was booked for pulling down Harrold, but Walsall had a chance to double their lead on 61 minutes when a lofted ball was met by Gordon, who sent a header wide.
Gordon was then booked for tripping Brophy on the edge of the box, while Sootiriou produced a good run and drilled the ball across the box to win a corner, but Maguire-Drew's set-piece went over the head of everyone and behind for a goal kick.
Walsall were reduced to 10 men when Pring was shown a second yellow card for a foul on George Marsh and O's had big shouts for a penalty during a scramble in the box, before Maguire-Drew drove just over.
Maguire-Drew cut inside and curled a shot just wide on 72 minutes, with Liam Kinsella booked for a foul on Sotiriou as tensions began to grow.
Gordon then found space after O's failed to clear properly and saw his shot deflected just wide, while Sotiriou headed just over from Judd's cross with nine minutes remaining.
Turley made way for Dennis for the last seven minutes, with Marsh driving wide from outside the box as O's pushed for a late equaliser, but it was not to be.
Leyton Orient: Sargeant, Ekpiteta, Clay, Maguire-Drew, Judd, Happe, Angol (Harrold 46), Sotiriou, Marsh, Turley (Dennis 83), Wright (Brophy 46).
Unused subs: Janata, Coulson, Dayton, Kyprianou.
Attendance: 4,263 (including 425 Orient fans).