Leyton Orient live to fight another day after battling draw at high-flying Luton Town
PUBLISHED: 17:07 14 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:07 14 April 2017
Simon O'Connor Photography
Sky Bet League Two: Luton Town 2 Leyton Orient 2
Leyton Orient produced a brilliant performance to stun high-flying Luton Town and pick up a point at Kenilworth Road.
Omer Riza’s team were expected to suffer a seventh consecutive defeat, but upset the form book and battled back to claim a 2-2 draw.
It means they live to fight another day for now, although their relegation could be confirmed on Monday.
Henry Ochieng was handed his full debut at Kenilworth Road with Teddy Mezague, Victor Adeboyejo and Sam Dalby also coming into the starting XI.
Dan Happe, Freddy Moncur, Josh Koroma and Rowan Liburd all dropped to the bench with O’s playing a diamond in midfield.
Michael Clark lined up at right-back with Sandro Semedo on the opposite side and Liam Kelly at the base of the diamond.
Steven Alzate was at the tip of the midfield four and tasked with supporting young duo Dalby and Adeboyejo.
Ex-Orient defender Scott Cuthbert skipped Luton, but as expected there was no Ollie Palmer in the Hatters squad.
The hosts got proceedings underway and it was a quiet start in Bedfordshire with both teams easing their way into the match.
Luton created the first chance of note in the 12th minute when Alan Sheehan crossed into the area, but Lawson D’Ath’s glanced header failed to trouble Sam Sargeant.
Nathan Jones’ Hatters took confidence from that piece of play, as they threatened again less than 60 seconds later.
Jack Marriott and Jordan Cook combined on the left before the latter fired a ball across the O’s goal.
Orient responded, however, with a sustained spell of possession which ended with Michael Collins crossing in for Adeboyejo, but he headed off target.
Luton won their first corner in the 16th minute and Kelly was forced to block a volley by Cuthbert.
Cook took the second corner in quick succession and this time Glen Rea met it, but Sargeant saved well.
There was a lengthy delay in the 21st minute as Cook went down after a challenge with Kelly.
Luton’s number 10 was eventually forced off with Luke Gambin – who rejected a move to O’s in August – replacing him.
Orient, just like they had done at Cambridge United last weekend, had battled well and stood their ground for the opening 30 minutes.
But in the 33rd minute the deadlock was broken at Kenilworth Road as Luton punished O’s lapse in concentration.
Alzate was disposed by Lee and the former West Ham United youngster played a wonderful through ball to Hylton.
Hylton, who had drifted away from Mezague and Semedo, controlled perfectly and slide the ball into the corner to open the scoring.
Sargeant was called into action again three minutes later, but easily saved an effort from D’Ath after Sheehan’s free kick was blocked.
With half time approaching, Luton began to up the tempo and Orient’s goalkeeper was called into action on several occasions.
First Gambin tried his luck from just outside the area and Sargeant brilliantly tipped over the crossbar.
From the resulting corner Mezague was fortunate not to divert the ball into his own goal after losing his bearings.
Sargeant was soon into the thick of things again in the 43rd minute, as the teenager produced a stunning save to deny Gambin’s fierce volley.
Riza changed his tactics before the break as Orient switched to a 3-4-3 with Ochieng and Semedo as wing-backs.
Two minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the half, but O’s managed to get in trailing by just one at the break.
Dalby was replaced at the break after a quiet first 45 with Tristan Abrahams coming on up front.
The Orient substitute made an immediate impact as he turned Cuthbert well and won a free kick just outside the area.
Collins stepped up and took the responsibility, but failed to catch his effort flush and Moore saved with ease.
Soon after and Adeboyejo showed his strength to win the ball under pressure before having a shot saved.
Orient were growing in confidence and nine minutes after the break they were given a great chance to equalise.
Riza’s team enjoyed a sustained period of pressure and Collins let fly from outside the area and saw his shot blocked by Rea’s hand.
Brett Huxtable took his time before pointing to the spot and O’s were handed a superb chance to level.
Kelly stepped up and smashed into the top corner to spark wild celebrations from the Orient players and fans.
It was a brilliant moment for the travelling support, but Luton nearly ruined it in the 59th minute.
Hylton controlled well and played in Sheehan, who went past Ochieng easily before firing wide.
Orient were not deterred by the opportunity against them, however, and quickly got back in possession and on the front foot.
The O’s had two efforts in quick succession as Alzate and Kelly both saw shots blocked on the hour mark.
And moments later the Orient fans were in dreamland after more fine work by their stand-in skipper.
Kelly brought the ball into the area and sidestepped a couple of opponents before playing in Abrahams, who slotted past Stuart Moore and into the corner.
It was another wonderful moment for the players and staff and O’s were leading with 61 minutes played.
Luton Town fans were stunned and Orient continued to push forward with Abrahams curling a shot wide in the 70th minute.
Hatters responded, though, with Pollock blocking substitute Isaac Vassell’s shot and then Sargeant eased the pressure by claiming a cross.
Unfortunately for O’s the class of the hosts shone through in the 73rd minute, as they found an equaliser almost from nothing.
Sargeant’s goal kick was headed straight back towards the Orient’s goal and Vassell ran through before firing into the corner.
It was poor defending again by the visitors and especially harsh on Sargeant, who was having a fine game.
But yet again Riza’s young team fought back and Abrahams won a free kick in a good position after causing Cuthbert more problems.
The set-piece came to nothing and soon after Koroma was introduced with Alzate the man to make way.
With 10 minutes remaining, Orient were on their way to winning their first point since March 4.
Luton continued to put the O’s under pressure, but they defended strongly and it only increased the frustration amongst the home supporters.
The next change for the visitors was to bring on Moncur with the impressive Ochieng making way.
A crazy spell then occurred with five minutes of additional time at Kenilworth and an end-to-end finish.
Mezague and Vassell clashed on two occasions inside the area and both times referee Huxtable didn’t point to the spot.
Orient then went so close to producing a late winner when Adeboyejo flicked into the path of Koroma.
Koroma ran through on goal, but Luton’s James Justin slide in at the last moment to thwart the danger.
There was still more time for O’s to push the Hatters with Kelly firing a late free kick over before the full time whistle followed.
It was a wonderful effort by the Orient players, who were only paid half of their wages for March by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) yesterday.
With Cheltenham Town and Hartlepool United both drawing and O’s picking up a point they lived to fight another day.
Orient remain 10 points from safety, but will go down on Monday if they fail to beat Hartlepool at Brisbane Road.
Luton Town: Moore; Justin, Cuthbert, Rea, Sheehan; Lee; Mpanzu, D’Ath; Cook (Gambin 24); Hylton, Marriott.
Unused substitutes: King, O’Donnell. Potts, Smith, Gray, Vassell, Gambin.
Leyton Orient: Sargeant; Clark, Pollock, Mezague, Semedo; Kelly, Collins, Ochieng (Moncur 88); Alzate (Koroma 80); Adeboyejo, Dalby (Abrahams 46).
Unused substitutes: Grainger, Liburd, Alderson, Happe.
Attendance: 8,601 (380 Leyton Orient supporters).