Harrold earns O's potentially pivotal point, but they still drop to second
PUBLISHED: 17:15 06 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:15 06 April 2019
Simon O'Connor Photography
National League: Leyton Orient 2 Halifax Town 2
Leyton Orient snatched what could be a vital point in the National League title race after coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to Halifax Town this afternoon.
Although it was more points dropped in the battle to finish first and they are no longer top, when Devante Rodney made it 2-0 to the visitors after Manny Duku’s opener, it seemed like being a disastrous day for the O’s.
Thankfully Josh Koroma finally found the net on the stroke of half time following a number of attempts and then in the 94th minute substitute Matt Harrold bundled home his sixth of the season to salvage a potentially massive point.
Orient were forced to change the team which lost 2-1 away to Bromley on Tuesday night with Marvin Ekpiteta suspended following his red card.
Koroma replaced his fellow England C international and Edinburgh changed his formation due to the absence of his young defender.
It was back to 4-4-2 with Koroma on the right wing and James Brophy on the left and Alex Lawless, Josh Coulson, Dan Happe and Joe Widdowson making up the back four in E10.
Jay Simpson retained his starting berth, but O’s welcomed back Sam Ling (hamstring), Jordan Maguire-Drew (calf) and Harrold (suspension) to the bench.
Edinburgh’s options from the bench were boosted, although he remained with captain Jobi McAnuff.
In the Halifax team was ex-O’s skipper Nathan Clarke, who spent three years playing for the club at Brisbane Road between 2012 and 2015.
While Clarke would have been out to stop his old side winning, he would no doubt have been happy to see them at the summit and on their way back to Wembley.
A good crowd was expected with hundreds of Orient fans queuing at the ground since early in the morning, waiting for the ticket office to open so they could perhaps away tickets to Sutton United (April 13) and Solihull Moors (April 22).
It was a chilly afternoon in east London and it was down to O’s to warm up the supporters and maintain their strong grip on the league title.
Orient did their best to do so with a quick start and Koroma forced an early corner before he tested Sam Johnson for the first time in the third minute.
Craig Clay drilled wide from range seconds later and the hosts were dominating the opening exchanges which made the visitors’ breakthrough a huge surprise.
Halifax’s first attack of the game in the ninth minute resulted in a goal after more poor defending at the back.
A lack of concentration cost O’s at Bromley and Coulson didn’t cover himself in glory for the Shaymen’s opener.
He lost his header and this allowed Matty Kosylo to get in behind and he cut inside and fired against the post from eight-yards.
Dean Brill was beaten, but luckily the ball rebounded off the woodwork, although only as far Duku and even though Lawless blocked his first effort, the forward was first to the loose ball and nodded home from close range.
Orient were stunned, yet to their credit immediately got on the front foot and won two more free kicks on the edge, but Koroma could only fire straight at Johnson from the first and over from the second.
Coulson was denied another goal in the 17th minute when an opposition player deflected his effort over and frustration started to get the better of the home side.
Koroma aired his disappointment to referee Peter Gibbons a number of times after he expected a foul to be awarded and the youngster had to be warned to keep his cool.
The Shaymen warned the O’s of their potency with 26 on the clock when Cameron King sent Duku away and he outpaced Coulson, but under pressure from the Orient centre back fired over while off balance.
Nevertheless it was a good chance for Jamie Fullarton’s men and showed the hosts what could happen if they switched off at the back.
Edinburgh’s men soon got back on top with Macauley Bonne forcing Johnson into a good save in the 27th minute from 20-yards.
Koroma fired wide seconds after and the England C international was in the thick of things again four minutes later, but again Halifax’s goalkeeper denied him – this time with his feet.
Chances continued to come for the promotion-chasers with Lee producing an excellent curling effort 10 minutes before half time, yet again Johnson denied O’s.
Halifax were toting up the bookings with Josh Staunton, formerly of Dagenham & Redbridge, the third away player to go in the book of referee Gibbons with 43 gone.
The constant fouls by the visitors added to the frustration of the hosts, but they would have been more annoyed with the poor goal they gave away at the start of the game.
At the end of the 45 two minutes of stoppage time was added on and unbelievable two goals were scored in that period.
Halifax grabbed the first in stunning fashion to double their lead as Widdowson sat off Rodney and the opposition number 35 curled home from 20-yards to make it 2-0.
Orient didn’t rest on their laurels, however, as with almost the last kick of the half Koroma reduced the deficit with a goal from a similar position.
After five noteworthy efforts, the O’s academy graduate finally found the net with a blaster from the edge of the area for his 10th goal of the campaign.
It was good management by Edinburgh, who switched Koroma to the left and so put Brophy on the right and it was from the left side where Orient’s goal came from.
Referee Gibbons blew for half time soon after the goal and despite trailing, the hosts left the field to applause with the home fans still firmly with the team.
O’s started the second period how they finished the first with Brophy forcing Halifax custodian Johnson into a save and Koroma testing him again.
The next opportunity went to Simpson, though he could only scoop over from 14-yards as another chance passed the title-challengers by.
Lawless was the latest person to get a caution on the hour mark from a poor challenge on Kosylo and despite minutes ticking away there was still plenty of belief inside the ground with over five thousand home fans present.
Two wonderful chances occurred in quick succession soon after with Brophy at the heart of both opportunities.
He firstly beat one opponent, then cut inside another, but Staunton bravely blocked his goalwards effort and Orient only had a corner for their troubles.
Edinburgh’s men couldn’t make the set-piece count, however, yet retained possession and almost levelled in the 62nd minute.
Brophy got to the byline and crossed towards Simpson, who flicked goalwards, but Happe could only head over from close range while off balance.
A slight lull in proceedings arrived after and Edinburgh made his first change with 21 minutes left when Dayton replaced Lawless.
It didn’t immediately inspire a reaction and so Harrold came on for Lee with 77 gone and he was straight into the action.
The substitute headed down for Koroma, but his effort was blocked and yet it gave the crowd some hope again.
Orient had moved up a gear now and Brophy had two fierce strikes bravely blocked by Halifax players as the seconds ticked away and the hosts became more desperate.
Halifax almost put the game to bed with eight minutes left though, when they broke and Kosylo was sent through, but he chipped wide from 25-yards.
Another change was made with 85 on the clock when Maguire-Drew came on for Widdowson – moments after Johnston had again saved from Koroma.
Time was running out for O’s, but they continued to attack and someone should have got on the end of Brophy’s superb ball across the face of the Halifax goal in the 88th minute.
It wasn’t to be but when five minutes of stoppage time was added on there was a faint hope Orient could snatch a point.
When Staunton produced an unbelievable block to deny Clay from inside the area, it seemed O’s would lose back-to-back games in the division.
Yet with a hero needed Harrold answered the call. He first of all somehow kept the ball in play on the far side and Orient won a throw after Jacob Hanson failed to clear in time.
From that throw the ball made its way to Dayton and even though he was denied and Simpson could only knock the ball towards goal, it was O’s number 18 who bundled home from close range to spark wild scenes at the Breyer Group Stadium.
In the dying moments Orient had snatched an equaliser and who knows how crucial it could be come April 27.
The full time whistle followed almost straight away afterwards, which seemed harsh as the time for the goal wasn’t added on, but at least Edinburgh’s men hadn’t lost.
Salford City have taken over at the top, yet O’s are second after their late leveller and know a win on Tuesday at home to Eastleigh will take them back to the summit.
Leyton Orient: Brill; Lawless (Dayton 69), Coulson, Happe, Widdowson (Maguire-Drew 85); Koroma, Clay, Lee (Harrold 77), Brophy; Simpson, Bonne.
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Ling.
Halifax Town: Johnson; Hanson, Brown (c), Clarke, Skarz; King, Staunton; Rodney, Berrett, Kosylo; Duku (Quigley 83).
Unused substitutes: Rowley, Edwards, Preston, Gondoh.
Attendance: 5,458 (184 Halifax Town supporters).