O’s lose two-goal lead to suffer relegation to League Two
PUBLISHED: 14:23 03 May 2015 | UPDATED: 14:23 03 May 2015
Sky Bet League One: Swindon Town 2 Leyton Orient 2
Leyton Orient suffered relegation to League Two after throwing away a two-goal lead at the County Ground to draw with Swindon Town.
At half time Fabio Liverani’s team were staying up as Dean Cox’s goal put them ahead and Chris Dagnall doubled that advantage in the 47th minute.
But they conceded twice, despite playing against 10-men for the majority of the game, and even if results elsewhere had gone their way, they still would have been relegated.
As is expected with O’s Italian manager, he made changes to the starting line up as Luke O’Neill and Josh Wright returned in place of Scott Cuthbert and Shaun Batt – both were on the substitutes bench.
But more interesting was the team fielded by Robins boss Mark Cooper. He made nine changes to his team and used just two players who have featured more than 20 times this season.
Joshua Cooke and Harry Agombar were making debuts for Swindon, whilst home captain Sam Ricketts had only been with the club since March after joining on-loan from Wolves.
Orient got the game underway at the County Ground and looked like a team desperate to stay up. They started fantastically and Jay Simpson nearly scored inside three minutes but Tyrell Belford saved well.
Right-back O’Neill, who has making his first appearance since March 28, was influentially earn on and his crosses were causing Swindon problems.
It had been all the visitors in the opening 14 minutes, but the hosts won a corner from nothing and Andy Williams tested Alex Cisak at his near post to remind Liverani and his players that they were in a game.
But the away team continued to push forward and Wright might have done better from 20-yards-out before he created an excellent opportunity for the O’s.
Robins were playing the ball about in their own half when a poor pass was picked up by Wright who sent it forward for James.
The O’s midfielder has sprung the offside trap and tried to go around Tyrell Belford, but was brought down.
Referee Dean Whitestone allowed play to continue and Chris Dagnall fired into the side netting, but correctly so brought it back and awarded a penalty.
Tyrell Belford was shown a red card in the 18th minute and then Swindon made a lengthy delay before bringing on substitute goalkeeper Cameron Belford, brother of Tyrell.
James had waited four minutes by the time he took his penalty and he failed to take the opportunity. His effort was low to the left of Cameron Belford but the Robins substitute stopper parried away from goal.
A positive for Orient was the games involving Notts County, Crawley and Colchester were still goalless therefore they knew one goal would keep them up.
They carried on pushing and Simpson had another effort blocked before Mathieu Baudry headed over the bar from another dangerous Cox delivery.
He was the man creating all the opportunities for the away team as another corner in the 37th minute from the wide-man was met by skipper Nathan Clarke but he headed over.
Three minutes later and O’s had another glorious chance to go ahead and this time they didn’t waste it.
Again Swindon were playing around too much in their own half and a heavy touch by Raphael Rossi-Branco was capitalised on by Cox. He took the ball forward into the box before slotting past Cameron Belford.
Orient were now out of the bottom four but still relying on results elsewhere to go their way. John Swift nearly levelled for Robins, though, when he fired towards goal in six minutes of first half stoppage time, but Cisak saved.
It remained 1-0 at half time, but just as Liverani and his players were coming out for the second half news filtered through that Crawley had gone ahead against Coventry.
That meant O’s despite leading were going down. It didn’t affect the visitors, though, as in the 47th minute they doubled their lead.
James passed into Simpson, and although he was initially disposed, he won the ball back and got a shot off on goal. Cameron Belford parried, but Dagnall controlled and curled into the bottom corner.
It was his 13th strike of the season, but first since finding the net on March 14 against Yeovil Town. At least Orient were doing their job.
A minute later and it was nearly three as they were threatening to run riot at the County Ground. Dagnall passed into Cox and his delicate chip clipped the crossbar and bounced away to safety.
Wright went close again later before Eliot Omozusi was replaced by Shane Lowry after taking a knock earlier.
It was going well for the away team at the County Ground, but unfortunately not elsewhere as Notts County took the lead at Gillingham.
O’s were now relying on Gillingham and Coventry scoring to keep them up – an unlikely task.
Just past the hour mark Swift, who had been Robins best player, nearly ran into the box but Baudry blocked him on the edge of the area.
The Frenchman picked up a booking for the foul and it gave Swindon a free-kick in a great position.
Swift teed up Anton Rodgers, son of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, flicked the ball up and wonderfully volleyed over the wall and into the top corner.
It was a sensational goal and it gave the home team a lift. They pushed for an equaliser immediately afterwards but Orient had even more incentive to keep hold of their advantage as Coventry equalised at Crawley.
Now it was just down to Gillingham to equalise at home against Notts County and O’s were safe again. But they were nearly caught out in the 68th minute by Williams.
He twisted and turned past Baudry in the box and fired just wide of Cisak’s goal to give Liverani and his players a timely reminder that the job wasn’t done.
Jobi McAnuff was brought on in the 73rd minute replacing Simpson and the former Arsenal forward took his time walking off the pitch. Swindon fans responded by chanting ‘take your time you’re going down’.
They went close a minute after that change when Rodgers effortlessly passed out Jack Barthram and he crossed for Swift, who side footed into the ground and it went over.
Cuthbert was introduced shortly afterwards and ‘come on Preston’ chanted the away supporters as news filtered through that a goal for them would keep them up.
But that was premature as O’Neill recklessly dived in on Sam Ricketts in the 85th minute and referee Whitestone pointed to the spot.
Williams emphatically converted the penalty to mean O’s would be down even if Preston equalised at Colchester.
They went close on three occasions straight after the goal as Dagnall nearly scored before two Clarke efforts failed to test Cameron Belford.
And then news came through that Colchester had won against Preston, which meant O’s were down no matter what else happened at the County Ground.
The away supporters defiantly chanted ‘Orient until I die, Orient until I die’ to show their support and they definitely didn’t deserve to see their team go down.
In the end they might have lost against the Robins, but for two exceptional tackles by O’Neill in five minutes of stoppage time.
It was all irrelevant, though, as the Brisbane Road club were down anyway and the minutes left were just cruel on everybody involved.
The full time whistle shortly followed and all of O’s players went over to the away supporters to thank them for their exceptional support.
Chants of Liverani out were sung by Orient fans and it no remains to be seen what will happen to his future.
Swindon Town: T Belford, Turnbull (Stephens 46), Williams, Swift, Barthram, Rodgers, Rossi-Branco, Agombar (Marshall 62), Randall, Ricketts, Cooke (C Belford 21.
Used substitutes: M Smith, Barker, Jones, T Smith.
Leyton Orient: Cisak, O’Neill, Baudry, Clarke, Omozusi (Lowry 55), Wright, Bartley, James, Simpson (McAnuff 73), Cox (Cuthbert 81), Dagnall.
Used substitutes: Woods, Mooney, Batt, Hedges.
Attendance: 8,609 (1,131 Leyton Orient supporters).