Orient stay top after coming back to earn Cambridge draw

PUBLISHED: 17:01 12 September 2015 | UPDATED: 17:01 12 September 2015

Orient head coach Ian Hendon (pic: Simon O'Connor)

Orient head coach Ian Hendon (pic: Simon O'Connor)

Simon O'Connor Photography

Sky Bet League Two: Cambridge United 1 Leyton Orient 1

Leyton Orient are still top of the League Two table after a battling draw with Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium.

Ian Hendon’s team found themselves trailing just after the interval, despite dominating a large chunk of the first period.

But Jay Simpson scored to equalise and the east Londoners were unlucky not to get all three points after pushing late on.

It wasn’t to be, but this performance was much more improved compared to last time out and a sign of encouragement against a home side that are expected to challenge for promotion this season.

Jack Payne was given his full debut by Hendon after playing 45 minutes in a reserve team match against Stevenage in the week.

Dean Cox dropped to the substitute’s bench because he hadn’t trained properly due to struggling with an injury and alongside him was Charlie Grainger and Alan Dunne.

That meant Alex Cisak was back between the sticks and Frazer Shaw returned to left-back after missing the 4-0 defeat to Exeter last weekend.

Orient were looking to bounce back following their first league loss of the campaign and they were given a boost moments before kick-off when it was revealed that former Southend United man Barry Corr wasn’t starting.

Danny Carr, on-loan at Dagenham & Redbridge last season, replaced him in the starting line-up for the U’s and the visitors got play underway at the Abbey Stadium.

Connor Essam was forced to make a decent clearance early on following a dangerous ball into the box by Cambridge forward Jordan Slew, but the opening exchanges were fairly quiet.

Home captain Mark Roberts picked up an early booking in the 10th minute for a scything tackle on Bradley Pritchard, who was on the right-side of midfield with Sammy Moore on the left.

Orient were unable to capitalise on the free-kick, however, and it remained goalless with quarter of an hour played.

The hosts were starting to get into their stride, though, and forced a succession of corners in the 18th minute and the second nearly produced the opener.

Luke Berry’s cross was met by Josh Coulson, but with Cisak in no mans land, the Cambridge defender’s effort flew wide.

A clash of heads between Slew and O’s skipper Mathieu Baudry halted precedings for a short while afterwards with the duo both receiving treatment.

Orient’s captain needed to be bandaged up following the coming together, but was fine to resume play and Hendon’s men began to get into the contest.

Simpson nearly opened the scoring in the 26th minute when he latched onto Baudry’s pass over the top. He took his time, rounded Cambridge goalkeeper Chris Dunn, but could only force the ball against the post from a tight angle.

Essam tested Dunn three minutes later when he met Lloyd James’ corner and the U’s stopper needed to tip over the bar.

The hosts responded and Micky Demetriou nearly punished a poor defensive header by Essam, but smashed off target on the volley and Carr went close shortly afterwards with the encounter now developing an end-to-end feel.

Hendon’s side were soon camped inside the U’s half and piling the pressure on, but couldn’t find the killer pass or cross required to create a clear-cut opportunity.

Pritchard let fly from 25-yards-out eight minutes before the break, after linking up with Simpson. He failed to test Dunn, though, but Orient finished the half strongly.

First Pritchard forced Cambridge’s stopper to tip over the bar after deflecting Coulson’s attempted clearance goalwards.

Three minutes of stoppage time had been added on now and the visitors were determined to go into the interval with a lead.

Moore then tested Dunne with a low range effort before Paul McCallum’s header was saved and Essam’s follow-up blocked.

It meant the O’s had another corner and the delivery by James was met by McCallum once more, but his header went wide and it remained goalless at the break.

Cambridge made a double change at half time and it worked perfectly for the hosts as two of them combined for the opener.

Substitute Liam Hughes threaded a superb pass out to Demetriou and he picked out Jacob Blyth, another sub free and in space, who fired past Cisak in the 53rd minute.

Orient responded brightly and McCallum nearly produced the equaliser immediately, however his header was cleared away from danger.

The U’s took the initiative following that opportunity, though, and began to look the team in the ascendancy.

Hendon responded by introducing Blair Turgott for James with fewer than 25 minutes remaining at the Abbey Stadium looking to prevent a second consecutive league loss.

With Ollie Palmer waiting to be introduced, the O’s got themselves back on level terms in the 72nd minute.

Baudry floated the ball over the top of the Cambridge defence and Simpson showed his class by slotting past Dunn to level the scores.

Palmer did come on four minutes after the goal, replacing McCallum, with Orient aiming to force a late winner.

Orient dominated possession afterwards and had the U’s camped inside their own half, but the home side were trying to hold firm.

A halt in play occurred with three minutes of normal time remaining when Baudry got a blow to the face. The skipper was fine to carry on as Hendon’s side pushed to get a second.

Five minutes of stoppage time were added on with the O’s seemingly the team most likely to find a winner.

Moore nearly produced that with a long-range blast in the fourth minute of additional time, but Dunn tipped over the bar.

In the end Orient ran out of time and had to settle for a point. Although they deserved better, they could take plenty of heart from this display on the road.

Cambridge United: Dunn, Omozusi, Roberts, Legge, Coulson, Demetriou, Berry, Simpson, Newton, Slew (Hughes 46), Carr (Blyth 46).

Unused substitutes: Taylor, Beasant, Morrissey, Taft, Akintunde.

Leyton Orient: Cisak, Clohessy, Baudry, Essam, Shaw, Pritchard, James (Turgott 66), Payne, Moore, Simpson, McCallum (Palmer 76).

Unused substitutes: Grainger, Dunne, Cox, Kashket, Maguire.

Attendance: 5,821 (1,739 Leyton Orient supporters).

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