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Robin Cottle at Wembley Stadium
Sunday, May 25, 2014
League One Play-off final: Leyton Orient 2 Rotherham 2 (Rotherham win 4-3 on penalties)
Adam Collin saved penalties from Mathieu Baudry and Chris Dagnall to cruelly deny Orient a place in the second tier of English football for the first time in 32 years.
Jamie Jones had saved from Lee Frecklington earlier in the shoot-out, but the O’s were left to reflect on what might have been after blowing a two-goal lead in normal time.
They looked to be on their way when Moses Odubajo and Dean Cox gave them a 2-0 half-time lead.
Firstly Odubajo smashed a wonderful left-foot volley into the roof of the net before Cox tapped home from close range after Odubajo’s cross.
But former O’s striker Alex Revell wiped the advantage out with two goals in five minutes shortly after the break to stun Russell Slade’s men.
Revell capitalised on a poor punch from Jones to stab in from close range before unleashing a brilliant volley into the top corner.
After a cagey first half hour the O’s exploded into life when Odubajo’s world-class volley flew into the roof of the net past the despairing dive of Collin after 34 minutes.
Four minutes later and Slade’s men were in dreamland. A long kick from Jones eventually landed at Odubajo’s feet on the right and his first time cross was converted by Cox into the gaping goal.
But Revell took advantage of a Jones mistake to poke in from close range at a free-kick and moments later he looped a brilliant 35-yard half-volley over the keeper’s head and into the top corner to send Millers manager Steve Evans on a Jose Mourinho-esque charge down the touchline.
Slade started with the same team which began the second leg of the play-off semi-final win against Peterborough, but there was little indication of what was to come as the Millers started the stronger.
Revell wanted an early penalty when O’s skipper Nathan Clarke nudged him in the back but referee David Coote was having none of it before Wes Thomas tested Jones with a close range effort.
Frecklington and James Tavernier both had long-range efforts saved by the Orient goalkeeper as the east Londoners struggled to get a foothold in the game.
The impressive Tavernier fired wide as he again broke forward but Rotherham were shellshocked when Odubajo crashed the O’s into the lead with their first real chance of the afternoon.
It sent their 23,000 fans into raptures at a sun-kissed Wembley and things got even better moments later when Cox put the cherry on top of his best ever season. With the teams locked on 86 points at the end of the regular season Rotherham were rocked, but they recovered some of their composure as the first half drew to a close.
Ben Pringle cracking a 35-yard howitzer onto the roof of the net, but the O’s went into the break with a crucial two-goal advantage.
The Millers came out firing for the second half but Orient kept them at bay.
Tavernier and Pringle fired early free-kicks onto the roof of the net but Revell, who played for the O’s in the 2010/11 season, stunned his former team with two quick goals and Rotherham were in the ascendancy.
The Yorkshire outfit piled on the pressure but Slade’s men recovered their composure and only a brilliant interception by Joe Skarz prevented Kevin Lisbie tapping in at the back post.
Lloyd James then swung in an inviting cross but it was just out of the reach of substitute Dagnall.
Baudry almost made a crucial error but the dangerous Kieran Agard flashed his shot wide before the same player headed over at the near post as the match neared the 90-minute mark.
Jones redeemed himself with a brilliant save to prevent Scott Cuthbert scoring an own goal in extra time, while a quiet David Mooney chipped just over the crossbar at the other end before captain Clarke glanced a header just wide from James’ free-kick.
As the match edged towards penalties the atmosphere got understandably tense with neither side looking to make a season-defining mistake.
Dagnall wasted an opportunity when he got the ball stuck under his feet and James could not turn it home after a goalmouth scramble.
And so the match went to penalties and after 49 games, Baudry and Dagnall fluffed their lines from 12 yards to consign Orient to another season in League One.
Orient: Jones, Omozusi, Vincelot, Cuthbert, Baudry, Cox (Batt 74), James, Lisbie (Dagnall 76), Mooney (Lundstram 106), Odubajo, Clarke.
Unused subs: Sawyer, Larkins, Bartley, Simpson.
Booked; Cuthbert (30), Odubajo (35), Clarke (64), Mooney (93).
Rotherham: Collin, Skarz (Milsom 77), Arnason, Frecklington, Revell (Vuckic 105), Pringle, Morgan, Agard, Thomas (Brindley 54), Tavernier, Smallwood.
Unused subs: Shearer, Davis, O’Connor, Hitchcock.
Booked: Morgan (34), Tavernier (77), Pringle (86).
Referee: David Coote.