Slade’s Orient boys are Christmas number one despite Crawley defeat

Leyton Orient manager Russell Slade (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Leyton Orient manager Russell Slade (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images) - Credit: Getty Images

League One: Leyton Orient 2 Crawley Town 3

Former Orient striker Gary Alexander returned to haunt his former club as Crawley won at Brisbane Road for the second time this year.

The match turned on a crazy seven minute spell towards the end of the first half.

Wolves’ draw at Rotherham means the O’s will stay top of League One over Christmas. Moses Odubajo gave the O’s lead with a confident finish from the edge of the area after the returning Kevin Lisbie squeezed the ball through to him.

But Alexander’s back post header from Mark Connolly’s right wing cross pulled Crawley level.

And they were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes of the first half as Lloyd James blocked a shot from Connolly with his hands.

After a lengthy delay, Alexander fired the spot kick against the post but Andy Drury gobbled up the rebound.

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The striker, who spent four and a half years at Brisbane Road, could easily have had a hat-trick as he placed a shot across the face of goal from the corner of the six yard box.

Nicky Adams looked to have confirmed the three points with a superb chip 14 minutes from time, leaving O’s goalkeeper Jamie Jones in no-man’s land before substitute Marvin Bartley scrambled home a Gary Sawyer free-kick with five minutes remaining.

Orient made three changes from last weekend’s draw at Bradford.

Sawyer replaced the suspended Elliott Omozusi at left back, Yohann Lasimant came in for Dean Cox who was under the weather and Lisbie slotted in for Robbie Simpson in his first start for almost a month following a foot injury.

In truth it was a lacklustre performance from the League One tabletoppers in atrocious weather which caused a pitch inspection before the match.

Lisbie and Scott Cuthbert went close with headers but Paul Jones in the Crawley goal was barely tested.

Alexander gave Orient an early warning when Jamie Jones tipped his shot wide before he was in the thick of the action at the end of the half to turn the game on its head.

Adams almost caught Jones out with a corner but the goalkeeper clawed it out from underneath the crossbar as the Sussex side grew into the game.

O’s boss Russell Slade was clearly not impressed with the first half performance. Robbie Simpson came on at half-time for Yasimant and Baudry almost equalised in the first minute of the half, his header being cleared off the line by a Crawley defender.

Shaun Batt’s cross almost caught out Jones in the Crawley goal but Billy Clarke could have extended the visitors’ lead, his shot deflecting just the wrong side of the post with the goalkeeper beaten.

A tetchy game saw Batt booked for a clash with Connolly and the home fans becoming increasingly frustrated with referee Trevor Kettle, who cautioned eight players in total, as they searched for a route back into the game.

And Kettle dismissed huge penalty appeal from Orient players for handball from a free-kick.

Bartley’s late goal was in vain as the home after Adams’ neat chip as his side slipped to defeat.

Orient head to Gillingham on Boxing Day looking to snap a worrying run of four League One games without a win.

The form of London rivals Brentford will also be a concern, who are now just a point behind the O’s following their win at Preston.

Orient: Jones; Cuthbert, Clarke, Baudry, Sawyer; Odubajo, Vincelot, James (Bartley 75), Lasimant (Simpson 45); Batt, Lisbie. Substitutes not used: Larkins, Lee, Gorman, Ling, Finney.

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