O’s shut out title rivals to return to the summit
PUBLISHED: 14:41 09 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:41 09 March 2019
Simon O'Connor Photography
National League: Leyton Orient 1 Wrexham 0
Marvin Ekpiteta’s second-half strike settled a tight contest between Leyton Orient and Wrexham at the top of the National League this afternoon.
Chances were few and far between in east London, but O’s only effort on target was all they needed to clinch a vital 1-0 win in front of the BT Sport cameras.
It was the first time Orient had won a live television match in four-and-a-half years and the celebrations at the end of the 90 showed you what it meant to the hosts.
Justin Edinburgh, at such a crucial stage of the season, has got his players back on track and their fourth win in a row in all competitions was their best of the campaign to date.
Orient made one change to the side which won at Havant & Waterlooville and Barrow with Jamie Turley starting in place of Josh Coulson.
Coulson dropped to the bench with O’s no doubt protecting his fitness after only just coming back from a hamstring injury.
Elsewhere, it was much of the same for the hosts, who went with their 3-4-1-2 system up against Wrexham’s combination of 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3.
The Dragons, unbeaten in six, entered the game as leaders and brought an excellent travelling support from Wales.
It contributed towards a superb atmosphere inside the stadium and a fast start occurred with Orient forcing a corner inside 60 seconds.
Jobi McAnuff’s delivery was dangerous too and dropped for Craig Clay, who worked a yard of space, but dragged wide from 10-yards.
Plenty thought it was in, but Wrexham had survived and then started to stamp their mark on the contest.
Before they could, the visitors had to withdraw Brad Walker due to injury with Bobby Grant replacing him in the fifth minute.
Wrexham had a degree of assurance about them in the opening exchanges and after a lack of opportunities, they went close in the 20th minute.
Ekpiteta, already on a booking, allowed Ben Tollitt too much space and he took control of the ball and let fly from a tight angle, but his effort sailed just wide.
It was a good moment for the Dragons and Ekpiteta and Turley were having a tough time so far, although it remained goalless by the midway point of the half.
O’s reminded the away side of what they could do in the 24th minute as Jay Simpson whistled past two players in stunning fashion and found Maguire-Drew, yet he drilled wide on the volley.
Although Turley and Ekpiteta were struggling a touch, Orient were producing glimpses of quality in attack.
Simpson in particular was enjoying some joy and both sides had contributed towards a more quality than usual National League encounter so far.
Chances were at a premium, but O’s almost broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute and what a goal it would have been.
Occupied by two opponents, Simpson spun out of trouble wonderfully and passed out to Sam Ling and he found Macauley Bonne in the area, but he nodded wide from six-yards on the stretch.
Two minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the 45 and they went by with little to note as an absorbing half of football finished goalless.
Edinburgh’s team got the second period underway and went close again with 48 on the clock in E10.
Dan Happe picked out Ling with a fantastic crossfield pass and the wing-back come inside, but Rob Lainton came out well and bravely blocked.
The Wrexham goalkeeper picked up an injury in the process, though was able to carry on as the noise inside the ground increased.
Bryan Hughes’ team threatened again in the 53rd minute when Beavon knocked down for Tollitt, but his effort was brilliantly blocked by Ling.
Unfortunately for Ling it was one of his last involvements in the clash as he needed to come off five minutes later.
James Brophy replaced him and went to left wing-back with Widdowson switching to the right.
The substitute didn’t take long to get into the swing of things and got fans off their seats with a great run, but his final ball was lacking.
A couple of corners in quick succession added to the growing belief inside the ground, but Wrexham, to their credit, defended well.
Orient were getting closer and in the 72nd minute the breakthrough was finally made in east London.
Simpson did well, but failed to pass to Ekpiteta in space and checked back inside, but the ball fortunately ricocheted to Ekpiteta and his effort squeezed into the net.
The half volley appeared to hit the post and just about beat Lainton in the Wrexham goal, though O’s players didn’t care and celebrated wildly with their supporters.
Now it was all about whether Orient could hold on and with Happe a colossus at the back, they saw out the initial storm from the Dragons.
Matt Harrold and Coulson were introduced as the seconds ticked away in E10 before six minutes of stoppage time was added on.
It brought groans from the home supporters and Wrexham substitute Cole Stockton almost made things worst, but his fierce long-range effort was parried by Brill.
Despite more Wrexham possession, Edinburgh’s team stood up tall to the challenge and they saw the rest of the time added on out to return to the summit.
The celebrations at full time were a mixture of joy and relief. For the first time in quite a while, Orient had got over the line in a big match.
Next up for O’s is a trip to Aldershot Town on Tuesday night where they know a fifth consecutive win will keep them top.
Leyton Orient: Brill; Ekpiteta, Turley, Happe; Ling (Brophy 58), McAnuff ©, Clay, Widdowson; Maguire-Drew (Coulson 88); Bonne, Simpson (Harrold 83).
Unused substitutes: Sargeant, Gorman.
Wrexham: Lainton; Kennedy, Lawlor, Pearson ©, Jennings; Young, Walker (Grant 5); Rutherford, Wright, Tollitt (Stockton 83); Beavon (Oswell 71).
Unused substitutes: Dibble, Roberts.
Attendance: 6,643 (931 Wrexham supporters).