Advantage Southend as Leonard’s goal sinks Orient in JPT final first leg
- Credit: Archant
Leyton Orient 0 Southend United 1
Ryan Leonard’s second-half goal gave Southend United the advantage in their two-leg Johnstone’s Paint Trophy area final with Leyton Orient.
Paul Sturrock’s Shrimpers were up against it for much of the first half, but held Orient at bay and snatched the lead midway into the second period with Leonard scoring his second goal in as many games to stun the League One side.
David Mooney hit the crossbar for Orient deep into second-half stoppage time, but it’s the League Two club who are now the favourites to reach Wembley with the second leg to play at Roots Hall in two weeks time.
Orient boss Russell Slade made four changes to the side that started Saturday’s 1-0 win at Stevenage with Mooney earning a recall in attack, while Lee Cook, Martin Rowlands and Lloyd James all came into midfield.
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The match got off to a cagey start, with neither side wanting to give up ground too easily with the prize of a trip to Wembley at stake.
Mathieu Baudry had the game’s first real chance on 10 minutes, but his tame header from Dean Cox’s corner simply forced a straightforward clearance from defender Chris Barker inside his own six yard box.
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Shaun Batt came agonisingly close to becoming an instant hit with the vociferous home faithful as he stretched to get on the end of Moses Odubajo’s low cross, but the ball just evaded the on-loan striker.
Midway through the first half O’s top-scorer Mooney snuck in behind the visitors’ defence to meet Gary Sawyer’s cross, but the Irishman’s close-range volley was beaten away by Southend goalkeeper Paul Smith.
Ten minutes before the break the Shrimpers got their first sight at goal when Ben Reeves’ well-struck free-kick crept narrowly wide of keeper Jamie Jones’ near post.
Southend forward Britt Assombalonga forced a smart save from Jones moments later with a near post strike, but the O’s immediately responded with stopper Smith called upon twice in succession to deny Batt.
For all their hard work Southend had created little going forwards in the first period, but they began the second half with far greater attacking intent.
Michael Timlin got the first sniff at goal, but after skipping past a challenge from Rowlands, the midfielder saw his low shot blocked by Baudry.
Left-back Sawyer was then called upon to make a last-ditch block and deny Kevan Hurst’s goalbound effort.
But on 57 minutes the visitors finally broke Orient’s resistance when Leonard bundled in Sean Clohessy’s cross from close range to spark wild celebrations among their travelling fans from Essex.
Hurst hit the outside of the post with a low 30-yard strike five minutes later, as Southend continued to dominate with the home side all at sea.
With 10 minutes remaining Orient were presented with a chance to level after Cox set Mooney free in behind the defence, but the forward’s attempted chip over keeper Smith cleared the crossbar.
The game was stopped briefly in the closing moments with Timlin needing treatment for a suspected broken leg following a strong tackle from Jimmy Smith.
Once play resumed Orient piled on the pressure, desperate for an equaliser, but substitute Afolabi Obafemi saw his shot blocked by Ryan Creswell and Odubajo’s low drive was pushed around the post by Smith.
Five minutes into second-half stoppage time and Mooney came agonisingly close to levelling when his powerful strike came back off the underside of the crossbar and bounced away from goal.
There was still time for the Irishman to force a fine finger-tip save from Smith, when he rose highest in the Southend penalty box to head Cook’s cross towards goal.
But the night belonged to Southend.
Orient: Jones, Odubajo, Cuthbert, Baudry, Sawyer, Cox, Rowlands (J Smith 75), James, Cook, Batt (Obafemi 87), Mooney. Subs not used: McSweeney, Griffith, Clarke.
Southend: Smith, Clohessy, Phillips, Creswell, Barker, Hurst, Timlin (Spicer 87), Woodyard, Reeves (Lavery 90), Leonard, Assombalonga (Corr 88). Subs not used: Bentley, Prosser.
Attendance: 5,359 (1,755 away).