Clinical Cox earns Orient the points at Stevenage
- Credit: Archant
Stevenage 0 Leyton Orient 1
Dean Cox hit his sixth goal of the season to cap a superb individual performance as Orient extended their unbeaten run to four matches.
Russell Slade made four changes to the side that started Tuesday’s goalless draw with Swindon Town, handing a debut to Shaun Batt who replaced top-scorer David Mooney in attack.
There were starts too, for Leon McSweeney, Jimmy Smith and Anthony Griffith – perhaps with one eye on Tuesday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final first leg tie against Southend.
But, despite the wholesale changes, it was Orient who created the first chance of the match on seven minutes.
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Batt – brought in on loan from Millwall on transfer deadline day – played Cox into space on the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s low shot was well held by Stevenage stopper Steve Arnold.
But Cox didn’t have to wait long to open the scoring, bundling the ball in on the half volley three minutes later after the Boro defence, including ex-O Ben Chorley, had failed to clear.
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Stevenage were shell-shocked and Orient went close to doubling their advantage on 12 minutes when Cox crossed for MacDonald, but the striker shot inches over the crossbar from a difficult angle.
It took 23 minutes for Stevenage to finally impose themselves on the game when Filipe Morais – at the heart of Boro’s brightest moments – had a 25-yard strike blocked by Scott Cuthbert.
Almost immediately at the other end Batt forced a smart save from Arnold with a powerful effort that the keeper parried behind for a corner.
Lucas Akins was giving Cuthbert the run around at the other end but could only curl a tame shot wide after getting the better of the defender inside the box.
On the half hour Sam Hoskins inexplicably ran straight through the middle of the Orient defence, but his shot from the edge of the box was pushed wide by keeper Jamie Jones.
As the game moved towards half-time strikers MacDonald and Batt linked-up for the first time, with the former crossing for the latter who headed into the side-netting from six yards.
Two minutes before the break and Morais had a fierce shot tipped over the crossbar by Jones.
But the O’s should have gone in at the break 2-0 up when Batt set MacDonald through on goal, but the ex-Brentford striker saw his low shot pushed away by Arnold.
Cox went close again in the opening minutes of the second half, with a well-struck free-kick, which Arnold gathered at the second attempt.
On 53 minutes Cox again caused panic in the Stevenage defence, when his free-kick was headed over the crossbar by MacDonald from close range.
Cox continued his storming start to the second half with a delicious 50-yard pass to Batt, which split the home defence, but the burly forward chose to shot first time and the ball rolled wide.
Baudry got on the end of another brilliant Cox delivery midway through the second period, but the defender’s header forced a simple catch from Arnold as Orient continued to dominate.
Stevenage boss Gary Smith introduced Dani Lopez from the bench and the Spaniard almost made an instant impact, but headed over from a corner.
Cox, again, forced a save from Arnold as O’s tried and failed once more to make the final minutes more comfortable.
But the closest the home side came was an off-target volley from substitute Steve Leo Beleck.
Stevenage: Arnold, Gray, Roberts, Chorley, Charles, Tansey, Grant (Beleck 58), Dunne, Morais, Akins (Lopez 76), Hoskins. Subs not used: Day, Hills, Comminges, N’Gala, Shroot.
Orient: Jones, McSweeney, Baudry, Cuthbert, Sawyer, Odubajo, Griffith, J Smith, Cox (Cook 73), MacDonald (Clarke 90), Batt (Mooney 66). Subs not used:s Obafemi, Rowlands, James, Omozusi.
Attendance: 3,577 (787 away).