Leyton Orient 0 Tranmere Rovers 1
Leyton Orient ended an ultimately disappointing Sky Bet League Two season with a whimper, after play-off hopeful Merseysiders Tranmere inflicted a second successive home defeat at the Breyer Group Stadium on Saturday.
Kane Hemmings’ stroke of half-time header gave the Lillywhites hope, but with other results conspiring against them, they will, next season, be facing the east Londoners – who had their own promotion aspirations before a disastrous post-Christmas 16-game slump.
Despite a bright start, with Paul Smyth heading fit-again, Tom James’s header over, from eight yards, and James seeing a spectacular free-kick pushed on to a post by a desperate Joe Murphy save, on their first meaningful attack Rovers’ Hemmings glanced home Josh Cogley’s 37th minute cross.
A minute later, Tranmere’s Tom Davies was then lucky only to pick up a caution for a cynical challenge on the livewire Smyth, as the O’s sought an immediate leveller.
A dour second period sprung to life with a quarter of an hour remaining, when referee, Sebastian Stockbridge pointed to the spot after an infringement from Theo Archibald’s flag-kick.
But, to the annoyance of the majority of the sell-out crowd, having consulted an assistant, after vociferous Tranmere protestations, instead awarded a free-kick to the visitors. Orient’s Jordan Brown claimed, post-match: “It was a stonewall penalty”.
At least that setback inspired the hosts to a grandstand finish, with subs, Ruel Sotiriou and Alex Mitchell going close.
O’s boss Richie Wellens said: “It wasn’t a bad performance – although the game did have a bit of an end of season feel about it.”
“We asked a lot of questions, we put a lot of balls in the box – with their attacks coming from when we gave the ball away.”
“But, I think it’s a bit of a complement that a promotion-chasing team has come here and were trying to stop us from the first moment.”
Wellens concluded: “I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved since I have been here. If we start the first thirteen games, next season, in that sort of form then we’ll be in a really good starting position.”
Citing a nine-match winless run, earlier in season, Rovers’ boss, Mickey Mellon, admitted: “It’s a bit of a hollow victory. We’ve fallen short, but I must congratulate the players on winning a tough game, today.”
Brown added: “It was difficult today, as Tranmere were pushing for promotion and we had nothing to play for. We did get a lot of the ball today, but we could done better with it.”
The former Derby man concluded: “As the gaffer has just said, it’s now case of resting up, then getting in good a pre-season and going again next season.”
Leyton Orient: Lawrence Vigouroux, Tom James (Harry Smith 56), Omar Beckles, Adam Thompson, Connor Wood, Theo Archibald, Hector Kyprianou, Darren Pratley (Alex Mitchell 67), Jordan Brown, Paul Smyth (Ruel Sotiriou 67), Aaron Drinan. Subs (not used): Sam Sargeant, Daniel Nkrumah, Zechariah Obiero, Ethan Coleman.
Tranmere Rovers: Joe Murphy, Josh Cogley, Peter Clarke (captain), Tom Davies, Calum MacDonald, Kieron Morris, Lewis Warrington, Lee O’Connor (Jay Spearing 70), Josh Hawkes (Callum McManaman 67), Kane Hemmings, Elliott Nevitt (Sam Foley 86). Subs (not used): Ross Doohan, Chris Merrie, Nicky Maynard, Josh McPake.
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Assistants: Declan O’Shea, Andrew Bennett
Fourth Official: Alan Young