Ten-man O’s let it slip

Leyton Orient v Exeter City – Sky Bet League One – Gaughan Group Stadium – Report

Leyton Orient 2-2 Exeter City

Exeter City came back from two goals down to net twice in the closing stages and claim a last-gasp point in a 2-2 draw with Leyton Orient, who were forced to play out the final minutes of the match with ten men following an injury to Brandon Cooper.

Richie Wellens made five changes to his starting line-up following the 3-1 defeat of Cheltenham Town on Saturday, with Jordan Sweeney, Jack Simpson, Joe Pigott, Max Sanders and Rob Hunt coming into the side to replace Cooper, Tom James, Zech Obiero, George Moncur and Khayon Edwards – all of whom dropped to the bench. 

After an opening period of slow build-up, misplaced passes and little action, O’s were forced to replace the injured Ruel Sotiriou with Obiero with only fourteen minutes gone and just shortly after, Dion Rankine broke down the right before cutting in and setting up former O’s loanee Tom Carroll to strike the ball from distance – only for his opportunist effort to nestle comfortably in the arms of Sol Brynn.

With Rankine posing a constant danger out wide for the Grecians, just past the half-hour mark and after cleverly losing his marker, the Chelsea loanee’s cross found Jack Richards in the centre of the box to fire into the side netting from ten yards out.

The deadlock was finally broken just before half-time when after Sweeney won a corner out on the left, the mercurially talented Ollie O’Neill struck a dipping, curling delivery directly past Grecians stopper Viljami Sinisalo into the far corner of the net to put O’s one up in the most spectacular fashion.

Just after the resumption and with Exeter looking to strike back quickly, a slick passing move through the midfield saw the ball played out to Ilmari Niskanen on the left to drive through the O’s defence and strike the ball just inches past the left post.

Finnish international Niskanen was presented with another excellent scoring opportunity just minutes later, only for Brynn to get down well in the far corner and palm the ball to safety.  

O’s made it 2-0 in the sixty-fourth minute when O’Neill capitalised on Carroll’s defensive mistake inside the Exeter area to gift Moncur – who had been introduced as a substitute just minutes before – the easiest of chances to sweep the ball past Sinisalo and into the bottom left corner.

Sub Vanic Wildshut had a great chance to pull one back for Exeter with twenty minutes left after shrugging off his marker and cutting inside before blazing high over the crossbar.

With Cooper being forced from the field with an injury with just under a quarter of an hour left, O’s – having used all five substitutes – were reduced to ten men for the remainder of the game and with just two minutes left, Exeter capitalised on their numerical superiority when substitute Millenic Alli nodded home Wildshut’s cross to reduce the arrears to 2-1.

Having been almost completely rejuvenated by the goal and with their vociferous travelling support enthusiastically roaring them on, the Grecians eagerly pressed forward in search of an equaliser and their efforts were rewarded in the second minute of stoppage time when following a prolonged period of pressure, Carroll’s effort through the crowded area was deflected past Brynn to bring the scores level 

With Exeter now fully in the ascendency, ten-man O’s were completely ‘under the cosh’ and struggling to hang on as Gary Caldwell’s charges continued to throw everything at them in the remaining six minutes of added time. 

Try as they might, there was to be no further breakthrough for the Grecians who will take great pride in their performance on a night of contrasting fortunes during which they looked to be heading to almost certain defeat – only to then dramatically steal an unlikely point before penultimately coming within a whisker of winning the game at the death. 

Next up for Leyton Orient in Sky Bet League One is a trip to Pride Park on Saturday to play Derby County (3pm).        

Leyton Orient: Brynn, Sweeney, Simpson, Brown, Pigott (Agyei 66’) Sotiriou, Beckles (Capt.) (Cooper 46’) O’Neill, Galbraith, Sanders (Moncur 57’) Hunt (James 57’) Subs not used: Howes, Edwards

Exeter City: Sinisalo, Jules, Aimson, Carroll, Woods, Cole (Wildschut 65’) Nisaen, Rankine (Harper 65’) (Diabate 84’) Sweeney (Capt.) Aitchinson (Alli 43’) Richards (Harris 46’) Subs not used: MacDonald, Purrington

Referee: Scott Jackson

Assistants: David Harrison and Stephen Brown

Fourth Official: Joseph Stokes