A bit of fight, a bit of heart and a bit of commitment, that’s all Orient fans could have asked as the O’s battled to a 2-2 draw at high flying Luton Town to stave off relegation for the time being at least. In chunks Orient were the better team and were denied a much needed victory as Isaac Vassell’s 73rd-minute goal helped Luton seal a 2-2 draw. At least there were positives to take out of the game.
Orient remain 10 points adrift of safety in League Two despite a fighting display at Kenilworth Road, where Liam Kelly’s penalty and Tristan Abrahams cancelled out Danny Hylton’s opener, only for Vassell to grab a share of the spoils for the Hatters.
The visitors had the best opportunity in the opening 15 minutes when Victor Adeboyejo directed his header off target. At the other end, Luton captain Scott Cuthbert saw his volley deflected over, with Glen Rea’s header saved by O’s goalkeeper Sam Sargeant who is having a good season despite the hammerings Orient have taken lately.
In fact it was a decent game to watch with 30 shots in the match, 20 for the home team and ten for the visitors. Although in possession Leyton Orient matched their promotion hopeful opponents.
But the hosts were rewarded for the endeavour in the 33rd minute when Olly Lee’s wonderful through ball allowed Hylton to notch his 25th goal of the season.
Sargeant made two smart stops from substitute Luke Gambin, while Jack Marriott was inches away from a second before the break.
Orient started the second half well and were level within eight minutes of the restart, Kelly rifling home a penalty after Rea had handled Michael Collins’ powerful drive. The O’s took a shock lead just after the hour mark as half-time substitute Abrahams slipped the ball under Luton keeper Stuart Moore.
Town, though, equalised when Vassell scored seven minutes after his introduction from the bench, racing clear to beat Sargeant.
They could not find a winner, though, and sit eight points behind third-placed Portsmouth while Orient could see their fate decided on Easter Monday, when they take on relegation rivals Hartlepool.
O’s manager Omer Riza was pleased Leyton Orient were able to avoid relegation on Good Friday and praised the performance of his players at Luton Town.
“The talk before the game was don’t let this be the day we are gone because we have four more fixtures left and it is hard to play in them when it has happened,” said Riza. “We have given ourselves another game to fight and we live to fight another day basically, so that’s a bonus.”
There were a number of impressive performers for Orient and Aron Pollock backed up his strong showing last weekend with a solid display at Luton. Michael Clark coped well with the challenge of starting at right back before switching to a back three.
Riza was delighted with all of his players at Luton, but praised Pollock’s character and discussed his testing campaign.
He added: “Aron has done well and so has ‘Clarky’ and all the boys have done well. I thought Aron was solid and has stepped up to the plate because out of everybody he was probably one of the first to step into the first-team.
“This season he has had injuries, a thigh problem and a few niggly injuries and for me it is about giving them that confidence. I don’t mind if they go out onto the pitch and make mistakes because if you don’t do that then you are not going to get better and learn.”
“Aron showed intelligence and character to get on the ball and play and he was solid defensively as well. Danny Hylton is not an easy player to play against either because I played with him at Aldershot and he was a pain then.”
“Teddy (Mezague), Aron and ‘Clarky’ had to deal with him and then we had Sandro Semedo at the back because we started with a four and went back to a three and at the end we went to a four again. The boys had a lot to deal with, but that’s football and they have to learn to deal with those changes.”
This was a good fight from the O’s and some pluses to take into the final four games of the season. It won’t save them from relegation but gives the club something to build upon.