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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Brisbane Road

Orient land statement win deep into injury time to raise belief still further that play-offs are on the radar

Leyton Orient (1) 4 O'Neill 35, Forde 58, Sotiriou 80, 90+6

Northampton Town (1) 3 Leonard 45, Bowie 77, Simpson 83

What a thriller served up at Brisbane Road.

It seems to be Orient's fate that they fly under the radar in League One this season, but whisper it quietly - .they are not a million miles away from those play-off spots.

They almost paid the price for some sloppy defending, losing the lead three times to the battling Cobblers, who played their part to the full in a gripping contest.

It needed two goals from super-sub Ruel Sotiriou to get the O's over the line and a man-of-the-match performance from Ollie O'Neill who scored one and had a hand in three others.

They are up to eighth, still seven points adrift of Oxford United, who currently occupy that coveted sixth-spot.

London rivals Charlton Athletic started the evening a whole 11 places lower in the table, just above the relegation zone, with 14 fewer points, yet somehow it is the Addicks' travails which is drawing the attention of neutrals rather more than Orient's defiant push for the play-offs. Maybe that will change.

Richie Wellens' men have gone quietly about their business this season without tearing up trees - apart from the stunning 3-0 win at league leaders Portsmouth a month ago which suggested something was building at Brisbane Road.

They travelled to high-riding Barnsley at the weekend in fine form - unbeaten in eight since a 3-2 defeat at Bolton before Christmas. Six of those had been wins.

All this too after a season which began with only one win in eight in all competitions and a mid-season run of one win in nine. The trend has decidedly shifted for the better since then - enough for ambition to creep past the annual search for mid-table respectability.

Their recent fine run came to an end on Saturday, but the belief remains.

Make no mistake, Orient can still have a say in the promotion race. They recently beat third-placed Bolton at home and fear nobody and with three of the next four also at home - against Burton, Blackpool and Bristol Rovers - they can close the gap on the top six.

The O's were comfortably on top from the start and soon creating half chances. The confidence looked high, with the wily George Moncur pulling strings in the middle and Tom James - until he went off injured at the break - linking well down the left with O'Neill.

On the right, Ethan Galbraith was getting forward and causing problems.

The Cobblers were not being carved open but enough of the play was going on in Northampton's final third that the law of averages suggested a breakthrough would materialise.

It came when a short corner routine saw O'Neill drift in and angle a cross-shot towards the far post that no-one got a touch to. Town keeper Louie Moulden was distracted by the bodies in front of him and allowed the ball to go past him into the corner of the net.

There had been little hint of danger from the visitors for Omar Beckles and his fellow defenders but the O's were caught dozing as the first half drew to a close, allowing Marc Leonard a free hit from outside the box that found the bottom corner - Sol Brynn well beaten by the bolt out of the blue.

But O'Neill kept asking questions and when he cut in from the left to send a stinging low drive towards the far corner that Moulden could only parry, Shaq Forde was on hand to tuck home the rebound into the roof of the net.

Moments later, Idris El Mizouni crashed a shot into Moulden as home fans found their voice, but they allowed the Cobblers to level again 13 minutes from the end, when Kieron Bowie seized on a loose ball in the area as Orient failed to clear their lines.

O'Neill still had a bit more magic to offer and his excellent ball to the near-post was met by a flicked header from Sotiriou, who had only just come off the bench.

But the madcap action had not ended and another piece of abject defending allowed Town to level for a third time through a sub of their own, Tyreese Simpson.

Rob Hunt smacked the crossbar as Orient tried to nudge in front again and the O's kept pressing and kept believing.

They won corners and kept stretching the visitors until at last the visitors cracked again - Sotiriou volleying home at the far post after another cross in from the left.

It was breathless stuff and felt almost like a statement win - to themselves as much as to rivals jostling for promotion.

Orient: (4-2-3-1) Brynn - Galbraith, Beckles, Cooper, James (Hunt h/t) - Brown (Pratley 60), El Mizouni - Forde (Sweeney 90+8), Moncur (Sotiriou 77), O'Neill - Edwards (Adu-Adjei 76)

Cobblers: (4-3-3) Moulden - Lintott (Springett 73), Willis, Guthrie, Brough - Leonard, Gape (Fox 53), Hondermarck - Bowie, Pinnock, Appere (Simpson 71)


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