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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Port Vale stalemate damages Leyton Orient's play-off hopes

Leyton Orient (0) 0

Port Vale (0) 0

 

Leyton Orient’s hopes of becoming a major player on the League One play-off scene took a hit on Tuesday night, as they were held to a goalless draw by a Port Vale side that is currently second bottom of the third tier.

 

With a six-point gap to make up in a handful less games than direct opponents, and several bonafide promotion chasers still to play, perhaps Richie Wellens can use these final weeks of the campaign to reflect on a job well done.

 

His relentless nature – the sort that left him questioning why Ange Postecoglou recently won manager of the year ahead of him at the recent London Football Awards – means this is thoroughly unlikely to happen.

 

But, after failing to break down an opponent that seems destined for the drop, they are now three games without a goal and firmly set for the comfort of mid-table.

 

This is hardly an achievement to underplay. Orient only returned to this level in August, having won League Two last term. Yet as a succession of Shaq Forde attempts failed to break the deadlock in this one, it began to seem evermore clear that Wellens and his side will be having another crack at League One next season.

 

It was the visitors who missed the best chance of the first half, with striker James Wilson somehow turning a cross from former Orient man Gavin Massey over the bar despite being unmarked and no more than six yards from goal on the half hour.

 

Wellens’ men had struggled to find any sort of rhythm on the ball up to that point, with a record of just one goal scored in the three matches before this one belying a positive league position.

 

The Wilson miss did wake them from their attacking slumber, although it was perhaps also due to the incessant cajoling of the Orient boss from the strict confines of a technical area that struggled to contain his enthusiasm.

 

Not long after right-back Rob Hunt had shot well wide from distance, a moment of conviction from Jayden Sweeney on the opposite side seemed to lift Orient’s entire performance.

 

As relegation-threatened Vale tried to play out from their own half, Sweeney stepped in to win possession and feed the unmarked Shaq Forde to the right of the penalty area. The Watford loanee has four goals to his name since the turn of the year but dallied under pressure from defender Dan Jones, eventually going to ground far too easily and passing up the home side’s first genuine sight of goal.

 

Wellens was left momentarily static and undeniably unimpressed by the lack of conviction on display, but his team’s performance undeniably picked up from that point.

 

And within two minutes Forde had almost made amends. Although naturally a striker, he filled in on the right flank in this one and made no attempt to hide his desire to drift inside and get shots away with his left foot.

 

With Vale backtracking towards their own goal amidst a sudden wave of pressure, Forde found plenty of space to advance in to before guiding an effort towards goals that would have found the bottom corner were it not for a slight deflection.

 

Forde’s prominence was not stunted by the interval, and within a minute of the restart he had combined with Joe Pigott before testing Vale ‘keeper Connor Ripley for the first time.

 

It would not be the only time that Ripley was called in to action, with the shot-stopper keeping Forde out once more from a similar situation on the hour mark before spectacularly sticking out a hand to push a curling effort from the 19-year-old over the bar.

 

It was substitute Ruel Sotiriou who came closest to earning Orient the win as his determined drive into the box ended with a shot that crashed back off the woodwork.

 

However, just as the slight disappointment that the east Londoners now look unlikely to end the season with a trip to Wembley should be tempered by their fantastic re-introduction to life at this level, this game that they largely had the better of almost slipped away.

 

With Forde back in his own penalty area trying to help out defensively, the attacker got on the wrong side of Jones and clumsily barged him. Referee Gavin Ward was unmoved but there surely would have been few complaints had a spot-kick been given.

 

So perhaps Orient were relieved to take the draw in the end. They should feel far stronger emotions about what they have already achieved this season.

 

Leyton Orient: (4-3-3) Brynn – Hunt, Beckles, Cooper, Sweeney (James 57) – Sanders (Sotiriou 57), Brown, El Mizouni (Pratley 57) – Forde, Pigott (Adu-Adjei 83), O’Neill (Obiero 83). Subs not used: Howes, Edwards.

 

Port Vale: (4-4-1-1) Ripley – Sang, Smith, Debrah, Jones – Massey (Chislett 65), Ojo, Lowe, Mighten (Weir 65) – Garrity – Wilson (Dipepa 65). Subs not used: Leutwiler, Lopata, Loft, Plant.

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