Orient made it eight defeats in their last nine games following a 3-2 defeat against Rotherham United. Despite coming back to level matters on two separate occasions, a late deflected effort from Scott Wiseman gave the Millers all three points and left Orient in the drop zone and four points adrift of safety.
Following the 4-1 thumping that Orient received at Brighton last weekend, Martin Ling made changes with Daryl McMahon making his first start of the season in place of Joe Keith. Michael Simpson returned to the midfield whilst Paul Connor started up front in place of Lee Steele. Glyn Garner was restored to the O`s goal with Brian Saah standing in for the suspended John Mackie.
Despite starting well and having efforts drift wide from both Lockwood and Alexander, it was the visitors that struck first with their first real attack of the game. Having tipped Pablo Mills` free kick around the post, Glyn Garner was unable to deal with Michael Keane`s effort from the resulting corner. Having seen the Welshman spill the ball, Ian Sharps had the easy task of stroking the ball into the empty net.
Having already endured much criticism this season, it was another mistake the O`s number one will want to quickly forget. In fact, his team mates helped him in the best possible way, by equalising. Some sumptuous football from Orient allowed Wayne Corden to swing in a delightful cross which was headed past Cutler by the onrushing Adam Chambers. It was a superbly worked goal and it appeared that it would lift the home side as they went in search of their first victory since August 12th.
Yet, it was not to be as Rotherham came back into the game and Sharps had a glorious chance to put the Millers back in the lead. Having got on the end of Lee Williamson`s free kick, Sharps could only divert his header over the bar when it was possibly easier to hit the target. Chances were coming thick and fast and this time it was the home side that really should have taken advantage. Corden, who provided some superb service, found Paul Connor in space and it was his flick on that allowed Alexander to rifle the ball towards goal. Unfortunately for Alexander, his effort winged its way well wide of the far post.
As half time approached Rotherham had another excellent chance. This time it was Will Hoskins after the striker could only watch in amazement as his header was spectacularly saved by Garner. Yet the Millers top scorer didn`t have long to wait to open his account after another episode of Orient`s disastrous defending. This time Glyn Garner committed himself to reaching Neil Cutler`s long goal kick. However, his hesitation allowed Hoskins to nip in front of him and coolly lob the ball into the empty net.
It was harsh on Orient who were always in the game and had probably deserved to go in level at the break, yet once again defensive frailties had cost them in an exciting first half.
The second half saw Orient failing to keep possession as their ball retention became rather poor. However, the O`s nearly sneaked an equaliser when Wayne saw his effort smack off the near post and rebound to safety. That chance seemed to sum up Orient`s day, although in all honesty the O`s were not giving Neil Cutler in the Millers goal too much to do. Yet, just when all seemed lost, the O`s came up with a second equaliser on 68 minutes.
This time it was Justin Miller that headed the ball past Cutler having climbed highest in the box following an O`s corner. The goal changed the game as so often happens in football and Orient seemed intent on making Rotherham regret their cynical time wasting ploys. Ling sent on Steele and Ibehre on 77 to try and inspire his side to victory and it almost worked immediately.
Lee Steele managed to get in behind Ian Sharps and having nicked the ball over the ‘keeper, the O`s striker found himself too wide and with a difficult angle and hence failed to hit the target. It proved a costly miss for Orient as their bad luck in recent weeks continued when Will Hoskins set up Wiseman to crack a deflected drive off the far post and into the back of the net.
The O`s still had a chance to snatch a late equaliser as Michael Simpson shot straight at Cutler when well placed but in the end Orient were made to rue yet more defensive errors.
Four Points From Safety
Having conceded 22 goals in their first ten games, Martin Ling won`t need a mathematician to tell him where the problems lie. Rotherham`s first two goals were both instances of goals that could easily have been avoided. Whilst Glyn Garner will take much of the blame, and quite rightly so, there are defenders in front of him not doing their jobs.
Clayton Fortune is not a replacement for Zakuani, he is wholly incompetent in comparison to the £1 million defender that was sold to Fulham. Martin Ling will need to rectify the defensive situation immediately or Orient will soon lie behind Rotherham, a team that were ten points behind before a ball had even been kicked in August.
The problem lies in the fact that defence has no confidence in the goalkeeper whilst the goalkeeper has no confidence in the defence. It is a vicious circle but until Ling can sort out the problems then Orient’s comedy of errors in the defensive third will continue.
Glyn Garner has taken a lot of stick in recent weeks but it finally seems as if Orient fans are growing tired of his inadequacies between the sticks. Having performed poorly so far this season and with Glenn Morris suffering from a crisis of confidence after his nightmare at Tranmere, Ling could be tempted to plunge into the loan market for a new ‘keeper.
Garner was at fault once again today as he failed to hold Keane`s initial effort whilst he was reckless for the second goal which gave United the half time lead. Although it must be commented that Garner`s cause is not helped by a poor defence, the players in front of him seem to have lost all belief in his ability. Perhaps it will be the manager that now shares their opinion.
Four Points From Safety
It may not even be October yet, but Orient are already four points from safety. Whilst only ten games may have been played, it is beginning to look like the O`s may be in for a real relegation dogfight if they are to preserve their League One status. Having lost eight out of their last nine games, Orient will be desperately hoping to take something from Tuesday night`s encounter against Gillingham.
With the Gills losing 4-1 at Oldham and sitting in 16th position, it is a game that Martin Ling will expect his side to get something from. After all, the performance against Rotherham was significantly better than the awful and insipid display given at Brighton last weekend.
A defeat on Tuesday puts Orient in even more trouble, but there are signs of encouragement if you look hard enough. Martin Ling and his players will need no extra motivation as they look for their first win in what seems an eternity.