Orient slumped to their fifth consecutive away defeat after an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion. It was the latest episode of Orient`s ineptitude with the home side wrapping victory up after the first 45 minutes.
Having spent the entire week emphasising the importance of this particular fixture, Martin Ling will not have enjoyed this afternoon`s display. Orient were woeful from start to finish although the fifteenth minute dismissal of Captain John Mackie effectively ended this tie as a contest.
With Michael Simpson and Craig Easton missing through injury, Adam Chambers was partnered in midfield by Donny Barnard whilst Lee Steele returned in place of Paul Connor. Clayton Fortune made his first appearance since recovering from injury with Justin Miller dropping to the bench. Ling was also forced to change his goalkeeper with Glyn Garner suffering from illness, so Glenn Morris made his first start since the 3-0 defeat at Tranmere.
Orient had looked comfortable in the opening fifteen minutes with only Paul Reid`s long range effort giving the away fans anything to worry about. However, it was a minute of madness just after that time period that took the game away from the O`s. Having failed to control the ball, John Mackie found himself in trouble as Gary Hart raced away from the O`s skipper. The Orient Captain then committed a ridiculous foul which sent Hart sprawling to the floor and referee Drysdale had no hesitation in showing the O`s number six the red card.
With Orient down to ten men, Albion took full advantage as Paul Reid smacked home a low shot from the edge of the area after the O`s had failed to clear a corner. Already 1-0 down and reduced to ten men, the O`s faced an uphill struggle. Justin Miller replaced Wayne Corden as the O`s reverted to a 4-3-2 formation.
Albion began to take control of the game as Orient looked like a side bereft of confidence and ideas. Joe Keith and Donny Barnard looked lost in the midfield as Adam Chambers continued to fight a lone battle. Lee Steele was failing to make any impression whilst Alexander tested Kuipers with a commendable effort which the ‘keeper did well to block.
Yet that chance was one of the rare opportunities that Orient had in the first half and things were to go from bad to worse as Albion increased their lead on the half hour mark. Paul Reid created the goal as he set up Adam El-Abd to drive an unstoppable drive past Glenn Morris from some 25 yards. It was a superb strike, but the Albion man had all the time in the world to pick his spot as the O`s defence failed to apply any pressure whatsoever.
The O`s seemed to give up at that point and it was no real surprise when Dean Cox added a third in stoppage time to put Albion 3-0 ahead. Having found himself all alone on the right hand side, Cox exposed Orient`s left hand side and having cut into the penalty area, the winger coolly slotted the ball across Morris and into the far corner.
The half time whistle brought respite to the travelling fans who had endured a nightmarish first period. The second wasn`t much better as Orient seemed content to keep the score down without ever threatening themselves. Darryl McMahon was introduced at half time for Lee Steele as the O`s sought to flood the midfield. It made little difference as Brighton continued to pass the ball around a static Orient midfield whilst Alexander was left isolated in attack.
Brighton really should have made it 4-0 on 63 as Justin Miller was adjudged to have fouled Paul Reid in the penalty area. It looked an extremely soft decision as there had been minimal contact but Mr Drysdale gave Dean Hammond the chance to score Albion`s 4th. However, Orient goalkeepers have a reputation for saving penalties and Glenn Morris duly saved Hammond`s weak effort.
It was a good solid save from the young ‘keeper who despite conceding on four occasions, looked assured and composed throughout. Morris then made a superb save from Cox as Brighton threatened to run riot. Martin Ling replaced Gary Alexander with Jabo Ibehre as Orient tried to keep the Seagulls down to three goals. In fact, Ibehre really should have given Orient a consolation goal when he headed over from Lockwood`s corner. It was a free header for the O`s striker who recently rejected a move to Albion on transfer deadline day.
Brighton were next to go close as Cox rifled a free kick against Morris`s right hand post but it was the visitors that had the ball in the net soon after. Ibehre was fouled inside the Albion penalty area and Matt Lockwood calmly dispatched the resulting penalty kick.
Lockwood`s second successive penalty in five days failed to breed any confidence in a side that had given up after the first thirty minutes. In fact, things got even worse as Jake Robinson danced past Lockwood and his cross was headed home by Loft to round off the scoring.
Brighton`s poor excuse for a football stadium and Orient`s pathetic display gave O`s fans little to enthuse about on the way home. Another inept display from Martin Ling`s men brought back memories of Sitton and Turner sides as the O`s capitulated once again.
Martin Ling cannot allow this dreadful form to continue as the O`s are now firmly entrenched within the relegation zone. With Craig Easton, Michael Simpson and Shane Tudor injured and Mackie now suspended, Ling may have to dip into the loan market if Orient are to improve on their recent form.
Brian Saah must surely start if Orient are to have any pace within their defence whilst the continual inclusion of Joe Keith must also be questioned. Both Keith and Barnard went missing for the majority of the game as Brighton took control of the midfield with sheer ease.
Whilst one can accept losing 4-1 to a decent side, Brighton were made to look like Brazil by an O`s team that would have struggled to compete against the O`s ladies under 9`s. Whilst most of us paid a ridiculous £22.50 to watch an absolute shambles from what as well been a shed in Hove, the O`s once again let down those fans that travelled in numbers to support their side.
The fast flowing football of last season has disappeared whilst the side looks completely unrecognisable having lost their way. The O`s do not look like scoring unless they are awarded a penalty whilst their ongoing generosity in defence is an ongoing problem.
Another away defeat means that Orient have now lost all five of their away games whilst conceding fifteen games in that time. It`s an inexcusable record and something that needs to be addressed immediately if the O`s are not to be involved in a relegation battle this season.
Whilst the fans continue to travel around the country and put their all into supporting their side, the players continue to let them down. Today was one step to far for most O`s fans as it became one embarrassment too far.
Martin Ling was a hero last May after Orient`s success last season, but he will know that fans are fickle and if he fails to bring his side out of this rut, then Mr Ling could face some harsh realities in the near future.