Leyton Orient inflicted Notts County’s first away defeat of the 2012.13 campaign with a 2-1 victory at the Matchroom Stadium. It was the Magpies’ first ever away loss under Keith Curle, which ended an impressive 22-match run that stretches back to February 2012.
A physical first half saw Notts lose reliable goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, who was stretchered off, following a late challenge by Charlie MacDonald. It was argued that the O’s frontman should have been dismissed but he was able to escape with a yellow card.
Bialkowski's replacement, Fabian Spiess, put in a Man of the Match performance, with a string of top saves either side of the break. Ahead of the interval, he denied MacDonald twice, though it was the Magpies that enjoyed the better of the goalmouth action.
Yoann Arquin rattled the bar and Enoch Showunmi had a header cleared off the line with the best off the half’s efforts. Showunmi, again, and Alan Judge then came close early into the second period, but it was Orient that dealt the first blow.
Despite Spiess’ form, wideman David Mooney was able to find the net with a headed rebound in the 65th minute. Then, three minutes later, it was 2-0, as centre-back Mathieu Baudry finished well from an in-swinging corner.
Jeff Hughes gave Notts a lifeline 12 minutes from time, after he pounced on a loose ball inside the area to pull a goal back. Although the Magpies pushed until the end, they were unable to salvage the point that their efforts arguably deserved.
Keith Curle named an unchanged side for the trip to the Matchroom Stadium, as his side looked to make it back-to-back wins for the first time since November. Three points was needed to keep Notts within touching distance of sixth-placed Bournemouth, who were six points better off, having played two games more.
In a lively opening, the hosts created the first chance on the game, after lone MacDonald touched the ball away from Alan Sheehan on the right wing. Wideman Mooney collected and his near-post cross found Cook, whose improvised finish flew wide of the mark.
A moment of magic by Jeff Hughes down the left wing that put centre-back Scott Cuthbert on his backside carved out Notts’ first goal-scoring opportunity. Play was quickly transferred inside, where Neal Bishop watched a shot bravely blocked by midfielder Lloyd James.
Gary Liddle was required to make an equally impressive obstruction at the other end of the pitch to keep out Cook’s low drive. The ball deflected across goal, into the path of the unmarked Mooney, only his stern effort skewed away from goal.
On 12, County suffered a huge blow, as Bialkowski took a heavy knock to the head, after rushing off his line to make a save at the feet of McDonald. Following six minutes of treatment, during which time McDonald was cautioned, it became clear that the stopper could not continue and Spiess took his place for only his second appearance in a Magpies’ shirt.
Spiess was tested for the first time, when Cook made space on the left to force him into a fine reaction save. The O’s maintained the pressure and Dean Leacock was then required to make a last-ditch challenge on Mooney inside the six-yard box to deny a certain goal, following Moses Odubajo’s headed knockdown.
Notts saw plenty of the ball but struggled to find the final pass. Jamal Campbell-Ryce did manage to find space inside the box on one occasion, though his finish was sent high into the stand behind the goal.
In the first of eight additional minutes, Notts came within a whisker of taking the lead through Arquin. The Frenchman got between two O’s defenders to meet Andre Boucaud’s delightful right-flank cross and rattled the crossbar with a stunning header.
The game was suddenly sparked into life and Sheehan created another opening with a sweeping cross from the left. This allowed Showunmi to nod into the path of Judge, who cleared the bar with a half volley.
Spiess was called into action again before the break, after Odubajo’s dangerous cross was prodded towards MacDonald on the edge of the six-yard box. The rookie goalkeeper reached around the striker to flick the ball away before he could apply the finish.
In the final minute of stoppage time, another Sheehan delivery, this time from a corner, wreaked havoc, as Orient custodian Jamie Jones failed to claim. As a result, Showunmi powered a header at goal but James was able to make a vital goal-line clearance to keep the match goalless at half time.
The second period started how the first ended and, early on, Showunmi rose above his marker to head inches over, following fine work down the right by Campbell-Ryce. Shortly after, Judge forced Jones into tidy save with a long-range hit that bounced just in front of the goalkeeper.
This was nothing in comparison to Spiess’ truly remarkable stop from Martin Rowland’s free-kick around the wall. The midfielder’s effort deflected twice in quick succession and the 18-year-old youth team graduate somehow managed to claw the ball away from the bottom corner at full stretch.
On 59, Spiess had to be at his best again, after Cook fed the ball to Mooney in space. The Irishman only had the goalkeeper to beat as the progressed into the area but his placed finish was kept out by Spiess’ outstretched leg.
Judge had a good half chance, following an exchange with Arquin on the left wing. However, his curled attempt lacked accuracy.
The O’s gained the upper hand in the 65th minute, after Cook was given too much space on the edge of the area. Spiess tipped his powerful low drive against the bar but there was nothing he could do to prevent Mooney from heading home on the rebound.
Mooney nearly scored again with his next effort, a well-hit strike inside the left-hand post that Spiess tipped behind for a corner. However, Cook’s subsequent delivery met Baudry’s run perfectly, allowing him to find the net with a side-footed volley.
Romello Nangle replaced Arquin immediately after the goal, as Curle added fresh legs to his attack. And, on 78, Notts were back in the game.
Showunmi, with his back to goal, had attempted to get a shot away but was denied by a trio of Orient defenders. Still, he did enough, as the ball made its way through to Hughes, who made no mistake in finding the top-left corner from eight yards.
Sheehan and Bishop produced excellent blocks to prevent the O’s from restoring their two-goal advantage. Spiess also remained in top form and got down well to hold another decent hit by Cook, before keeping out another from Rowlands.
They almost proved to be essential, as Hughes came close to equalising with a glancing header, made possible by Judge’s pin-point centre. This was Judge’s last involvement, because we was withdrawn and Hamza Bencherif introduced, as part of the final push for a point.
During five minutes of added time, there was time for one more outstanding Spiess save, a one handed parry to keep out Rowlands. Although County never gave up hope, they struggled to break down the O’s in the dying moments and the hosts held on for all three point, leaving Notts eight points adrift of the Play-Off pack.