It was a night Notts County fans will want to forget at the Matchroom Stadium, as their side was beaten 5-1 by the division’s pace setters, Leyton Orient. At times, Notts had shown plenty of improvements from the weekend’s defeat but Russell Slade’s men proved to be too strong.
Kevin Lisbie’s first half double gave the hosts a 2-0 lead at the break. Dean Cox then added another for the table toppers early into the second half and it looked all over for the Magpies.
Notts refused to give up and managed to get a goal back through substitute Danny Haynes’ sublime header. The 71st minute goal proved to be just a consolation for County, as substitutes Shaun Batt and Jayden Stockley rounded off the scoring in the 80th and 84th minutes respectively.
Following the 3-1 defeat at the hands of MK Dons, Chris Kiwomya declared that he was going to make changes for the trip to the Orient. The manager followed through with four alterations and a switch in formation.
In terms of personnel, Manny Smith, Joss Labadie, Mustapha Dumbuya and Danny Haynes dropped to the bench. Enda Stevens, Jack Grealish, Mark Fotheringham and Andre Boucaud were added to the starting 11 in their place.
The Magpies lined up in a 3-5-2 formation, which utilised Stevens and David Bell as wingbacks, ahead of a back three consisting of Gary Liddle, skipper Dean Leacock and Alan Sheehan. Grealish, who had impressed off the bench against the Dons, operated behind Marcus Haber – Notts’ focal point in attack.
In the opening stages, Grealish made great use of a pocket of space to run at the home backline. The on-loan Aston Villa youngster skipped past a number of challenges into the area but his shot was mishit and trickled harmlessly wide.
The O’s struggled to deal with the Magpies’ new-look formation and Grealish, again, found himself with room to drive forward. This time his shot was much better, only a slight deflection off his own teammate, Callum McGregor, resulted in the ball skewing narrowly wide of the mark.
Orient first threatened when Romain Vincelot’s wayward cross from the right wing dipped onto roof of the net. Moses Odubajo also delivered a promising ball from the right, though Lisbie nodded wide of the near upright.
Bartosz Bialkowski was called into action for the first time in the 15th minute, when David Mooney drove ferociously towards the top-right corner from the edge of the box. The Pole leapt acrobatically across his line to deny the in-form striker with an impressive parry.
Despite a much-improved performance in comparison to the weekend’s visit to stadiummk, Notts went behind to the league leaders in the 28th minute. A free-kick on the right wing saw Lloyd James curl onto the head of the unmarked Lisbie, whose downward header bounced into the top-right corner, out of Bialkowski’s reach.
County dictated much of the play from this point, with Boucaud pulling the strings in the middle of the park. However, they were unable to penetrate the organised O’s backline to deliver the end product.
With bodies pushed forward in search of an equaliser, Orient doubled their lead during first half added time, after Dean Cox was played through on goal. Bialkowski initially denied the tricky wideman with an excellent stop down to his left but Lisbie was first to the rebound and drove home, despite the best efforts of Sheehan on the goal line.
The two-goal gap led to a double switch at the break, as Mark Fotheringham and Stevens made way for Yoann Arquin and Smith. Smith’s introduction at centre-back led to Sheehan switching onto the left, whereas Arquin partnered Haber in attack and Grealish dropped into a central midfield berth.
Notts started the second period well and looked dangerous in the wide areas. Sheehan had a stern hit charged down, after fine work by Grealish, and Bell showed got past his marker on the right to force the home stopper Jamie Jones into a low save.
On 56, Orient demonstrated their ruthlessness in the final third for a third time. On this occasion, Cox was given time too much time and his rifled finish skidded against the inside of the right-hand post and into the net.
The O’s played with confidence and showed why they were the current Sky Bet League 1 leaders. Even the full-backs looked dangerous and Elliot Omozu tested Bialkowski with a long-range punt that was smartly gathered on the greasy playing surface.
McGregor thought that he had given the Magpies a lifeline in the 65th minute, when he drifted into the box at pace. The on-loan Celtic midfielder targeted the bottom-left corner but found the outside of the woodwork.
Haynes, who had been introduced in place of Haber, did manage to find the net moments later. From deep, Sheehan picked out the striker with a delightful chip, which was guided back across goal with an outstanding headed finish into the top corner.
Hopes of a dramatic comeback were soon written off, as Batt came off the bench to net the O’s fourth of the evening. The forward wriggled free of the away rearguard into the box and opened up his body to place inside the right-hand post.
It got worse for the visiting supporters, after a defensive error led to a fifth. Another introduction from the bench, Stockley, pounced on a loose ball to fire past Bialkowski.
Late efforts from Arquin and Bell did little to lift spirits in the away end, which continued their vocal backing of the team until the final kick. They will hope that Notts can erase the memories of a disappointing evening on Saturday afternoon against Tranmere Rovers back at Meadow Lane.