Notts County gained a valuable point in their pursuit of Sky Bet League 1 survival in a goalless draw with Leyton Orient. The Magpies gave the second-placed visitors a tough afternoon and looked the most likely to claim the three points.
New arrival Nathan Tyson was thrusted straight into the starting 11 but it felt as though there were three more additions in the County ranks. The Magpies were boosted by the return of Dean Leacock, Gary Liddle and Mustapha Dumbuya, who had all recovered from long lay-offs in time for the big fixture.
Leacock’s inclusion meant that Alan Sheehan, who held onto the captain’s armband, moved to left-back, whilst Dumbuya replaced Kieron Freeman, following his return to Derby County. Liddle partnered Hayden Mullins in the centre of midfield and Tyson partnered Callum McGregor up front, as County took up a 4-4-2 formation.
The opening 45 was scrappy but it was fair to say that Notts created the better of the chances. Utilising Tyson’s pace in attack, the Magpies attempted to get in behind the visitors’ back line at every opportunity.
On 5, the on-loan Blackpool striker capitalised on a slip by defender Scott Cuthbert but had a los shot charged down by Elliot Omozusi. Tyson attempted a follow-up effort from a tight angle but failed to hit the target.
Tyson was again involved when he latched onto Sheehan’s targeted pass into the left channel, before finding Liddle on the edge of the box. The midfielder let loose with a stern drive but away goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic shuffled across his line well to gather inside his near post.
Moments later, Sheehan had a go himself, following a breakaway attack led by Jamal Campbell, but his 20 yard shot cleared the bar. The duo combined once more when Campbell-Ryce delivered a delightful cross from the right, only Sheehan’s back-post header flew narrowly wide.
For the O’s Chris Dagnall and Dean Cox provided decent attempts from range. Dagnall’s shot was smothered by Bartosz Bialkowski on his goal-line and Cox drove into the Kop Stand.
On 27, Liddle’s overhead flick allowed Tyson to muscle his way past Nathan Clarke but Jakupovic raced off his line to touch the ball away from the striker’s head at the last possible moment. At the other end, Kevin Lisbie picked out Dagnall with a hopeful knock-on but the experienced frontman was unable to keep his header down due to heavy pressure from Dumbuya.
Ahead of the interval, McGregor burst forward to find Grealish on the left. The winger picked out Sheehan infield but the left-back’s powerful strike was clutched tightly by the goalkeeper.
McGregor found himself with an opening, after Sheehan was sent sprawling on the edge of the box - much to the anger of the home fans. The referee waved play on and the on-loan Celtic forward applied a volley that dipped onto the roof of the net.
After the break, Notts threatened first when, following a tidy passing move, Campbell-Ryce skipped inside into space and fired wide of far post. Sheehan later found Tyson in the left channel and the striker’s cutback was unfortunate not to find McGregor.
From the 58th minute, Orient enjoyed their best spell of play, kicked off by Lloyd James’ long-range effort, which dipped too late to test Bialkowski. Romain Vincelot’s curled delivery from the left flank call the Pole into action, as he was forced to touch away from the top corner.
Tyson continued to cause the away defence issues and, on 69, picked out Campbell-Ryce with a superb cross from the left byline. The winger connected with a fine downward volley that skidded off the turf and inches past the left-hand upright.
Cox rounded off a sharp O’s passing move with a thunderous hit but Leacock got his body in the way with a block. Sheehan also threw his body on the line for the cause to deny Moses Odubajo’s thumping effort.
On the whole, County remained the dominant force and the Kop volume lifted as their side pushed the automatic promotion contenders deep into their own half. The pressure almost paid off when Campbell-Ryce targeted Liddle with a low centre but the midfielder was unable to connect at full stretch.
Two minutes of added time were shown by the fourth official but Odubajo was the only player to look like scoring, when his low shot was easily dealt with by Bialkowski down to his left. The point gave something for Notts to build on - starting with MK Dons on Tuesday night.
ATTENDANCE: 4,680 (including 867 away supporters)
NEXT: Notts County V MK Dons - Tuesday 11 March (7.45pm Kick-Off) @ Meadow Lane (BUY TICKETS)
Photos by JMS Photography