Notts County succumbed to a spirited second half fightback by Leyton Orient to draw 1-1, courtesy of a penalty in each half at Meadow Lane on Tuesday evening.
A relatively scrappy game was decided by two decisions by the referee, both in front of the Haydn Green Family Stand that would see each side claim a penalty apiece and a share of the points.
Manager Shaun Derry named an unchanged starting line-up from the side that claimed a point away to Peterborough United at the weekend, with the only changes coming on the bench, where Mustapha Dumbuya and Garry Thompson came in for Cieron Keane and Nicky Wroe.
The game got off to a nervy start but after a tentative opening few minutes it erupted into life, with first a David Mooney shot for the visitors deflecting behind off Curtis Thompson for a corner, from which Scott Cuthbert got a header away from inside the area, but it was straight at the ground and bounced harmlessly over.
Then Notts had their first chance of the game shortly after, when Zeli Ismail was set away to get a shot in from the edge of the area that flashed across goal but just wide of the far upright and that was followed up by an audacious effort by Reece Brown moments later, spotting Gary Woods off his goal and trying to chip the Orient keeper from just inside the opposition’s half, only to see the ball drop harmlessly over the bar, with the keeper getting back well to cover.
It was Orient back on the offensive then as the action flowed from end to end, with David Mooney hitting a shot wide before Jobi McAnuff was fouled by Gary Jones, took the freekick himself, midway inside the Notts half out wide on the left and saw his long looping delivery punched behind by for a corner that would see the Notts keeper called upon again to save on the line under pressure before seeing his defence get the ball clear.
Whilst both sides had been chipping away, neither keeper had been particularly tested and it wasn’t until the 25th minute that the crucial breakthrough came. A freekick by Jones wide on the right, pretty much on the halfway line, was floated into the area, where Haydn Hollis went to ground under a challenge by Nathan Clarke and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and then showing the Orient captain a yellow card.
The responsibility for the spot kick fell to Ismail and he made no mistake, calmly slotting into the bottom corner of the net to give Notts the lead.
Orient, to their credit, didn’t let their heads drop after going behind and continued to press forwards, forcing a series of corners and then winning a freekick in front of goal on the edge of the area for a foul by Jones, but it went straight into the wall and as Notts cleared McAnuff received the second yellow card of the game for a reckless and perhaps frustration-laden foul on Liam Noble.
Notts were rarely troubled for the remainder of the half, as the pace of the game slowed somewhat, with Orient’s best effort falling to Romain Vincelot from outside of the area, but his shot flew across goal and wide of the target.
HT: Notts County 1 Leyton Orient 0
Notts made a change at half time, with Ronan Murray coming on to replace Brown, who had been suffering with illness in the build-up to the game, but it was Orient who started the better after the break, with a loose pass from Jones allowing Michael Petrasso in to hit a well-struck shot that wasn’t far off target.
And it would be just five minutes into the second half that the visitors were back on level terms, when Curtis Thompson was adjudged to have brought down Mooney inside the area, much to the protestation of the Notts defender, with Chris Dagnall stepping up to fire home the equaliser low to the left from the penalty spot.
Having restored parity, it was Orient who looked the more likely to score the game’s third goal, particularly in the aftermath of the equaliser, with Dagnall and Elliott Omozusi both getting shots away in quick succession as the visitors pressed forward, the first blocked well by the Notts defence and the second gathered comfortably by Carroll.
Notts made their second change of the evening just after the hour mark, with Jones making way for Garry Thompson, who was making his return from an injury lay-off, but it was Orient who continued to press, with Bradley Pritchard seeing his well-struck shot from outside the area drift wide before Petrasso failed to connect properly with an effort a little closer in minutes later.
Orient then made a double change as they looked to add fresh legs to their attack, with Mooney and Petrasso making way for Darius Henderson and Dean Cox and as they continued to press forwards, Louis Laing was shown the game’s third yellow card for a foul on Dagnall in the 72nd minute.
The final substitutions saw Drissa Traore come on to make his Notts debut in place of Alan Smith, before Jay Simpson came on to replace Dagnall for Orient as the game headed into the final 10 minutes.
Having spent much of the second half on the back foot, Notts carved out their first real chance five minutes from time, when Noble hit a beautifully struck shot from distance that Woods could only parry before falling on the ball before Murray could get to it following in and then Orient broke down the other end and had a chance of their own, with Henderson firing wide from inside the area.
The final exchanges were littered with yellow cards, with Vincelot, Ismail and Cassidy all going into the referee’s book for various indiscretions, before Traore had what would be the final chance of the game, firing well over the bar from some way out and although Ismail almost latched on to a long ball forward in the dying seconds, Woods came out well to claim the ball and as he cleared upfield the referee blew the final whistle.
FT: Notts County 1 Leyton Orient 1
The midfielder, who took over the captain's armband when Alan Smith left the field, continued to plug away when Notts looked to be swimming against a tide of Orient pressure in the second half and looked the most likely to create something for the home side.