Stevenage fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat to league leaders Leyton Orient this afternoon. Kevin Lisbie's first half header was enough to give the O's all three points against a spirited Boro side.
Graham Westley responded to last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Swindon by making seven changes to his starting lineup. In came Chris Day, Jimmy Smith, Peter Hartley, Robin Shroot, James Dunne, Michael Doughty and
Dani Lopez. Steve Arnold, Lee Hills, Jordan Burrow, Simon Heslop and Greg Tansey dropped to the bench with Sam Wedgbury and Filipe Morais both missing through injury.
Both sides forced corners in the opening 10 minutes but the respective defences stood firm. Dani Lopez went close for Boro on the quarter hour with a cheeky curling effort from distance but it flew over Jones and over the bar too, much to the visitors’ relief.
Orient responded and created a half chance of their own when Mooney could only head high and wide after stretching to reach a cross.
Although not creating too much Boro were passing the ball around nicely through the midfield. Indeed a good move involving Doughty, Lopez and Shroot saw Nathan Clarke bring Shroot down and receive a caution. Peter Hartley got his head onto the end of Freeman’s free-kick but could only nod wide.
Boro continued to push forward with Tounkara and Freeman combining well down the left channel to set up Lopez, but the Spaniard was crowded out inside the box.
The only goal of the game came in the 27th minute and it went to the visitors. After not getting much change by running at Hartley thus far, Moses Odubajo opted for an early cross which found Kevin Lisbie whose near post header flew past Chris Day to put Orient one up.
The impressive Michael Doughty went close to an equaliser just seven minutes later. Boro broke forward and when the ball hit the ref and fell kindly for the on-loan midfielder he advanced to the edge of the box but his chipped shot was straight at Jones.
As the half neared to a close Lopez then created a half chance of his own. He collected a throw-in from the left, turned smartly and fired in an early effort but his shot went wide of the near post as the hosts went into the break 1-0 up.
Both teams had good spells of possession in the opening 15 minutes of the second half but neither forced a real effort on goal bar an early effort for Dean Cox which flew just wide of Day’s right hand post.
The visitors had a golden chance to double their advantage just after the hour. A ball through Boro’s defence found Kevin Lisbie in on goal, but when the striker went down in the box under pressure from Chris Day the ref signalled a goal kick – and booked Lisbie for simulation.
Roarie Deacon came on for the hard-working Tounkara on 65 minutes, with the sub taking up a position wide left, with Luke Freeman going to left-back and Darius Charles up front.
The move nearly had an immediate effect when Deacon found Lopez in space and the Spaniard fired in a dipping effort from distance which flew just over.
Lloyd James went close with a free-kick for Orient before Graham Westley made his second change with Greg Tansey coming on for Jimmy Smith.
With 17 minutes remaining Boro forged their best chance of the game. Charles found himself in on goal and saw his shot deflect behind. From the resulting corner Peter Hartley hit the bar with a header - the ball bounced down but not over the line.
Moments Tansey fired in an effort which Jamie Jones could only parry, only for Darius to be flagged offside as he looked to fire home the loose ball. The defender-turned-striker continued to cause the Orient backline all kinds of problems and won Boro a number of corners, none of
Leyton Orient goalscorer Lisbie was replaced by Boro old boy Shaun Batt and Dean Cox firedly wildly over before the final chance fell to the hosts. Luke Freeman charged down the middle and fed Charles, whose cross from the right was blocked, only to fall to Tansey who blazed over from close range.
Orient held on to seal a narrow 1-0 victory and stay top of League 1 in these early weeks. Boro meanwhile must build on the positives from today as they travel to Notts County next weekend, still looking for those first league points of the season.
Boro: Day, Smith (Tansey), Ashton, Charles, Hartley, Shroot, Dunne, Doughty, Freeman, Tounkara (Deacon), Lopez (Haber)
Subs not used: Arnold, Hills, Burrow, Heslop
Orient:Jones, Cuthbert, Clarke, Baudry, Omozusi, Odubajo, James (Bartley), Vincelot, Cox, Mooney, Lisbie (Batt)
Subs not used: Larkins, Sawyer, Lee, Lasimant, Gorman
Attendance: 3,262 (1,054 away)