The Hatters’ seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions came to an end, as they were edged out by the odd goal in three at Edgeley Park against League Two leaders Leyton Orient.
In a first meeting for more than a dozen years between the two sides – who also happened jointly to top the recent form table – and in front of a sell-out home crowd, County took a fourth-minute lead through Myles Hippolyte, before the ‘O’s’ equalised just before the first half’s mid-point and scored the winner halfway through the second.
County took to the field on a sunny autumnal afternoon with a starting line-up unchanged from that at Newport a week earlier. And there was just one difference on the bench, with Ryan Rydel replacing Calum MacDonald.
The first attack of note, with a couple of minutes played, saw Hippolyte, to the left of goal and six yards out, collect a Paddy Madden through-ball and fire a low shot against the legs of visiting goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux – although the County player was simultaneously flagged offside.
But two minutes later, County’s number 21, in a similar position, went one better to give the Hatters an early lead. Kyle Wootton teed up Will Collar, whose cross from the right was squared by Madden for Hippolyte to slot home for his second goal of the campaign.
The Hatters continued the momentum with efforts on target from Madden and Wootton, which Vigouroux – on his 29th birthday – kept out with hands and legs respectively. But in the 20th minute, and with their first attempt on the County goal, the East London visitors were back on level terms, as a throw from the left was flicked on by Omar Beckles for his captain, Darren Pratley, to head into the near top corner of the net.
A County corner on the right saw the Hatters go close to regaining the advantage, as Chris Hussey’s in-swinging delivery was prodded towards goal from the near post by Akil Wright – only for Dan Happe to clear off the line – before Macauley Southam-Hales recycled the ball from the right for Collar, who headed over.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Hippolyte, 4), Leyton Orient 1 (Pratley, 20).
Kicking towards the Cheadle End upon the resumption, County’s initial second-half test of Vigouroux came courtesy of a looping delivery from the right by Southam-Hales that the ‘keeper caught on his line – before counterpart, Ben Hinchliffe, smothered an effort at the other end from Paul Smyth, following an Orient counter-attack that culminated in the diminutive striker cutting through on the left.
Seven minutes after the hour, the visitors went ahead – when following their first corner of the afternoon, taken by Theo Archibald on the left, Idris El Mizouni, from outside the box, struck a thunderbolt of a shot that Hinchliffe brilliantly tipped on to the near upright, before Omar Beckles followed up to fire in on the rebound.
With a dozen minutes left, Hinchliffe stretched again to parry Charlie Kelman’s low shot around the right post. And while much of the remaining play was concentrated in the away half, the table-toppers’ defence stood firm to see out proceedings and deny County a share of the spoils.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Hippolyte, 4), Leyton Orient 2 (Pratley, 20; Beckles, 67).
Team (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Wright, Horsfall, Hussey; Southam-Hales, Collar, Croasdale (Crankshaw, 77), Hippolyte; Sarcevic; Wootton, Madden (Capt.).
Unused Subs: Jones, Evans, R. Johnson, Brown, Rydel, Lewis.
Man of the Match: Southam-Hales.
Attendance: 9,368 (735 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.