Orient’s survival chances were dealt yet another blow after a strike from Cheltenham’s, Carl Winchester inflicted a 1-0 defeat on the struggling hosts despite their first half dominance.
Winchester’s strike on 21 minutes proved to be the difference, although Orient looked favourites to break the deadlock for much of the first half.
The result leaves the O’s on 29 points with 13 games to go, but they are only three points from safety after Hartlepool, who sit one place above them, lost at Colchester.
After the match, Orient manager, Danny Webb expressed his frustration:
“Today is a real gut-wrencher because I think we could have been out of sight after about 25 minutes. We didn’t take the chances, disappointed with the goal… the chance to get a point with the penalty sums up the day unfortunately.”
With the first kick, it was the Orient faithful making all the noise, getting right behind their side from all four sections of the ground.
It didn’t take long for the hosts to create their first real chance, when Gavin Massey was denied twice in a matter of seconds by Scott Brown in the Cheltenham goal.
Moments later, a knock down from Paul McCallum trickled across goal, but Nigel Atangana was unable to direct his effort on target at full stretch.
The Frenchman then had a bullet header brilliantly saved by Brown who was in inspired form. Despite Orient’s momentum, they were dealt a crushing blow as a Cheltenham break saw Winchester strike low into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to send the travelling supporters into raptures.
Before half-time, Orient had further chances to draw themselves level but lacked that bit of composure in front of goal. McCallum looped an effort high, before Josh Koroma’s first time shot from just inside the box buzzed agonisingly over the crossbar.
At the break, the score line did not reflect the pattern of play, with the only thing separating the teams being the fact that Cheltenham had succeeded in converting their only chance.
For the second half, Michael Clark was called upon to replace Tom Parkes, a change surely related to the latter’s ongoing injury problem.
Orient’s biggest opportunity of the match arrived just before the hour, when the hot to handle Massey was brought down as he entered the box.
The responsibility fell on the shoulders of left back Kennedy, whose shot was well saved by Brown down to his right-hand side.
In the closing stages, Sandro Semedo almost rescued a crucial point for the O’s but saw his long-range drive tipped over by Brown.
Despite Orient’s best efforts, the final whistle saw the players fall to the floor in anguish, knowing valuable points had slipped beyond their grasp.
After picking up a vital three points for his team, Cheltenham manager Gary Johnson reflected on his side’s resilience with Robins TV:
“I was very happy that they played like they knew how important this game was and they put in the energy… we did the job, it’s a great result for us under the circumstances.”
Orient’s chances of survival are certainly still alive despite another disappointing result. The application, spirit and will to win is clear to see in the players, yet results just do not appear to be falling in their favour.
Webb and his Orient outfit will need to pick themselves up and move on quickly, with their next game being a visit to ninth-placed Stevenage on Tuesday night.
Their last away trip ended in a stunning 3-2 win at Plymouth Argyle and if they can show the same determination and fight from previous weeks, all three points are well within touching distance.