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Leyton Orient 0, Southend United 1
SOUTHEND United manager Paul Sturrock celebrated his 150th game in charge of the club by edging closer to his first ever Wembley final with a 1-0 win at Leyton Orient on Tuesday night.
Ryan Leonard’s second half volley secured Blues victory in the first leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy southern section final at Brisbane Road.
But Southend were again grateful to a number of fine saves from in form goalkeeper Paul Smith.
He was first called in to action in the 19th minute of the match when Orient winger Lee Cook registered the evening’s first shot on target when he a curled a 30 yard free kick straight at the Blues keeper.
But, three minutes later, the home-side should have taken the lead when Cook’s deep left wing cross flew over the head of Ryan Cresswell and perfectly in to the path of David Mooney.
However, the O’s striker saw his close volley brilliantly kept out low down to his left hand side by Smith.
After that, the game – which was being played on a very poor pitch - quietened down until the 35th minute when Ben Reeves, who was making his first start for Blues since signing on loan from Southampton, saw a deflected 25 yard free kick fly past the right post.
But Orient immediately hit back with Shaun Batt taking advantage of a mistake from Mark Phillips to charge forward and have a low shot blocked by the legs of Smith.
Moments later, Batt was causing Southend more problems as he unleashed a well struck left footed shot which Smith did well to parry to safety.
That ensured the game remained goal-less at the break but it was Blues who created the opening chance of the second half as Chris Barker’s low left wing cross picked out Britt Assombalonga who fired over the crossbar from the left hand side of the penalty area.
Assombalonga then turned provider when his left wing cross teed up Kevan Hurst at the far post by the winger saw his shot on the slide deflected wide of the right post by Orient left-back Gary Sawyer.
But Southend were not to be denied the game’s opening goal and they took the lead in the 58th minute, with Leonard on target for the second game in succession.
The winger latched on to a right wing cross from Sean Clohessy and sent a deflected volley from six yards in to the back of the net.
Orient almost immediately hit back with Batt firing over from a promising position just outside the penalty area.
However, Blues replied and came close to doubling their lead in the 61st minute when a low, long range shot from Hurst clipped the outside of the left post.
But, having survived the scare, Orient missed a great chance to equalise in the 80th minute when Mooney broke the offside trap to race clean through on goal before sending a poor chipped shot over the crossbar.
After the miss, the game was held up with what looked like a serious injury to Michael Timlin.
The midfielder was stretchered off the pitch with his leg in a brace and was replaced in the centre of the park by John Spicer in the 87th minute of the match.
Barry Corr soon replaced Assombalonga in attack but Timlin’s injury meant eight minutes of stoppage time were played.
During that time, Orient substitute Afolabi Obafemi had a low shot well saved by Smith before Mooney slammed a 12 yard shot against the underside of the crossbar as Blues hung on to secure a third successive 1-0 lead.