MOONEY’S MAGIC IS THE DIFFERENCE
WITH Darius Henderson stuck in traffic, Fabio Liverani thrust David Mooney into his starting line-up and the striker scored the pivotal penalty, as Leyton Orient reignited their survival hopes.
The O’s ran riot for 50 minutes; scoring three, hitting the woodwork three times and missing a penalty. But for the first 40 minutes they were abject.
Liverani said: “Henderson got caught in a road accident, which kept him held up for hours, but we have a wide squad with quality players and I’m pleased with the players who played in his place.
“It was a possibility he could have started, but Mooney was the other possibility and that was fine.
“We were a bit scared in the first-half, but I’m very pleased with the performance in the second-half.
“Incidents play a big role in football and we had a big incident with the penalty and it turned the game.
“We did get a bit of luck with the second goal, but we also hit the post three times, so I don’t think we’re indebted to luck.”
Port Vale went ahead when Chris Birchall held off Gary Sawyer’s weak challenge to score across Alex Cisak.
It was less than Vale’s early ascendancy deserved. Louis Dodds’ powerful volley was saved and Chris Robertson’s shot cleared off the line.
Tom Pope should have doubled the lead, but Cisak half-saved and a sandy goalmouth slowed the ball enough for Mathieu Baldry to clear.
But having dominated for 40 minutes, Vale entered half-time charmed to be ahead.
Chris Neal dexterously diverted Mooney’s curling shot from the top corner and Dean Cox crashed a volley against the post.
Orient’s resurgence continued after the break. Neal denied Chris Dagnall from point-blank range, but the striker soon had his revenge with the goalkeeper’s pivotal red card that turned the game.
Dagnall rounded Neal and chose to fall over the grounded keeper, instead of rounding him and scoring into the empty net. Mooney scored the resulting penalty past Neal’s replacement Sam Johnson.
Thereafter traffic continued in one direction - one more than Henderson had earlier experienced on the A406.
Although Orient had gone seven matches without victory against 10 men, they battered Johnson’s goal.
The substitute stopper reacted well to deny Mooney and Dagnall hit the rebound against the post, but Johnson was at the centre of a horrendous cock-up for Orient’s second goal. He half came off his line to claim a cross, only for debutant loanee Neill Collins to head the ball into the vacant net.
Johnson then felled Mooney similarly to Neal had Dagnall, although the wider position ensured he avoided a similar fate.
He saved Mooney’s penalty, but could do nothing when Cox penetrated Vale’s backline and scored from 25 yards to lift Orient within a point of safety.
Vale manager Rob Page was a disappointed man after the turnaround in the second half saw his side head home empty-handed.
“As soon as he gave the penalty we have our backs against the wall,” he said. “It’s a penalty, but whether it’s a sending-off I don’t know, because the man was going away from goal.
“The frustrating thing is that we said at half-time, ‘limit the mistakes, make the right decisions, play in their half’ and we didn’t do that in the second-half. We invited pressure.
“There was only one team in it in the first-half. We got the goal and I thought we frustrated them into hitting longer passes.
“I was confident at half-time knowing that we were 1-0 up and that we’d had the majority of the play in that first-half.
“But we went out and made the wrong decisions, gave a penalty away and then it’s backs against the wall from there for us.”
JUMP FOR JOY: Dean Cox celebrates with Theo the mascot. Inset: Vale keeper Chris Neal is sent off for a foul on Chris Dagnall