Orient 3 Swansea 1

Sunday, 20 April 2003, 0:00
3 mins read

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Match Report from ic wales.co.uk

IT was no laughing matter for the Swans as they slithered back nearer a Conference abyss in London’s East End. A double from Chris Tate and borrowed Charlton destroyer Michael Turner sent them sliding – this after James Thomas had given Swansea an early lead. The setback – the Vetch side’s 20th of the campaign – now means tomorrow’s home bank holiday dogfight with rock-bottom Exeter is absolutely critical.

Swansea reshuffled coming into the clash. Former Wales U-21 international Thomas returned after a three-match absence, as did wide man Kieron Durkan – former Wrexham man Steve Watkin dropping to the bench, on-loan winger Brad Maylett recalled to Burnley last Monday. O’s manager Paul Brush was seeking to halt a potentially fatal slide. His side had lost five out of their last six matches, a run which saw them six points from the danger zone at kick-off. The Londoners had taken only four from 21 points available and they brought Justin Miller into central midfield. Easter transportational complications in London had failed to halt an army of 1,000 Swans followers who had marched into the East End, and Welsh voices pierced the air from the arena’s North Terrace. The Swans knew a maximum against Orient and over seemingly-doomed Exeter at The Vetch on Monday would probably have secured their 83-year Football League status.

Lenny Johnrose’s leaping challenge on Ciaran Toner in the opening seconds typified Swansea’s approach. And the visitors scythed through on two minutes. Thomas easily brushed centre-back Greg Heald aside but former Blackburn team mate Marc Richards pulled his left foot snapshot wide. But the Os were soon showing their teeth. Tate was off target with an angled header before Gary Alexander’s 25-yard block-buster screeched inches wide. The Swans were dramatically in front on seven minutes, though. Durkan’s raking ball completely split Orient’s point and Thomas advanced before producing an emphatic finish. But Flynn’s battlers had wilted to a classic sucker punch in just 60 seconds. Ex-Cardiff star Matthew Brazier fed Tate with a sublime left-side delivery. Tate saw his initial blast blocked but his follow-up squirmed under the sprawling body of Neil Cutler and into the net. It was a cruel blow for the Swans and emotions were boiling over – Brazier lectured by Leicester referee Paul Danson for pushing Lee Jenkins to the floor.

Orient were displaying fresh belief and Alan Tate had to lunge at Wayne Purser deep in the box – this, after the jittery Cutler had miscued. But borrowed Stoke keeper Cutler was atoning for his errors on 19 minutes – deflecting Purser’s rasping drive to safety with a breathtaking one-handed stop. The former Aston Villa custodian then twice foiled Alexander but he must have been relieved as Jason Smith nodded Toner’s chip off the line. Swansea were coming under increasing pressure and Orient looked to have legitimate claims for a spot kick after Smith appeared to hold Alexander in the box. Both rearguards seemed ready to disintegrate at any moment and the Swans almost regained the lead on 27 minutes – Lee Harrison brilliantly flipping away Durkan’s arcing drive. Tate then missed a sitter and Cutler pawed away Alexander’s 20-yard special.Cutler was performing more heroics as he thwarted Tate and bravely dived amongst the feet to foil Miller. At the interval, Swansea replaced Durkan with John Williams, Glenn Morris came on for the injured Harrison in the Orient goal and John Martin slotted in for Toner. And the Swans new formula so nearly sparked immediate dividends. Ten seconds into the restart, Williams set up Thomas who blazed over from 12 yards.

The wastefulness was magnified seven minutes later as the Os went in front – Turner rising highest to nod home Matt Lockwood’s corner.Stunned Swansea were finding it difficult to break Orient’s stranglehold. But Thomas’s bending free-kick was just held under his bar by Morris.The Swans were staring down both barrels of defeat just after the hour as they crumbled to another set-piece, though.Lockwood again supplied, this time for Tate to pounce with a jack-knife header.

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