TOWN supporters were celebrating within three minutes of kick-off – but ended up debating a lost opportunity of three points.
Just how did Lee Clark’s side go from being two up in the 49th minute to being held by a side who finished with 10 men?
Failure to take the chances which would have put the game beyond doubt is one, with both Lee Novak, scorer of the second goal, and Benik Afobe unable to find the necessary finish as Town tried to go three to the good.
Then came sloppy defending and the needless concession by Jamie McCombe of a touchline free-kick which led to Orient’s 87th-minute leveller by Jimmy Smith.
By that stage, the Londoners were down to 10 men after Harry Kane, scorer of their first goal in the 73rd minute, had been red carded four later for a second bookable offence, his foul on Anthony Pilkington following a first-half caution for a late tackle on Peter Clarke.
It meant an afternoon which started with a sweet 17th goal of the season for Jordan Rhodes ended on a sour note.
Manager Clark responded to his shortage of options at left-back by announcing the loan signing of Sheffield United’s Stephen Jordan on the morning of the match and handing him an immediate debut.
But he had plenty of frontline options, even allowing for the late withdrawal of Danny Cadamarteri, who would have been on the bench but suffered a back spasm during the warm-up.
He chose to go with Rhodes, back after an ankle injury, and Afobe as Town reverted to 4-4-2 and the pair soon linked up to find a way through the Orient defence and get their side off to a flying start.
Lee Peltier, who was outstanding in midfield, won the ball off Orient’s FA Cup hero and ex-Town target Jonathan Tehoue before he freed Afobe, who was making his first start in 14 matches.
With Orient upset that the ball had hit referee Peter Quinn, Afobe unselfishly squared his pass to Rhodes, who made the most of the space he was in to shoot past Jamie Jones.
Rhodes had another effort blocked by Tommy Carroll before the game lost a little of its rhythm as both sides were forced into early substitutions.
Kane went on for Stephen Dawson after the Orient skipper landed awkwardly following an aerial challenge with Peltier in the 20th minute while Scott Arfield replaced Gary Roberts, who had a tight hamstring, in the 29th.
While Orient twice put balls across the face of goal with nobody able to get a touch, Town went close through Rhodes, who had another shot blocked, Kevin Kilbane, who drove just over and Afobe, whose strike was blocked by Terrell Forbes.
The second goal finally came four minutes after the break when Novak, on for the illness-hit Rhodes, flicked home Pilkington’s pass.
Novak’s 61st-minute shot from Kilbane’s pass went just wide while 10 minutes later, Afobe was denied by the combination of keeper Jones and centre-back Forbes as he tried to convert after McCombe headed Clarke’s high ball across the area.
Two minutes later, after Afobe yielded possession, Orient pulled a goal back, with Alex Revell passing to Alex Cox, whose centre was glanced in by Kane.
The visitors’ task became harder when Kane saw red, but the side unbeaten in 12 going into Saturday’s game still stretched that run after McCombe’s foul on Spurs loanee Paul-Jose M’Poku gave set-piece ace Cox the chance to swing the ball in for Smith to head home.