Paynter And Thomas Fire Pools To Victory
Pools kept a fourth consecutive clean sheet for the first time since 2006 and extended their unbeaten run to six games as goals from Billy Paynter and Nathan Thomas secured victory at Leyton Orient.
Craig Hignett’s men were well worth the three points that lifted them to 17th position in the League Two table and it was a result which rarely looked in doubt once Paynter pounced four minutes in to the second half.
A brilliant solo goal from Thomas wrapped up the win which was lapped up by the travelling 359 Pools fans who saluted their heroes in yellow in the rain at the final whistle.
Hignett opted to keep with the same side which had started the last three games, though Rob Jones returned to the substitutes’ bench after shaking off a head injury.
It was Kevin Nolan’s hosts who started the better in the opening exchanges and could have gone in front when a careless Nicky Featherstone pass was intercepted by Ollie Palmer on the edge of the box but Armand Gnaduillet fired his shot over.
Thomas showed signs of what was to come as Pools crept back in to the game and started to dominate possession; first the winger crossed for Jackson to head just wide before he unleashed a shot of his own which flashed over.
Pools underlined their improvement by pinning the home side back with a succession of corners but could not find a way to test keeper Alex Cisak.
At the other end Gnanduillet curled one effort straight at Trevor Carson before nodding another over the bar while Adam Jackson had to be brave to block a shot from Palmer after the O’s front man got in to space eighteen yards out.
Luke James committed a similar block from Nigel Atangana as Pools struggled to clear the resultant corner, while Jake Carroll had to be alert to stop the dangerous Jay Simpson getting a clean shot on goal and Jackson blocked well from the rebound.
Player-boss Nolan could perhaps have done better as half-time approached when Sean Clohessy’s ball across from the right found its way to him at the far post but he struck his shot in to the turf which made it easy for Carson.
Right on the stroke of the break Pools thought they had the breakthrough when Thomas delivered an inch-perfect free-kick from the left which was headed powerfully home by Paynter only for the offside flag to cut the celebrations short.
But it was a mere stay of execution for the hosts because just four minutes after the restart James spun cleverly to feed Carroll who drove down the left wing to slip a low ball across goal where Paynter was waiting to slide home the opener at the far post.
Pools’ confidence soared further on the back of the goal and James could have added another with a looping header as Hignett’s men started to run all over their hesitant hosts.
The crucial second goal arrived on 69 minutes and it was worth the wait. A determined run from Lewis Hawkins opened things up and he switched the ball right for Thomas. The winger fronted up his defender, poked it cheekily through his legs before sprinting past him in to the area and smashing an unerring finish past the helpless Cisak.
Nicky Featherstone helped protect the clean sheet when he did well to block on the line when Palmer’s header appeared goalbound from a right-wing corner, while Carson made a typically-incredible save across to his right when substitute Blair Turgott must surely have through he’d scored.
The save seemed to draw the final hope from Orient’s players and Pools saw the game out relatively comfortably after that and could even have added a third late on when Brad Walker slipped a wonderful ball through for fellow substitute Michael Woods who went clear only to be denied by Cisak.
Not since the days of Danny Wilson in 2006/07 have Pools kept four consecutive clean sheets, but while that defensive stubbornness won’t end in promotion as it did that season, it certainly gives encouragement for a brighter future at The Vic.
Full Time: Leyton Orient 0 Pools 2
Attendance: 5543 (359 Pools)
Booked: Featherstone (52)
Leyton Orient: Cisak, Clohessy, Hunt. Ramage, Binnom-Williams, Payne (James 75), Atangana, Nolan (Shaw 61), Gnanduillet (Turgott 61), Simpson, Palmer.
Subs Not Used: Moore, Pollock, Gregory, Koroma.
Pools: Carson, Magnay, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone, Gray (Walker 83), Hawkins (Woods 76), James (Bingham 88), Paynter, Thomas.
Subs Not Used: Bartlett, Oates, Richards, R Jones.