Jobi McAnuff’s first-half goal and Dean Brill’s penalty save helped Leyton Orient pick up a good point away from home in a 1-1 draw at Hartlepool United.
The draw cuts the O’s lead at the top of the National League to just a point after Solihull Moors’ win at Ebbsfleet United, but it was a good point gained in difficult conditions at Victoria Park.
Orient took the lead midway through the first half through McAnuff’s deflected effort, but the hosts levelled deep into first-half stoppage-time when Nicke Kabamba slotted in.
The away side, who fielded five changes from their FA Trophy win over Blyth Spartans, made a bright start to the game, enjoying most of the possession in the opening exchanges.
However, Hartlepool looked threatening on the break and had two early chances as Josh Hawkes had a header cleared by the O’s defence and then possession stolen from him by Dan Happe as he lined up to shoot.
Despite this, the visitors’ overall dominance paid off on 22 minutes when Matt Harrold, starting his second consecutive game, did well to hold up the ball in the box and he laid it back to the waiting McAnuff to fire in from outside the area.
Justin Edinburgh’s side almost clinched a second before half-time on two occasions, firstly when James Brophy’s effort was stopped by Michael Raynes after some excellent build-up play and then when Macauley Bonne couldn’t quite latch onto Jamie Turley’s flick.
Pools made the most of this, though, and drew level seconds before the break as a long ball over the top fell at the feet of Kabamba and he prodded home.
A lively start to the second half resulted in a big chance for the home side to turn the game around as they were awarded a penalty when Luke James was bundled over by Joe Widdowson.
Liam Noble stepped up, but Brill guessed correctly, brilliantly keeping hold of the strike to keep the scores as they were.
McAnuff went in search of his second of the game in response for the O’s but saw his effort well saved by Scott Loach, who tipped his driven shot around the post.
Substitute James Alabi then had a chance to snatch a win as Bonne rose highest to flick it into his path, but Loach was off his line quickly and smothered at the feet of the forward.
The final two chances of the game also went to the visitors, firstly when Alabi’s shot was blocked by a blue shirt and when Widdowson’s far post effort was somehow pushed onto the post by Loach.
The point keeps the O’s at the top of the National League by a point going into next weekend’s home game against Maidenhead United on Saturday, February 16.
Orient team: Brill; Judd, Turley, Happe, Widdowson; Brophy, Clay, Lee (Lawless 80), McAnuff (C); Bonne, Harrold (Alabi 68)
Subs: Sargeant, Sotiriou, Ogie