Reds couldn’t improve on their impressive record against Orient as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat to the SkyBet League 2 play-off chasers at Brisbane Road.
Mark Yates didn't mince his words afterwards, describing the performance as 'pathetic' and apologising to the 301 travelling fans who witnessed it.
The visitors managed to prevent the league’s top scorer Jay Simpson from adding to his 22 goals this season but two goals from Armand Gnanduillet on 40 and 70 minutes gave Orient a routine win against a Crawley side who defended doggedly for long stages but hardly threatened at the other end.
Mark Yates made one change to the side which drew with Plymouth as Jon Ashton came in for the injured Tom Dallison with new signings Lyle Della-Verde and Frankie Sutherland both named on the bench. Among the O’s subs were former Crawley defender Connor Essam.
A bitterly cold wind and lively, firm pitch hardly encouraged flowing football and for 40 minutes there was little in the game, although the O’s bossed possession and created what chances there were.
Nicky Hunt, the former Bolton defender who played against Reds for Mansfield last September, hit one from 30 yards that Paul Jones was happy to see fly just over and top scorer Jay Simpson was denied by Jones in the 17th minute, although it was a routine save by the Reds’ keeper from the striker’s angled effort.
Orient won several corners but Reds defended solidly without threatening at the other end. Lee Barnard and Gwion Edwards had little service to feed off and at times it looked as if Andy Bond was holding things together in midfield for Crawley with the more offensive players struggling to get forward in support of the front two.
But it was still a slight surprise when the deadlock was broken, especially the quality of the goal from Gnanduillet in the 41st minute, which was certainly not in keeping with what had gone on beforehand.
The Frenchman spun past Josh Yorwerth too easily and let fly from 25 yards and his left-foot shot flew into the top left-hand corner with Jones well beaten.
Reds switched to a more attack-minded 4-4-2 at the break and Orient keeper Alex Cisak was finally tested in the 52nd minute when he pushed out a powerful drive from Roarie Deacon, who had cut in from the let and let fly.
Sonny Bradley challenges Orient's two-goal striker Armand Gnanduillet
But the home side then wasted two great chances in the space of 90 seconds. Simpson went for placement rather than power 12 yards out and side-footed straight at Jones then Gnanduillet muscled his way into the box but his effort from similar range was straight at the Crawley keeper. Kevin Nolan then side-footed over from close range after clever work by Gnanduillet.
The second half was a much better spectacle than the first – it could hardly have been any worse – and Yates made a double change in the 62nd minute as Matt Harrold and Shamir Fenelon came on for Barnard and Tomlin.
Harrold’s first involvement was to block Simpson’s shot and as the game entered the final quarter Orient looked the side far more likely to find the target and they duly doubled their lead in the 70th minute.
Sean Clohessy provided a decent cross from the left and Gnanduillet side-footed it back and past Jones into the far corner for 2-0.
Jones prevented Simpson from adding to Orient’s lead two minutes later when he blocked his powerful shot as the hosts continued to look menacing every time they got into the final third.
Della-Verde came on for his debut in the 74th minute on the left of midfield and showed one or two nice touches, including a reverse pass that nearly put Deacon in, while Chris Atkinson came close to scoring a stoppage-time consolation but his effort went wide of Cisak. But Orient were comfortable winners.