Tranmere Rovers, who harboured hopes of sneaking into the play-offs before kick-off, seemed intent on defending deep and hitting Orient on the counterattack right from the first whistle. Their tactics paid off in the 37th minute when Kane Hemmings nodded them in front, despite the fact that Orient had controlled large portions of the first half.
The second 45 minutes played out in much the same pattern as the first as Orient controlled possession but found it difficult to create many clear sights of goal.
Tranmere needed results elsewhere to fall their way if they were to secure a play-off spot but Swindon Town’s win at Walsall means that they will remain in League Two next season.
Tom James returned to the Orient’s starting eleven after spending the last five months out with a hamstring injury. Richie Wellens also opted to bring Darren Pratley and Adam Thompson back into the team following the victory away at Crawley Town last weekend.
Tranmere Rovers Manager, Micky Mellon, named an unchanged starting eleven from last Saturday’s win against Oldham Athletic.
Omar Beckles was voted as the player’s player of the season prior to kick off following his exemplary campaign in the centre of the O’s defence.
The opening stages passed without any real incident of note. The O’s best moment came when Connor Wood produced a clever lofted through ball to find Aaron Drinan in the Tranmere penalty area, but the O’s top scorer this season couldn’t quite manage to bring the ball under his spell.
Hector Kyprianou denied Tranmere a clear sight of goal in the 16th minute when his perfectly timed slide tackle prevented Kane Hemmings from opening the scoring for the visitors.
The O’s had their first shot at goal in the 17th minute when Darren Pratley headed Tom James’ cross straight at Joe Murphy in the Tranmere goal.
Tom James’ exemplary delivery from the right wing was asking serious questions of the Tranmere defence. The O’s went close again when Paul Smyth headed another one of James’ crosses over the bar.
James almost capped his return with a goal. The Orient defender’s long-range strike beat goalkeeper Joe Murphy but cannoned back off the post.
It was Tranmere though who broke the deadlock when Kane Hemmings headed Josh Cogley’s low cross past Lawrence Vigouroux in the 37th minute to score a goal that came totally against the tun of play. The travelling fans in the away end didn’t seem to mind too much though as they celebrated a potentially important goal in their team’s quest for a play-off spot.
The visitors created the first opening of the second half when a swift counterattack ended with Lewis Warrington blazing his side-footed effort over the crossbar.
Richie Wellens decided to make an early second half substitution after watching his team struggle to create chances. Wellens swapped Harry Smith for Tom James as the O’s changed to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Jordan Brown moving to right back.
The Orient head coach made his second and third changes ten minutes later as Ruel Sotiriou and Alex Mitchell were introduced in place of Paul Smyth and Darren Pratley.
Jay Spearing was introduced for the visitors in the 68th minute and almost got himself on the scoresheet just two minutes later. The former Liverpool midfielder rolled his effort from the edge of the penalty area just wide of the bottom corner.
There were strange scenes in the 75th minute of the game when referee Sebastian Stockbridge awarded Orient a penalty for handball only to then overturn his decision after speaking to his assistant. Orient haven’t scored from a penalty in the league since January 2021. The wait goes on…
Wellens’ substitutions had the desired effect as The O’s took full control of the contest. Ruel Sotiriou saw an effort deflect wide of the post before Alex Mitchell’s improvised effort from the resulting corner rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.
Orient failed to create a clear goal-scoring opportunity in the closing stages as the match ended in defeat for Richie Wellens’ team.
Full-Time: Leyton Orient 0 – 1 Tranmere Rovers
Attendance: 6,623 (773)