HOLDING a 3-0 lead at the break, title protagonists Forest Green had the game done and dusted, but a monumental second-half response from manargless Leyton Orient pushed Mark Cooper’s side to the wire in a compelling six-goal thriller in the capital.
Powerhouse midfielder Ebou Adams enhanced his growing reputation with a first-half double and striker Matty Stevens pounced for the third in a one-sided opening 45 minutes, which also saw O’S caretaker boss Ross Embleton sent to the stands.
However, former Cheltenham Town striker Matt Harrold pulled a goal back after the break and substitute Jordan Maguire-Drew added a second to make it interesting. Josh Coulson almost snatched an unlikely point with three minutes to go before substitute Junior Mondal settled the nerves for Rovers with a 90th minute fourth.
Now winless in five, the O’s are a side in a state of flux after axing former Plymouth Argyle boss Carl Fletcher after less than a month.
In contrast, Rovers are rude health despite losing their place at the top of the League Two tree last time out, Forest Green head coach Mark Cooper was forced to make one change from the team beaten 1-0 against Plymouth Argyle. Key defender Liam Kitching missed out due to suspension – player-coach Matt Mills taking his place. Joseph Mills was fit to play after coming off with a hamstring tweak last weekend.
In a frenetic opening 120 seconds it was Rovers who flew out of the traps. Matt Mills finding Aaron Collins who lifted his half-volley over the bar. In the blink of an eye the play swung to the other end – Orient’s Dale Gorman spanking the post with just Joe Wollacott to beat.
Adams is a burgeoning talent but is clearly a marked man – earning two early free-kicks to underline his record as the most fouled player in the EFL.
And it was Adams who nosed Rovers ahead on 15 minutes. Showing deft feet his ball allowed Liam Shephard the space to unleash a strike for the alert Adams to turn in the rebound of veteran keeper Dean Brill.
And in the wake of the goal – an exasperated Embleton was sent to the stands, while his managerial counterpart Cooper was shown a yellow card.
Inevitably that man Adams was at it again – grabbing his second on 33 minutes – the gladiatorial midfielder succinctly finding the bottom corner after showing acute awareness to pounce on a blocked ball from Stevens’ fizzer.
Rovers were rampant and threatened a third as the first-half clock ticked.
On the cusp of the break only a stunning Brill stop denied a thumping Farrend Rawson header and from the corner Celtic loanne Jack Aitchison watched his goal bound strike blocked.
Such was their utter dominance; Rovers were rewarded with a third on 43 minutes. Aitchison turned creator and his ball picked out the sliding Stevens who prodded home for his sixth goal of the season.
Shell-shocked and on their knees, Orient were looking for a positive start to the second period and they found it 10 minutes after the resumption. Half-time substitute Jordan Maguire-Drew delivered a free-kick for ex- Cheltenham Town striker Harrold to plant a header beyond Wollacott to offer the O’s a glimmer of hope.
Rovers hit their straps again. All-action Aitchison saw his dart into the box ended by the outstretched leg of Brill as Cooper’s side threatened a fourth.
Wollacott’s dexterity denied Josh Wright a certain goal, the Forest Green keeper leaping to repel his header with 25 minutes left.
Rovers wobbled with 12 minutes left. Lee Angol’s cross deflected off Matt Mills for Maguire-Drew to pounce.
Squeaky bum time ensued as Orient poured forward in search of an unlikely point. With three minutes of normal time to go plucky Orient hit the bar from a Coulson strike which bounced on the line.
However, Modal brought the anxiety down with a killer fourth on 90 minutes following exquisite work from Stevens.
With leaders Swindon Town winning 1-0 at home to Mansfield Town, Rovers remain second, two points behind their west country rivals with a game in hand.
LEYTON ORIENT: Brill, Ling (Alabi 90), Turley, Coulson, Happe, Wright, Angol, Gorman (Maguire-Drew 45), Clay, Brophy, Harrold
Bookings: Clay 39, Brophy 41, Turley 49
Subs not used: Ekpiteta, Sargeant, Dennis, Marsh, Ogie
FOREST GREEN: Wollacott, Bernard, M Mills, Rawson, J Mills, Adams, Winchester, Shepard, Aitchison (Dawson 78 ), Collins (Mondal 67), Stevens (McGinley 90)
First published by http://stroudnews uk