Blind as a Batt
Reporter: SIMON SMEDLEY
Date online: 07 October 2013
Athletic 1, Leyton Orient 1
NO wonder Shaun Batt headed sharply and very sheepishly for the corner of the field to celebrate his equaliser on his own.
Yards offside, he knew he'd got a touch to Kevin Lisbie's shot as he diverted the ball into the unguarded net with 20 minutes to go.
Orient boss Russell Slade later said he was happy to cherish the goal that preserved his team’s unbeaten record - because his side had been second-best almost throughout and profited from a howler by officials.
It was definitely Batt who flicked the ball into the net, and while you could understand if neither the referee nor the linesman saw the touch, it really was a killer that neither spotted anything untoward.
The furious reaction of the Athletic players must have given the pair a clue. But the man in the middle remained unmoved.
The goal pegged back Athletic to 1-1 after they had dominated superbly against Slade's confidence-fuelled high-fliers, and that was the way it stayed.
At least manager Lee Johnson will be able to take plenty of heart from another performance filled with energy, drive and enterprise - definitely one that can be seen as a platform to build on.
Big Genseric Kusunga was given the nod to make his Boundary Park bow and he slotted in beside James Tarkowski.
That meant Jonathan Grounds shifted to take up the left back position, while Joseph Mills pushed further forward to the left of the midfield four. Anton Rodgers was benched, so James Dayton flicked over to the right flank where he had an enterprising first half.
The other change was pretty much a straight swap; Jonson Clarke-Harris was benched as Danny Philliskirk moced alongside Charlie MacDonald.
Johnson might tinker, but he got his tweaking just right in the first half of this one – a game his side had been favourites to lose. By the interval, Athletic were deservedly a goal to the good, and had only been denied a second by the woodwork.
The O's were made to look distinctly average. Dayton lashed in two early daisy-cutters, the first saved by Jamie Jones and a second that fizzed inches wide, before the woodwork came to the visitors' rescue.
But Johnson's men were not to be denied nine minutes before the break. Skipper Korey Smith accurately played MacDonald through the middle, and the former O's front-man allowed the ball to sit up perfectly before he slammed it past a stunned Jones.
Either side of the interval, Orient threatened and Athletic needed a second goal. Mills saw a free-kick tipped over the crossbar and the hard-working James Wesolowski went close.
But once Batt had pounced so controversially for his leveller, the stuffing appeared to have been knocked out of the hosts.
Their best chance of a deserved winner came right at the death but it fell to the wrong man - sub Adam Rooney's effort was blocked, the ball fell for Kusunga near the penalty spot... but he panicked and fired his shot high and wide.
Have Your Say