Cambridge United were unable to recover from a poor first half as Leyton Orient took the spoils 2-3 in a dramatic Sky Bet League Two clash at the Abbey.
In a game that saw two red cards, eight bookings, two penalties, five goals and a wrongly disallowed goal, the U’s were edged out having fallen too far behind before the break to the O’s.
It was a relatively low key opening quarter to the game from both sides, who had named unchanged starting eleven’s, with neither goalkeeper having much in the way of action.
United would have therefore been hugely disappointed to have gone behind on 28 minutes, when a deep free kick into the U’s area was not dealt with and an Orient header back across the six yard box found the unmarked Jamie Turley who volleyed in with ease to give the visitors the advantage.
Colin Calderwood’s men were two behind seven minutes later, when Elliott Ward mistimed his challenge on Lee Angol in the area and Josh Wright converted at the second time of asking after Dimitar Mitov had saved the Orient man’s initial spot kick.
It got worse for the U’s in first half stoppage time when Jordan Maguire-Drew caught Mitov out with a free kick from 30 yards to find the top corner and extend the visitor’s lead to three before the break.
Jack Roles was introduced when the sides returned and quickly injected a little more life into the U’s attack. United created their first clear opening of the game shortly after when Paul Lewis fed a ball through to Harvey Knibbs who struck well but was denied by a save from Sargenat high to the keeper’s left.
Sam Smith headed Kyle Knoyle’s cross back across goal in 55 minutes which looked certain to pull a goal back for the U’s but again Sargeant reacted quickly to get a glove to the attempt - Knoyle was then forced to leave the field with a shoulder injury soon after and was replaced by Harrison Dunk.
Smith looked to have finally got United on the scoresheet on 65 minutes when the striker headed in from close range but the flag was promptly raised for an offside to chalk off the effort, which it transpired post-match was incorrect.
It was Jack Roles with a sublime goal who did give United hope though, as the Spurs loanee calmly took a touch out of his feet before curling a pearler into the bottom right corner with 20 minutes to play.
The chances continued to fall for the U’s as Harrison Dunk’s cross was met by a deft header from Smith, but Sargeant was again a thorn in United’s side. Smith eventually got his goal though from 12 yards after the striker had been hauled over in the Orient area for a penalty, to set up a tense finale.
Reggie Lambe and then Myles Judd were both given their marching orders a minute apart for second yellow cards in a dramatic closing ten minutes.
Sub Marc Richards had United’s best chance but couldn’t stretch his neck enough to make contact with Greg Taylor’s inswinging cross as United left themselves too much to do in the end.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle (Dunk 63 mins), Ward, Taylor, Jones, Carruthers, Lambe, Hannant (Roles, 45 mins), Lewis, Smith, Knibbs (Richards, 70 mins)
Bookings: Lambe, Taylor – RED -Lambe
Leyton Orient: Sargeant, Ekpiteta, Clay, Brophy (Coulson, 87 mins), Maguire-Drew (Harrold, 76 mins), Judd, Happe, Angol, Marsh (Kvprianou, 76 mins), Turley, Wright
Bookings: Marsh, Clay, Angol, Wright, Brophy, Embleton, Judd – RED Judd
Attendance: 5,408 (1,206)
Jackson Fire and Security Man of the Match: Jack Roles