Sometimes it’s just not your night.
Walsall were on the end of a Cox-up last night as Leyton Orient inflicted a harsh defeat to deny them a shot at second spot.
Orient man Dean Cox reportedly confessed his 60-yard winner was a fluke after his effort from inside his own half sailed over Karl Darlow.
The midfielder apparently told Walsall’s players he was attempting to play the ball back to Darlow with team-mate Anthony Griffith down needing attention.
Whether he was just being humble matters little as it put the game out of Walsall’s reach after Lee Cook’s opener silenced the sluggish Saddlers.
It was emphatic as much as it was embarrassing for the hosts who paid the price for a slow first half.
They gave themselves too much to do despite a second-half rally which almost earned another important and impressive point.
Will Grigg’s first goal of the season, from the spot, handed them a lifeline and a more merciful official would have awarded two further penalties.
And now October will put the Saddlers in a more realistic position. Whether it be in the top six or mid-table, Walsall’s place in the League One pecking order will be far clearer by November 1.
Five more league games, including Sheffield United and Bury, will determine whether they have real staying power.
Saturday’s game with Carlisle offers a swift chance at redemption before the derby double with Port Vale and Shrewsbury.
Victory could have taken them second, with other favourable results, but the defeat which leaves them ninth will not leave the Saddlers downhearted.
They were, last night, in unfamiliar territory. Expectation had risen and they were essentially favourites after a start which had revived memories of Ray Graydon’s era.
The spotlight is now on them from afar and their development will be studied.
And the lauded sprit isn’t just a sideshow. Those who have seen teams, players and managers come and go have been struck by the togetherness of the shoestring squad.
They work for each other and did so again last night, just not to the effect of previous weeks. It happens.
And Orient were no mugs. Efficient and organised the visitors had done their homework and deserve credit for their stifling efforts.
It’s a compliment to the Saddlers they arrived, packed the midfield and looked to contain.
The O’s arrived having lost their four-game unbeaten run in a 2-0 defeat to Doncaster on Saturday and were quick to deny the Saddlers space.
James Baxendale chipped over after eight minutes but just 90 seconds later Orient went ahead with Darlow gasping thin air.
Lee Cook wriggled free on the right and cut inside to unleash a rising drive which flew through the Forest loanee’s dive.
Darlow earned a slice of redemption with a smart stop from Cox’s far post header before a low save to deny Jimmy Smith.
But, despite flashes of intent, Walsall failed to threaten organised Orient – who doubled their lead in freak fashion on 29 minutes.
Griffith lay injured as everyone stopped apart from Cox who, from inside his own half, lobbed the back-peddling Darlow from 60-yards.
Deliberate or not, it rocked the hosts with Orient comfortably in control before the Saddlers emerged for the second-half with more urgency.
Andy Taylor’s free-kick was charged down by Orient’s massed ranks and Florent Cuvelier’s wasteful free-kick epitomised his night.
But the Saddlers pulled one back on 57 minutes when Purkiss was felled by Cook’s clumsy challenge after latching onto Baxendale’s delicious pass.
Grigg slammed the penalty down the middle to breathe new life into Walsall and Jamie Paterson tested Ryan Allsopp twice within 90 seconds.
But time was running out for the Saddlers and Febian Brandy’s penalty appeals were ignored with eight minutes left.
And, two minutes later, Andy Butler was denied by the post during an almighty goalmouth scramble.
It wasn’t going to be Walsall’s night and so it proved when Grigg was bundled over in the area in stoppage time and referee Bond dismissed their legitimate penalty claims.
Walsall have had plenty of good days already and there will be more to come. This just wasn’t one.
By Nick Mashiter