Oct 21 2013 by Nick Hilton, Main WIR
THE outcome of the contest between the team who have not won at home all season and the unbeaten visitors from the top of the league was predictable enough in the end.
The journey that led Tranmere to a fourth defeat in six League One outings at Prenton Park took some puzzling turns along the way and ultimately left manager Ronnie Moore with more problems to solve.
The flicker of optimism brought on by a good performance and an even better result in the 1-0 win at Bradford City at the start of the week was extinguished in a miserable final 30 minutes.
Under darkening skies and bursts of heavy rain, Rovers conceded three goals and had skipper and defensive strongman Ian Goodison sent off for a straight red card offence, while the discipline that kept them competitive during the first hour melted away.
Goodison's off the ball attack on Orient striker Kevin Lisbie with a flailing arm is liable to be reported by referee Richard Clark as violent conduct, which would mean a three-game ban for the Jamaican.
Moore was deeply disappointed with Goodison's lapse of judgement on a day when he was presented by chairman Peter Johnson with a silver plate to mark 400 appearances in a Rovers shirt.
Some puzzling events followed, which did not reflect well on referee Clark.
He awarded a penalty for Goodison's original challenge on Lisbie in the 63rd minute. The Orient striker was not allowed to take the kick because he had received treatment and had to be off the field when play restarted.
David Mooney stepped up to take the kick and struck his shot against the post. The ball rebounded against his legs and then back into the net.
Mr Clark initially signalled a goal then, belatedly responding to Tranmere protests and the signal from his assistant, changed his mind and ruled the strike out because the ball had gone dead when it struck the woodwork.
In the official's defence he may have believed goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams got a touch on Mooney's shot, which would have made the ball Iive. Yet he should have had a closer view of the incident than the linesman.
Orient's third goal, scored by Dean Cox also caused some consternation. Some people on the ground and some of the home players thought Mr Clark had blown for a foul by Ryan Lowe just before Cox fired a low shot past Fon Williams from the edge of the box.
No sooner had Mr Clark signalled the goal than he was reaching for a yellow card to brandish to Lowe.
Not that Tranmere could blame the officials for being anything more than a distraction from the main story: they were well beaten by a better side.
Orient were by no means dominant throughout. Their performance had all the hallmarks of a team high on confidence after reeling off 10 wins in the first dozen games.
They exploited opportunities with clinical efficiency and in the words of manager Russell Slade "kept their foot on the throat of the opposition."
The Londoners are enjoying a start even better than the one Tranmere made 12 months ago when leading the division after a dozen games.
Lisbie, whose two strikes took his tally to 11 for the season, attracts much of the media attention but Lloyd James ties Orient's football together with quiet efficiency from midfield and Slade has so far been able to keep team changes to a minimum.
Orient used 31 players last season when they recovered from a slow start to finish seventh. There's still time to Rovers to make a strong recovery this term, but they need to find from somewhere the confidence that brings the best out of bargain basement players and they must break the habit of shooting themselves in the foot.
Starting with the same line-up and 4-5-1 formation that succeeded at Bradford, Tranmere did an effective job of containing Orient during the first half and considered themselves unfortunate to reach the interval a goal down.
They conceded on 22 minutes to a goal well set up by James' cross and finished from a dozen yards by Lisbie. Rovers might have equalised four minutes later when Ash Taylor headed Chris Atkinson's free kick against the foot of the right-hand post.
Visiting centre back Matthew Baudry also hit the woodwork with a header and two minutes after the break Cox contrived to poke Lisbie's cross from the right back position across the face of goal when it looked easier to score.
The game began to run out of Tranmere's reach when Lisbie added a sweet second goal on 61 minutes, latching onto Cox's flick with a first-time chip into the top corner from just inside the box.
Tranmere were obliged to adopt a more attacking formation and Moore withdrew midfield anchor Tom Hateley, who had done an effective job of protecting the back four.
Two minutes later Goodison's dismissal made a difficult task impossible.
Cox's shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards on 78 minutes was a quality finish for the third goal and Rovers were ripped open by Shaun Batt's pace on the counter-attack when the substitute ran through to score the fourth goal on 85 minutes.