Chesterfield’s nightmare start to the season – their worst for over a century – became even more depressing when key striker Jack Lester was badly injured.
The veteran scorer was trying to break the deadlock in Saturday’s B2net encounter when he collided with goalkeeper Lee Butcher and centre half Ben Chorley as he went in to try to turn a 78th minute left wing cross into the Orient net.
Referee Gary Sutton saw it as a foul by Lester and awarded a free kick to the visitors.
The Chesterfield camp felt Butcher had come over the top of Lester and that it should have been a penalty.
Whatever really happened, it was obvious Lester was badly hurt. He was carried from the pitch on a stretcher and taken to hospital for treatment for a suspected broken left arm.
With, ironically, last year’s top scorer Craig Davies looking on from the stand – Barnsley were without a game – Lester’s departure meant Chesterfield’s need for a strong centre forward has become even more pressing and the emergency loan market would appear to be manager John Sheridan’s priority destination.
Substitutes Dean Morgan, Scott Boden and Jordan Bowery, all attacking players, entered the action and all three had creditable efforts on goal in the time available to them.
But it ended in stalemate, to give Orient their first point of the campaign and condemn the Spireites to their worst start since the 1901-02 season, when they managed a single point from their first eight games.
Chesterfield played better than in recent matches, showing some neat flowing football at a good tempo and looking solid at the back. But the truth of the matter is that they failed to produce in the final third of the pitch, rarely troubling Butcher after one early save to deny debutante Alex Mendy.
The Frenchman, his international clearance finally completed, should have scored after just four minutes when Butcher’s throw-out put former Chesterfield loanee Charlie Daniels in trouble.
Mendy robbed the full-back and ran through on goal, only to be blocked by the advancing keeper.
Chesterfield enjoyed a purple patch as they penned Orient back for the opening half hour, with Chorley lucky not to score an own goal as Lester harried him.
Craig Westcarr curled an Ashley Young-style effort narrowly wide then had an effort blocked by a last-ditch tackle, before the former Notts County man set up Lester for a volley which went right of goal.
Another good chance fell to Simon Ford but the defender snatched at his left foot shot and hit it high over the bar, while at the other end Tommy Lee made an outstanding save to stop a snapshot from Marc Laird and one almost as good to hold a Dean Cox free kick.
The half ended with Chesterfield once again coming agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock, Orient somehow surviving an almighty scramble in which they cleared the ball off their line not once, but twice after the impressive Jonathan Grounds got his head to Danny Whitaker’s stoppage time corner and Mendy and Westcarr grabbed a piece of the follow-up action.
The tempo was not quite the same after the break although the chances continued to arrived, and continued to go begging.
Lester and Westcarr were both within inches of getting their toe ends to an inviting cross from Whitaker, who himself shot just wide after Lester made a great challenge to win the ball from a defender.
Cox missed Orient’s best chance when he headed wide from close range but Nathan Smith had the crowd on their feet with a superb run that almost brought his first goal since 2008.
The full-back, who had his best game by far in a Blues shirt, picked up the ball in his own half, beat two men at pace and cut inside before sending a right foot shot skidding inches wide of the target.
Chesterfield were given six extra minutes to try to force the winner, although there should have been at least eight minutes given that there were six substitutions and three bookings, each supposed to result in 30 seconds added time, plus the four minutes spent attending to Lester.
But it stayed goalless, prompting a rueful John Sheridan to say: “The game should have been over by half time. It was a very good performance, the new players did well and we should have won easily.
“We’ve only got two points from 18 so far and it could have been 7, 8 or 9. We should have won today and against Stevenage and should have got something from Exeter and Tranmere.
“The performance did not get the result it deserved. We will win more than we lose if we keep up that level of performance.”
Chesterfield: Lee; Talbot, Ford, Grounds, N.Smith; Mendy, Allott, Johnson (Morgan 75), Whitaker; Westcarr (Boden 71), Lester (Bowery 81). Unused subs: Fleming, Holden.