Leyton Orient endured a tough start to life in the National League as they crashed to a comprehensive 2-0 defeat against Sutton United at Gander Green Lane.

The new look O’s confirmed manager Steve Davis’ worst fears about being as much as two weeks behind their league rivals, as a lethargic Orient were outplayed and outmatched by a hungrier Sutton side for long spells. 

There is no doubting Orient took longer to adjust to the 4G playing surface despite training on a similar surface in the lead up to their league opener, failing to muster too many clear cut openings.

First half goals, including a penalty by Sutton skipper Jamie Collins, and one from centre half partner Dean Beckwith proved decisive for the hosts.

An improved second half display will be of scant consolation to Davis and his players, who if they weren’t already, will now be under no illusions as to the challenge that will confront them this season.

There are no easy games in the National League and a sub-par performance on the opening day belied the party atmosphere emanating from the away end before kick-off. Cries of ‘Orient till I die’ reverberated around the away terrace as in the region of 1500 O’s supporters rallied their side before kick-off.

It’s a chant commonplace up and down the country though you got the feeling it had extra special meaning just weeks after owner Nigel Travis saved the club from the failed and, largely, traumatic Francesco Becchetti era.

Their side sporting 10 new faces looked up for the occasion, though both sides settled rather well in truth with long balls being the early route of choice.

But it took until the 11th minute for either side to force an opening. Nicky Bailey had to be on his toes to cut out a darting James Dayton cross for Jobi McAnuff at the expense of a corner.

Given how the rest of the first 45 minutes panned out, what seemed like a half chance at the time became something of a gilt edge miss in hindsight. 

It began promisingly enough as O’s captain Charlie Lee rose highest to meet the corner, but his looping header never threatened Jamie Butler in the United goal. 

And within moments, Orient found themselves chasing the contest. It owed much to the belligerence and persistence of Craig Dundas who bullied Joe Widdowson into winning a 50/50 challenge. 

Dundas got just a yard in front of the Orient left-back who clumsily brought him down, with referee David Rock showing no hesitation in pointing to the spot. On balance, he looked to have made the right decision.

Up stepped Sutton captain Jamie Collins who coolly slotted home from twelve yards past Charlie Grainger with 15 minutes played. 1-0 to Sutton with the game’s first shot on target, and in front of the Orient support to rub salt into the wounds.

After that setback, Davis would have demanded a reaction and, for a time, he looked to have got it. The visitors were on the front foot immediately and even had the ball in the net only for their celebrations to be cut so dramatically short.

Returning O’s striker Dave Mooney was more than entitled to challenge Sutton ‘keeper Butler with a high 50/50 ball and looked to have won the race, only for the referee to give the hosts a free-kick just as the ball nestled in the net.

That was a critical momentum swinger, especially when you consider that Orient struggled to create precious little else for the remainder of the half, or the match for that matter.

Sutton did not appear to be too phased by that passage of play and nearly struck from nothing as Dundas robbed a dawdling George Elokobi on the edge of his own area, only for Orient to snuff out the danger in the nick of time. 

Orient looked most dangerous from Lee’s long-throws, but to Sutton’s credit they were doing well to keep the in-form Macauley Bonne quiet. 

A half-hearted shout for a penalty was turned away as James Dayton went down under duress from Sutton full-back Aswad Thomas. Orient may have felt aggrieved by the referee’s decision not to even the spot-kick count up, and they were left ruing that decision as Sutton doubled their lead just four minutes later. 

Orient won’t reflect too fondly on their inability to clear their lines, but full credit to United who recycled the ball down the right hand side with Lafayette, and his perfect cross was attacked by Beckwith who split the back four to glance home. 2-0 with 34 minutes played looked a mountain to climb.  

As the rain lashed down at a momentarily soggy Gander Green Lane, even more baffling was the O’s lack of a shot on target in the entire half. Elokobi had their best sighter right on the stroke of the interval as he could only glance over the bar after being found from McAnuff’s free-kick.

Sutton were clearly brimming with confidence having won their last four pre-season games and with a handy 2-0 first half lead to protect. Simply put, they outworked Orient and won the battle of the elements as well. Things looked ominous.

The onus was very much on Davis’ side to break down the stubborn Sutton resistance and find ways to get Bonne and Mooney into the contest, two players who were passengers for long spells in the first half.

It wasn’t for the want of trying but Orient’s attempts to haul themselves back into the game were thwarted by a disciplined Sutton midfield who had clearly done their homework.

Neither side created much in the way of chances in the second period, though Sutton were never likely to with a comfortable 2-0 lead behind them.

One nervy and one inspired bit of goalkeeping summed up Grainger’s second half as he first flapped at a Sutton cross and then did well minutes later to punch away Bailey’s inviting ball in.

Lafayette passed up a golden chance to put the gloss on an excellent opening day display when he found himself in acres of space, only to squander the opening – dragging wide when he should have at least hit the target.

Davis turned to his substitutes as he tried to inject life into his ailing side, with the pacy Josh Koroma replacing McAnuff with 20 minutes to play.

Koroma nearly made a decisive contribution immediately, skipping down the right before bending a dangerous cross in only for Kenny Davis to clear for the corner.

The O’s first shot on target belatedly arrived through Dayton’s driven effort in the 73rd minute, a stat that went some way to highlighting how little Orient were able to create against a Sutton side who owned the midfield battle.

Sutton continued to look for the game killing third goal as Kieran Cadogan was afforded far too much room to pick out former Arsenal trainee Craig Eastmond. The ball eventually broke kindly though Bailey, who pit in a tireless shift, could only drag wide.

Paul Doswell’s side were able to see out the remainder of the match in largely uneventful fashion, but there is no doubting they thoroughly deserved their three points having won the tactical battle on the opening weekend.

Orient won’t get too down with defeat, though the manner of the loss highlights the work still required for Davis as he gets his squad up to speed and gels them in his system of choosing.

It was a chastening day regardless. No one connected with Orient came to Sutton expecting an easy ride, but their visit to Gander Green Lane reinforced just how tough a league the National League will be, with Orient offering little in resistance against an organised and efficient United side. 

Sutton United: Butler; Spence, Beckwith, Collins, Thomas; Bailey (Wright 88); Eastmond, Davis, Cadogan, Lafayette, Dundas

Not used: John, Monakana, Emmanuel, Taylor

Leyton Orient: Grainger; Caprice, Coulson, Elokobi, Widdowson; Dayton (Boco 84), Lee (Clay 80), Lawless, McAnuff (Koroma 69); Mooney, Bonne

Not used: Sargeant, Clark