Craig Clay praised Leyton Orient’s character after the O’s showed great spirt to earn a point against Hartlepool United, despite playing most of the second half with ten men.

The O’s were left with an uphill task when left-back Joe Widdowson was sent off for a tackle on Michael Woods by referee Adrian Quelch with half an hour remaining.

Usually teams go defensive after losing a player to hang on to a result but not Orient, as they were in the ascendancy towards the end of the game as they desperately tried to earn a crucial three points against a Hartlepool side who also harbour hopes of challenging for promotion.

Jobi McAnuff, Marvin Ekpiteta and James Alabi all came close to opening the scoring, but it was James Brophy who had the chance of the game, but he could only send his effort wide of the target with only Scott Loach to beat.

The O’s threw everything at Hartlepool and had four strikers on the pitch towards the end of the game, but they just couldn’t find that elusive opener.

Clay was left with mixed emotions after the final whistle, but was full of praise for Orient’s team spirit given the way they reacted to Widdowson’s dismissal.

He said: “We’ve got a great set of lads. We’ve dug deep again today. It shows a lot when you’re coming away with a 0-0 draw with ten men that you’re frustrated and not quite happy with it. It shows how far we’ve actually come.

“The last ten minutes or so, I was running on empty a little bit and all the boys were. It’s tough against eleven men. It’s a good point. It’s frustrating at the same time but credit to the boys.”

The main talking point from the game, though, was Quelch’s decision to send Widdowson for an early bath, with head coach Justin Edinburgh stating that the left-back’s dismissal was ‘completely wrong.’

However, the O’s have now decided not to appeal the red card, meaning they will be without the 29-year-old for three games.

The left-back’s absence will now provide a chance for the likes of Sam Ling or Dan Happe to stake their claim for a place in the O’s starting line-up.

Losing Widdowson for the next three matches will be a blow for the O’s, as the 29-year-old has been one of the club’s most consistent performers since Edinburgh became head coach back in November.

Clay, like Edinburgh, was bemused by the referee’s decision to dismiss Widdowson and believes the O’s squad depth will allow them to cope with the left-back’s absence in the coming weeks.

On Widdowson’s red card, the midfielder said: “Not being funny, but it’s a man’s game and a full blooded challenge. I was right next to it and personally, I don’t think it’s a sending off. We’ve looked back at it with Joe and analysed it and all the boys agree that it’s not a sending off.

“As you’ll probably see on the highlights, six or seven of them have got around the referee and maybe they’ve got in his head a little bit which is never good to see. But we don’t think it’s a red card.

“Joe’s been class. He’s been solid and he’ll obviously be a big miss for us in the next three games. But we’ll go back to the squad depth and we’ve got people to come in and cover for him who are just as good.”