Danny Johnson: Leyton Orient’s fox in the box makes Mansfield Town pay as the O’s come out victorious


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The striker was able to capitalise on the Stags’ mistakes at the back as his brace saw Orient come out as 2-0 victors yesterday afternoon.

Danny Johnson has been involved in nearly 40% of his sides’ goals and already has 19 this season in all competition, his best tally since turning professional back in 2011.

After moving on from Middlesbrough’s youth ranks, the forward had to work hard at Hartlepool’s academy. He suffered another rejection, even though he scored 21 goals in the 2010/11 season for the young Pools. A move abroad to Spain’s Real Murcia only lasted a year and he returned back to England with Harrogate Town.

After making just two appearances for the Town in the National League North, he dropped down to the Northern Football League Division One as he looked to establish himself in the lower leagues.

Starting at Billingham Synthonia and then moving onto Guisborough Town was the correct call for the Middlesbrough-born striker.

62 appearances and 65 goals in the lower leagues proved how much of a prolific goalscorer Johnson is. For the Priorymen alone he scored 59 times in the 2013/14 season as scouts from the higher divisions kept a close eye on the forward.

After attracting interest from Huddersfield Town, Carlisle United and former club Middlesbrough, he was eventually snapped up by Cardiff City.

Spending most of his time in the Bluebirds’ development squad, Johnson joined Tranmere Rovers on a one-month loan.

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Coincidently, the striker made his professional debut against Mansfield Town in October 2014, but was unable to influence that game like he did yesterday as the Rovers drew 0-0 with the Stags.

He made a further three appearances whilst scoring once in the Football League trophy against Bury. Another loan spell at Stevenage followed and at the end of the 2014/15 season, but he was not offered a new contract at Cardiff and subsequently released.

Another stint in non-league followed this time at the highest level with National League side Gateshead. He would return to his best, and even with an injury putting him out of action, the forward battled on to return to the Football League as a player.

Johnson opted for a different route and moved to Scotland, signing for Motherwell in June 2018. Starting the season well, his playing time was hampered after a formation change at the Scottish Premiership side which saw him move down to the second tier of Scottish football with Dundee.

Signing for the Dee in July 2019, the forward did not enjoy a lot of game time once again, only making 22 appearances in all competitions, scoring seven goals in the process.

Moving into the present day, he returned to the Football League with League Two outfit Leyton Orient, who he signed for in January 2020.

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Making six appearances and scoring twice for the O’s in the 2019/20 season, the League Two campaign was drawn to a close due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the forward was able to keep his place at the London-based club.

This season has been a fantastic show of his talent and his ability to be a prolific goalscorer in front of goal. The third top scorer in League Two with 16 goals, Johnson has been an important player for the O’s.

He proved just that against the Stags, and showed something that Orient have with Mansfield lacking a fox in the box who is able to pounce on every single chance.

In the early exchanges, a mistake from Kellan Gordon allowed Johnson to run clean through on goal. If it wasn’t for a fantastic reaction save, the Stags could have been 1-0 down in the fourth minute.

Instead the forward scored from the subsequent corner as he put his side into a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. This was well and truly the game plan well executed by Orient – keeping the Stags in their own half, not allowing them a lot of time and charging at them.

Johnson had a chance in the 26th minute, and it was another mistake that allowed the forward to shoot. Aidan Stone with a miskick, allowing Craig Clay to pass the ball to Orient’s number 39, who fired over the bar.

The forward got his second of the game in the 77th minute, which wrapped the points for them. Gordon tried to pass the ball back to Stone, but it was intercepted by Johnson who went round the Mansfield goalkeeper and slammed the ball into the back of the net.

Jobi McAnuff’s side are on the march up the table, and proved that they should not be counted out of the top seven race.

With Johnson’s goals and the game plan that they employ, they are only one point off the last playoff place and are on a six-game unbeaten run.

Orient will be tough to stop with eight games to go. The O’s could be making a late charge to surge into the top seven and reach the coveted playoffs.

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