While the jury may remain out on whether it is a good or a bad thing (https://football-nerd.org/2019/02/06/a-heavily-rotated-orient-do-just-enough-in-the-fa-trophy/), Orient took a step closer to Wembley and a potential FA Trophy Final appearance with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over holders Brackley Town. Their ‘reward’ is a two-leg semi-final against the might of AFC Telford United of the National League North.
Concern still remains amongst the Brisbane Road faithful as to what impact this cup run is going to have on the bread and butter of the promotion push. However Salford’s defeat at home to Eastleigh and Wrexham’s draw at Gateshead at the weekend saw the O’s gain to an extent without even playing, although they will need to win their two games in hand to fully reap the benefits.
Progress to the semi-final has necessitated the hasty rearrangement of home games against AFC Fylde and Eastleigh and the trip to Bromley, forcing the club to slot them in as midweek fixtures at this most crucial part of the season. The National League promotion battle has always proven to be very much a war of attrition, having to play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday over a number of weeks is not going to be easy.
Orient have never ever appeared in a bona fide cup final in their entire history and their record in the matches played at Wembley reads played two lost two. Are we really in a position to turn our noses up at a potentially memorable day out at Wembley?
As tough as it is going to be to win a double of a real shiny silver trophy and a return to the Football League, is this not exactly what we signed up for the first place? No one truly picks the team they support; it is foisted upon them by their family’s heritage, where they live or some other quirk of circumstance. Yet isn’t this precisely why we ended up this hopelessly obsessed with the club we follow in the first place? In the distant hope that one day it would be our turn in the sun?
It may well all end in disappointment, hell we may not get past Telford, but surely it is the hope and the dreams of glory that make us follow the team in the first place and for now maybe we can still dream of a bright and successful end to this season.
Back to reality, and whatever happens against Telford, the O’s must put all thoughts of Wembley glory to one side for now as they face three absolutely pivotal league matches within the space of a week. First up is a trip to Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday to face a team that Orient made light work of in the reverse fixture back in October running out comfortable 4-0 victors, and who currently occupy the fourth relegation spot albeit only a point from safety.
On Tuesday evening comes a very long journey and a potentially tricky trip to mid-table Barrow who have drawn their three home league matches since beating Salford City at the end of December. The Bluebirds are not in themselves the toughest team in the division but they held the O’s to a 2-2 draw in the third game of the season and the trip to Cumbria on a midweek evening is not something that anyone would relish.
A week on Saturday sees the lunchtime visit of current table-toppers Wrexham, a game which while it may not decide the destination of the title and the automatic promotion spot, does at least offer the chance for one or the other of the sides to generate some momentum heading into the home straight.
As we all know, Orient usually disappoint when live on TV so BT Sport’s fixture selectors have hardly done us a favour in picking this one for screening. We have however beaten the team from North Wales twice already this season, both away from home. Assuming/hoping we get a decent return of points from the preceding matches then that game offers the chance for the O’s to really believe again.