As sometimes happens, the football fixture planning fates have aligned and given Mrs Football Nerd and I a run of games that combine home games and easy-enough to get to away games all without the interference of my own Arsenal-watching commitments. Starting last Saturday with the visit of Newport County, the missus and I are truly relishing the opportunity of going to a total of 5 or 6 matches (depending if we are brave/ foolish enough to go deepest darkest Gloucestershire for the Cheltenham game), in basically a month. It would have been even more but for tonight’s trip to Crewe coming on a school night (boo to the fixture planners for that one!).
Going into the game against Newport in the midst of a turmoil-inducing, (well for some of the Orient faithful at least!), spell in which we had won just once in the league since beating Grimsby in mid-October some fourteen matches ago the last one of Ross’s initial spell as Interim Head Coach; it felt like a win was what we all needed. Although facing a team sitting eight points above us in the league, I am not sure anyone was massively confident that it was coming on Saturday.
With the usual touch of class that the club has displayed in handling Justin’s passing, the announcement came in the days leading up to the game that the West Stand was going to be renamed in his memory before the game against another side that he rescued from non-league purgatory. As we wanted to be in our seats to see the naming ceremony we eschewed our usual option of going to the Star and instead decided to avail ourselves of the delights of the Supporters Club with its fine array of real ales at distinctly palatable prices. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit, do so in the near future, you won’t regret it.
Once inside we actually caught the end of the warm-up for the first time in our memory, what stood out most was the man mountain that is Ouss Cissé, it isn’t often that Big Marv is made to look small but the new man on loan from Gillingham is a sizeable chap to say the very least!
Maybe logistically it proved too difficult to cover up the hoarding proclaiming “The Justin Edinburgh Stand”, but it seemed to take a little bit away from the occasion itself given the signage was seen by everyone as they walked into the ground. The better-half felt that they could have covered the sign (or even the stand) with some kind of cloth or curtain to be swept away at the right moment, but then again wasn’t sure how they would have set that up. A minor quibble I realise and certainly not worth tarnishing such a heartfelt gesture over.
From the outset Orient looked like a different team than they have for a good few weeks, probably since December and being 3-0 up at half-time at Cambridge. There were some very tidy passages of play with perhaps most notably Jordan Magurie-Drew seeming to have sparked into life. The winger could have had a hat-trick in the opening half: first he fired an effort just over the bar; then he almost caught out their keeper Tom King, (who deserved to concede for his horrendous choice of pink and purple hooped kit if nothing else!) with an effort that in all honesty looked for all the world like a mishit cross; and then after a driving run down the left he forced a sharp save out of King. Still some around us thought he hadn’t done anything!
Young Ruel Sotiriou, only recently recalled from a loan spell at Dover, was partnering Connor Wilkinson up front and this combined with Cissé anchoring the midfield and allowing Josh Wright and Craig Clay to play closer to the front two offered a better balance to the team than we have seen recently, where whoever has been selected up top has tended to find themselves somewhat isolated.
Of course it is always a worry if you don’t press home your advantage when you are in the ascendancy and such has been Orient’s propensity to be unluckily caught out on too many occasions this season , no one was taking anything for granted at half-time.
The second half became very much about trying to will a goal in, having had so many draws in recent times we really needed to focus on picking up three points. Frustratingly however we didn’t fashion a bona fide second half chance until the 76th minute when Big Marv nodded Maguire-Drew’s corner back across goal towards his centre back partner Dan Happe only for it to be nicked away at the last moment.
However to everyone’s relief just minutes later Big Marv met another corner, this time from Brophy, at the far post and thumped his header home from close range. Brophy grazed the side-netting and then pandemonium sparked all round Brisbane Road in the final minute of normal time when Sotiriou slotted home from after Josh Wright picked him out with a cross from the right. It was thoroughly deserved by the young striker and a clear sign of his coolness in front of goal.
Quite where the officials in their wisdom found the seven minutes of added time is anyone’s guess, and of course it wouldn’t be Orient if we didn’t make things ‘interesting’ by allowing them to pull one back, but in the end we held firm. As the strains of ‘Rocking all over World’ rang out around the ground for the first time in three long months you couldn’t help but wonder if a certain someone had been looking down on us?
One win hasn’t made everything right again and rescued our season but the better shape to the team and a more cohesive performance has at least provided some grounds for optimism going forward. For those going to Crewe tonight hopefully the improved form can continue, for the missus and I it is on to Stevenage on Saturday.