A month in the life of two Orient Obsessives – Part 2: Stevenage here we come!

With a school night trip to Crewe having to be ruled out, albeit reluctantly, we felt we deserved a Saturday awayday to somewhere within our established radius of being no more than an hour by train outside London. So it was to the ‘delightful, picturesque’ (or so we were led to believe by absolutely no one who had ever visited the place!) new town of Stevenage.

It actually took us slightly longer to get to Kings Cross from the Isle of Dogs than it did to complete the ‘mammoth’ 21-minute train ride to Stevenage. Being the ever prepared and resourceful types that we are, and knowing this in advance, we adapted our supply needs accordingly and opted for two small cans of Camden Hells lager each; even then we were slightly pushed to finish them before we arrived!

Once out of the station, we did what any self-respecting travelling football fan does and headed for the nearest and cheapest boozer, however upon arrival at Wetherspoons we spied that next door was an alternative option, a marginally less salubrious (if that is even possible!) hostelry with a plentiful collection of TV’s so we could watch Leicester take on Chelsea in the day’s early kick-off. With two pints coming in at a grand total of £6.60 we were certainly not complaining!

After two rounds and a nerve-calming tequila shot each, (well that was our excuse and we are definitely sticking to it!) we thought we would head towards the ground. Immediately outside the pub was a bus stop with the ‘Stevenage FC Football Shuttle’ bus handily just waiting to take us to the ground. With arrangements like that we thought it would be rude not to treat ourselves!

As we were fairy early into the ground we were looking forward to another pre-match pint so we enquired as to the whereabouts of the beer facilities from a steward; it was then that the news hit us, there…was…no…..bar! What are Stevenage thinking? It’s no wonder they are rooted to the bottom of the League with business sense like that. Who would even think that if you sell beer to football fans they might buy it and you might generate some income? After a period of coming to terms with this traumatic news (read: sulking and complaining about how a football ground could actually choose not to sell beer), we went to take up our seats.

Ross with the boss
Ross meets the Gaffer (aka Mrs Football Nerd)!

With the warm-up still going on in front of us, Mrs Football Nerd spotted Ross down at the front of the stand and so took the opportunity to go and have a chat and of course take the obligatory selfie, after all it isn’t often you get the opportunity to chat to your team’s head coach minutes before the match gets underway. Whether her claims to have guided him in team selection and tactical approach are to be taken credibly is anyone’s guess however!

In endeavouring to keep a bit of rationality to analysing Orient this season, I have been saying for a while, probably since the Carl Fletcher debacle to be honest, that the job in hand for the coach and team this season is to simply stay in the League. While defeat at Crewe was always likely to a team sitting second in the table, this run of games starting with Stevenage and then Macclesfield and Mansfield are against sides below us in the League and offer an ideal opportunity to get some more points on the board and broaden that gap to the one relegation spot.

The fact that Stevenage are in that spot, and have been pretty much all season, should surprise no one who has seen them play given they have won just three games all season, although of course we were unable to beat them at home back in August.

The game itself was fairly comfortable for the O’s, goals midway through each half from Ruel Sotiriou, his fourth and fifth in seven appearances since being recalled from his loan at Dover, bookending a scrambled effort from new loanee Ouss Cissé, being enough to see off the Stevenage ‘challenge’ such as it was. New goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux remained largely untroubled but for one sharp first half save; although his kicking was alarmingly random and would benefit from some work on the training ground. It can only be hoped that Brillo is fit enough to guide him and his colleague Sam Sargeant in improving in this area.

As we departed the ground we felt it only fair to serenade the home fans with the suggestion that we felt (hoped?) we would never play there again as a result of the hosts’ increasingly likely exit from the League. Only to be deserved for a team that doesn’t sell beer at the ground, yes indeed we are still bitter about it!

As we enjoyed another cheap pint back at the Old Post Office we reflected on a very welcome result. Stevenage may have been fairly hapless and we will certainly face tougher challenges over the remainder of the season, but there seems to be some momentum within the squad at the moment.

Sometimes in football a certain type of player simply fits a team and addresses a gap in the side, which certainly seems to be the case with Cissé. His anchoring of the midfield also allows Josh Wright and Craig Clay to play further forward, the latter of the two in particular has looked more like last season’s player of the year since the giant Mali international’s arrival on loan from Gillingham.

Sotiriou’s goals are also starting to fill the void left by the departures of Bonne and Koroma, where injury, poor form and being left isolated by the rest of the team have hampered intended replacements Angol and Wilkinson. The acquisition of Danny Johnson may further add to the threat going forward.

We now face two winnable games at home to 22nd-placed Macclesfield and 21st-placed Mansfield within just four days, four or even six points from those and we might all start to breathe a bit more easily. Here’s hoping anyway!

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