Such is the impact of circumstance that the same result in a football match can provoke completely contrasting feelings depending on how it has been arrived at.
Only a couple of weeks back Mrs Football Nerd and I had a spring in our step as we headed up the road for our usual post-match debrief in the Coach & Horses having just seen Lee Angol’s added time penalty snatch a point against Grimsby. This week the same walk was more of a trudge as we both felt utterly deflated, having just witnessed Macclesfield claw the O’s back with what looked for all the world like an own goal by Big Marv, even if it has officially been credited to the Macclesfield player Jacob Blyth. If clutching a point from the jaws of defeat feels more like a win, then giving away such a late equalizer certainly stings more like a defeat.
It had in all fairness been something of a frustrating afternoon for Orient, and for those of us watching in the East Stand who had in our utmost wisdom decided that we didn’t need our sunglasses on an unusually sunny February afternoon and who then struggled to see anything for the opening 45 minutes due to the position of the sun above the roof of the West Stand.
Logically and understandably, Ross kept the faith with the same starting eleven that had won comfortably at Stevenage the previous week and pleasingly more of the O’s football seemed to be on the grass, rather than the up-in-air stuff we had seen the previous week. We do however seem to lack something of a cutting edge in attack at the moment and as a result chances were few and far between. An effort from Connor Wilkinson early on and then some long range efforts from Sotiriou and Maguire-Drew before Wilkinson glanced a header just wide of the post on the verge of half-time, being the only attempts that stick in the memory from the opening stanza.
At the break Dan Happe, who seemingly had picked up a knock earlier on but who had also, according to reports, been ill in the build up to the match, was replaced by previously exiled skipper Josh Coulson, but the balance of the game remained fairly similar with Orient enjoying the lion’s share of the ball but not really threatening. At the same time the visitors seemed to be growing into the match calling upon new keeper Lawrence Vigouroux, making his home debut, to deal with more than he had for the first half.
New forward signing Danny Johnson replaced Jordan Maguire-Drew and Lee Angol came on for Wilkinson, but the changes did little to impact our impetus. Then just as we were beginning to resign ourselves to the likelihood of failing to capitalise on our dominance again, with just quarter of an hour left to play, Craig Clay poked a beauty of a ball between defenders to set James Brophy through on goal, the stand-in left back kept his cool and slotted home, you could almost feel the relief amidst the celebrations all around the ground.
As we all know though it wasn’t to last and as the O’s seemed to try to shut up shop and see out the game, perhaps somewhat naively, there was an inescapable feeling that we were always capable of letting them back into it. It would be all too easy to blame the vast majority of the crowd’s, if not the official sponsors’, man-of-the-match James Brophy for the goal as the break originated down our left hand side where he has been filling in, but in all reality we were simply caught out, guilty of not maintaining concentration right to the end.
At the death we could have nicked a winner but Danny Johnson’s shot on picking up a loose ball in the area fizzed just wide of the left hand upright, and we had to reluctantly settle for the point.
On the face of it we can be disappointed with dropping two points, and the very fact that we are tells you how things have been a bit more positive on the results front having lost just once in our last five games, that coming away at second place Crewe, with two wins and two draws. Perhaps of greater concern however is the need to score more goals and take advantage when we are in control of the game, especially at home.
It would be churlish to suggest that we need sweeping changes to the team but perhaps relieving Brophy of his defensive duties and moving him back into a wide or attacking midfield position, especially given that Joe Widdowson is available again, while refreshing some of the attacking personnel might be the way to spark the attack into life once again.
Thankfully with the woeful Stevenage losing again we actually increased the gap to the one relegation spot to thirteen points. If we can pick ourselves up, be a bit more professional in our game management and pick up another three points against Mansfield tonight, we might all start to shake off any still lingering fears of a drop back into the National League. Here’s hoping anyway!
Come on You O’s!