In many ways it is difficult to know how to sum up Orient’s last two games. On the face of it two cup defeats in the space of four days should be grounds for disappointment, certainly if you read any of the fan pages on social media you might think the correct response is anger and to call for Ross’ head on a platter, but somehow I just can’t get too hung up on the losses or summon the seemingly necessary ire.
I get that it’s disappointing that for another season we exit the FA Cup at the first hurdle and that we haven’t now progressed beyond the first-round proper since 2016, but while a good cup run undoubtedly gives clubs in the lower tiers of the League a lift and the potential for a glamour tie when the top teams enter the competition, the fact that unless there is a massive turnaround by the Government we wouldn’t be allowed in to watch it, kind of makes it easier to deal with.
Without fans being able to attend matches, the boost to the coffers of a potential tie against one of the big boys is negated and in addition this season the FA, in their continued infinite wisdom has reduced the prize money for teams progressing through each round to make a payment to the teams eliminated. That is of course not to say that we shouldn’t have been aiming to win, just that the loss in not doing so is more bearable. Equally, the fact that it was at the hands of table-topping Newport County this time around makes it somewhat more palatable, certainly in comparison to last season’s capitulation at the hands of the mighty(sic) Maldon and Tiptree!
In terms of the Newport match itself it seemed fairly obvious, given the hectic Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday schedule that all clubs at this level are dealing with, that changes to the squad were coming. Indeed, there were five changes to the team that played at Forest Green but given that two of those were Jobi and Josh Coulson returning to the side, it is hard to argue that it was a significant weakening of the team. What did for us was a completely uncharacteristic error from the normally so dependable Lawrence Vigouroux and a good strike from Jamie Devitt for the visitors.
Overall, it was a disappointment but perhaps not one we should be losing too much sleep over given that our focus for this season surely has to be on consolidating our position in League Two and the continued development of the club. One blessing in disguise /crumb of consolation – depending on your disposition, is that our elimination alongside that of Port Vale’s means that our away fixture at Vale Park has been brought forward from Tuesday 1st of December to the Saturday of the Second Round, creating a little more space in the crowded fixture calendar.
Last night’s EFL Trophy match at the Valley was the absolute definition of a dead rubber given that the wins over Brighton U-21s and AFC Wimbledon had secured our passage into the knockout stages, the only issue to be decided being whether we would top the group and secure a home tie in the next round. Even then the only bonus of that is the lack of potential midweek travelling given the absence of fans. Charlton manager our old friend from down the road,Lee Bowyer, had made his feelings about the competition clear calling it a “stupid cup” that “nobody cares about”, mind you we probably would expect no less since his team were already out.
This time the squad rotation was much more noticeable from the O’s with a number of changes from the pretty much established first choice eleven and a change of formation to a 3-5-2. It has to be said that, understandably, it took the side a spell to get to grips with the change in personnel and system, but once they settled we played some decent enough football even if the deployment of Louis Dennis as the central striker meant we lacked cutting edge other than for his goal. Our ongoing propensity to concede sloppy goals, no matter how we set up at the back, remains something of a concern, however.
The most positive aspect of last night’s game was the performance of teenage midfielder Hector Kyprianou, who followed up a man of the match display on Saturday with another assured 75 plus minutes that showed us what a prospect this kid looks to be. I recall seeing him in the EFL Trophy last season against Brighton U-21s, in the tortuous days of the thankfully brief Carl Fletcher tenure and being mightily impressed. In the last two matches he has shown a physicality, composure on the ball and drive from midfield that belie his age. His ability to almost effortlessly pass the first defender with neat footwork is his most striking attribute for me.
Obviously, it is very early days and it is wrong to heap too much pressure on the shoulders of a 19-year old but to these eyes at least he looks the perfect understudy for the holding midfield role to current incumbent Ouss Cissé. Although, I couldn’t help but a harbour a sneaky suspicion that his removal in the closing stages of last night’s match might hint at an involvement, at least on the bench, on Saturday at Colchester.
With the next round of the EFL trophy four weeks away, the focus shifts back to the League and that trip to Colchester to face a team against whom we really struggled last season. This time out they currently sit one point and two places ahead of us in the table, albeit with a game in hand. This is by no means an easy trip as we know all too well, but a result there followed by a week off and then a game against newly promoted Harrogate Town could help us to rebuild the momentum we lost after that run of four games unbeaten. Perhaps for now we need to not mourn the FA Cup exit and, put the EFL Trophy on hold, and focus on the League ahead of the run in to what looks like being the usual hectic festive period.
Up the O’s!