Well doesn’t that feel a hell of a lot better. Two home league games, two wins, six points in the bag and we now sit in eighth place in the table a mere point off the playoff places. There is of course a hell of a long way to go in a season that is by its very nature going to be topsy-turvy to say the least, but right now I think we can all be pleased that it feels as if the O’s have got themselves moving in the right direction again over the last week.
The performance on Saturday, in what turned out to be a fairly straightforward win over newly promoted Harrogate Town, got things back on track for Ross Embleton and his charges. It is easy to say with the benefit of hindsight that reverting back to the 4-3-3 system with DJ back in the central striking role, Brophy in his more natural position wide on the left, Conor Wilkinson reverting to his wide forward position and using an experienced and better defensively left back in Joe Widdowson, made all the difference but it really did.
We of course must make allowances for the quality of the opposition, who after a solid enough start to life in the Football League had gained just two points from their previous six league matches, those coming from a goalless draw at home to Stevenage and a 1-1 draw at home to Crawley. They were also coming into the game without their manager, Simon Weaver, who was forced to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid.
To say the game got off to a rip-roaring start would be the height of exaggeration, so much so that Dulcet Dave was wondering at one point what he was going to say if BBC Radio London came over to him for an update. However, thankfully for those of us watching on the live stream, Orient seemed to click into gear after the first fifteen minutes when Wilkinson collected a clearance from the defence and sent DJ away with a cultured ball over the top, as soon as our top scorer latched onto the ball there was only likely to be one outcome and he duly slotted it past the keeper and into the net for what was at that point his 10th goal of the campaign.
Just past the half-hour mark DJ doubled his tally and our lead for the afternoon, when Josh Coulson found him with what our vice-skipper will no doubt tell you was a glorious and fully-intended pass but that those of us with a slightly more cynical/ realistic view might suggest was a clearance that just happened to fall to the right man, he calmly controlled it, shot in pretty much the same motion and left Belshaw in their net not able to get anywhere near his fizzing finish.
Brophy should have made it 3-0 before the break, just as we had done against Bolton a few weeks previously, but somehow contrived to miss from close range when it looked easier to score. It wasn’t to matter however as we weren’t under too much threat for the rest of the match and then late on DJ worked some space for himself at the back post from a corner from the left and nodded home his hat-trick goal. Such is the way that DJ just keeps on scoring that Mrs Football Nerd is desperately trying to find somewhere she can place a bet on him winning the Golden Boot, with nine league goals to his credit and twelve in all competitions, we have a suspicion the odds might be decreasing on him quite quickly!
After such a solid return to form and a much better performance, last night’s game at home to Bradford City was an opportunity to build on the momentum that we had generated on Saturday. Coming off a 3-0 hiding at Salford and languishing much lower in the table than most would have expected, it was clear right from the start that Bradford were looking to make a mark as early as they could. It was they that fashioned the more likely looking chances in the opening period. Orient with just the one change: Jobi taking a break to be replaced by Louis Dennis, were forced to play in front of Bradford’s massed defensive ranks and were not able to penetrate in behind the defence, the sort of play on which DJ thrives. Bradford’s best chance actually came when Josh Coulson very nearly deflected an effort into his own net, thankfully Lawrence Vigouroux was alert and plunged to his right to save our captain for the night’s blushes.
It always felt like a match in which if we could create one decent opportunity and take it that could well be enough, and so it was to prove. After James Brophy had gone close with a deflected cross immediately after the restart we had to wait until just after the hour mark for that chance. From a free kick out on the right JMD, on as a sub for Conor Wilkinson who had seemingly taken a knock, placed a peach of a ball right onto Dan Happe’s head and the big defender made no mistake at all. We held on nicely for our second win in succession.
As much as we look much better up front with the three of Wilkinson, DJ and Brophy, the defence should also be highlighted for the way they have stood up in the last two games, they look much more solid and organised and seem to have cut down on the errors that have led to conceding sloppy goals. Two clean sheets in a row is testament to that and long may it continue.
Now it is on to Port Vale on Saturday and while it is probably true to suggest we haven’t done as well as we would have hoped away from home against those teams in the top half of the table, a creditable display and a decent result would bolster our confidence ahead of the traditionally hectic schedule in the run up to Christmas.
Of course, the other major news potentially affecting us and whether we will be able to get back to watching the O’s in the flesh at our beloved Brisbane Road, came on Monday when the Government announced that from the end of the second national lockdown next week, crowds of up to 4,000 in Tier 1 areas and 2,000 in Tier 2 areas would be allowed to return to watching football matches. In their response the club have suggested that: “When fans can return we will of course aim to accommodate as many season card holders as possible – a ballot system will be put into place for each game and in the coming days we will announce more details on how that process will work.” That could potentially mean that all Season Card holders might be able to go to every other home game from then on and bring an end to matches behind closed doors. Truly excellent news, assuming of course the powers that be don’t deem to put London into Tier 3, which would be just our luck wouldn’t it?
Up the O’s!