How can anyone even begin to explain the past two weeks in the life of Leyton Orient? First up we manage to beat the league leaders, Newport County, despite going a goal down midway through the first half, thanks to a resilient and impressive second half display and two opportunistically taken goals by DJ (who else?) and Broph, and a performance of much greater intensity and attacking threat. That win was made even better by the fact that there were 1,734 of us allowed into Brisbane Road to watch it after so very very long away.
Reflecting on the match over a second “substantial meal” of the afternoon in the Coach & Horses afterwards, Mrs Football Nerd and I felt that it might be a statement win, a laying down of a marker as to the O’s play-off aspirations this season. Although after the subsequent losses at Morecambe and at home to Crawley Town it might be more readily explained as a performance sparked by having fans back in the ground rather than a true indication that the team is ready to challenge at the very top just yet.
Ahead of the trip to the Lancashire coast, we got the dreaded news that our return to football-watching was going to be incredibly short-lived, when London was placed first in Tier 3 and then just a matter of days later in Tier 4 of restrictions (which no one actually even knew existed until we were told we were going into it!). Now sadly we are back to fearing that we might not be back at Brisbane Road for the foreseeable future, if at all this season.
One can only imagine what further restrictions are going to be enforced in the other higher tiers we don’t yet know about. As a friend of ours joked the other day, does Tier 5 mean we won’t be able to go into our gardens? Will Tier 6 prohibit us from looking out of the window? Or worse still, will Tier 7 mean we will have to concrete our front doors shut? Trust me I am far from a political person, but Boris and his cronies almost make Orient’s previous ownership look focused, clear and as if they had an idea of what they were doing!
Back to matters Orient however, backing up the excellent win over Newport on a long-distance Tuesday evening awayday was always going to be a big ask. We did however start the game brightly and looked the better team in the opening half an hour, this time unlike at Scunthorpe we even managed to make it count when DJ (who else?) volleyed home Hector’s cross into the box on 20 minutes.
In the second period, even though Wilko rattled the bar with a free kick early on, our intensity dropped, and we were made to pay for some familiar defensive sloppiness through two goals that could be described as avoidable if we are being generous, and we departed the North West empty-handed. As Glen Wilkie suggested in the build-up to the Crawley game, the O’s have put in some impressive displays for decent spells, or in some cases a whole half of a match, but we haven’t yet managed to do it for the full ninety minutes.
If we were looking to get back on track at home to Crawley, we were to end up frustrated once again. This time we were caught out before we could even really get going and there was a definite feel of shooting ourselves in the foot when Josh Coulson headed into his own net after just quarter of an hour. While we raised our level, enjoyed some good possession and created some chances, we had to wait until just before the break for an equalizer, another own goal but no one in the Orient camp or any O’s fans watching at home really cared.
Rather than replicating the second half performance against Newport, we seemed a little bit flat in the second half and in truth didn’t really look like scoring again. It felt almost inevitable that the visitors would do however. After riding our luck through a cross come shot that whistled just over and then a drive from distance that cannoned down off the bar with Vigouroux desperately clawing at thin air; Max Watters, who has been scoring at a similarly impressive rate to DJ, found himself on the end of a crisp counterattack and free on the edge of the six yard box to calmly slot home.
We now find ourselves having won as many matches as we have lost, eight to be precise, and sitting in 12th place the very definition of midtable. While at this point last season most of us would have snatched whoever was offering’s hand off for that position, it does feel a bit underwhelming and frustrating given some of the highly impressive displays we have put in.
Given the hectic nature of the schedule as a result of the Covid-delayed start and the necessity to play two games a week on an all too regular basis, consistency was always going to be an issue for all teams as fatigue, injury and jadedness will inevitably take their toll. Even the two front runners Newport and Forest Green have lost four and three games respectively already. The mission for Orient has always been to stay in and around the play-off mix and hope to put in a decent run in the latter half of the season.
As things stand, we are amongst a clutch of teams who are 3 points or closer off seventh place, one of whom we face on Boxing Day, Cambridge United. The Abbey Stadium would be a very good place to get things back on track, even if sadly none of us are allowed to travel there. After that it is Southend at home and if we don’t take all 3 points from that one, given how abysmal our friends from Essex have been this season, then maybe we should start to worry!
We can pick the bones out of those two games next week; it will give us something to do as we aren’t allowed to do anything else. Until then thanks for reading this year, have a very Merry Christmas (if Boris still lets us!) and Up the O’s!