With the game away at Carlisle having been postponed as a result of a frozen pitch, and Orient not having had a midweek game for a couple of weeks, it felt like a long time since we had last seen the O’s in action going into the game against Morecambe last Saturday. Such a pause may not have been completely welcome given the momentum that we had built up with two home wins in a row, but I am sure that Ross, now out of self-isolation, the rest of the coaching staff and the players themselves would have benefited from the time on the training ground and to actually get some tactical preparation work in for one of the only times in this very hectic season.
Of course it being January the transfer window had been open for a couple of weeks and we had already done a bit of business, with Josh Wright heading out of the door and off to Crawley to join his brother, Mark, who apparently rose to ‘fame’ thanks to his involvement in the Only Way is Essex (with thanks to Mrs Football Nerd for the info as obviously I don’t watch programmes like that! Honest!) and is also pursuing a career in professional football at the tender age of 33. Rather surprisingly both of the siblings actually came on as subs in Crawley’s FA Cup upset of Leeds. I wonder if Martin Ling might now scour reality TV in search of potential new recruits!
It is probably fair to say that the younger Wright, despite being Justin’s mate and last signing, never really produced significantly for the O’s. Personally, I always thought he had a decent passing range but lacked the mobility and bite that is needed to prosper in the midfield battlegrounds of League Two. Although by contrast even at 39 Jobi still has that in abundance and as Captain Fantastic has stayed fit this campaign and given the form of Craig Clay, the emergence of Hector Kyprianou and the greater suitability of Ouss Cissé it became increasingly hard to see where Wright could slot into the side.
In more transfer updates, just before Saturday’s game we were given news of a new player coming in with the announcement that former West Ham youngster Dan Kemp had joined the club on a two-and-a-half-year deal. Given the brief cameo we saw on Saturday he looks to be a real live wire and should add some of the creative spark that we sometimes lack.
Going into that game against Morecambe last Saturday, I think it is probably fair to say that the majority of O’s fans were hopeful of continuing our good run but perhaps not exactly confident given the way we had thrown it away after leading 1-0 in the North West just a month previously, as well as the fact that the Shrimps sat a point above us in the league having played two games less. Just prior to kick off we also got the news that DJ wasn’t available due to a ligament injury which of course given the time of year set off alarm bells amongst some of the Orient faithful that this was as clear an indication as possible that he was clearly off somewhere. Thankfully after the game Ross reassured us via Orient TV that it really was an injury, which given the way we missed him in the match, we have to hope is relatively short-term.
Perhaps the kindest way to describe the match itself was that it was an arm-wrestle, a game between two teams of similar ability who cancelled each other out. For me though Morecambe, rather unexpectedly given their league position and the way they had played in the game at the Mazuma Stadium in December, offered very little in an attacking sense and for the most part seemed content to sit deep, try to soak up pressure and to prevent us from scoring. As alluded to previously the absence of our main goal-scorer contributed to their cause and we looked very blunt in attack. I know that Lee Angol has been hampered by injuries since his arrival ahead of last season, but for me I am not 100% sure what type of striker he is. At times he held the ball up well, but he has a tendency to want too much time, to try to do too much with it and lacks the poacher’s instinct that DJ certainly possesses. However, unless we are going to use Wilko/Ruel through the middle when needed and/or bring in another instinctive finisher this month, then he is pretty much the only back-up option we have. Please Ross no more False 9 experiments!
Maybe Morecambe’s cautious approach was borne out of wariness in coming up against us, as Glenn Wilkie noted in his analysis of the match, there can’t be too many teams who come to Brisbane Road expecting to take us on, and maybe for the visitors a clean sheet and point would have been a result. As is often the case when facing a defensively set up side, patience is the key, it may have been pretty dull viewing watching the ball circulate in a U shape from one side of the pitch to the other, and then back again, but the key was for us to bide our time, not do anything rash or stupid at the other end and wait for the opportunity to come.
Other than one sharp save late in the first half from Vigoroux and a brief flurry of chances early in the second half the Shrimps hardly threatened, mind you from our point of view we didn’t exactly give Halstead in their goal the busiest of afternoons either. In the end the chance that led to the opening goal came from an unexpected source Tunji Akinola, who has impressed since being brought into his more natural centre back position, played a decent if somewhat hopeful ball into the box from wide on the right which flicked off a defender’s heads and into the net. The breakthrough coming with just two of the ninety minutes remaining.
With the deadlock broken, as is so often the way, Orient were in again a mere matter of minutes later when Jobi seized onto a loose ball in the area, played a low cross across the face of goal and Angol simply could not miss from close range. It has felt for a while as if he needed a goal and hopefully this will add to his confidence going forward.
It certainly wasn’t pretty and at times was tough to watch but a third consecutive win and clean sheet not only continued the O’s momentum but has put us back in the reckoning for the play-off places. Next up is another potentially tough encounter when we face Forest Green on Saturday, another top seven team. Although their form isn’t fantastic having won none of their last five games, they currently sit just three points ahead of us and a win in that one might really have us looking up the table.
Earlier this week there was further movement in the transfer window with the news that JMD was off to Crawley to join Josh Wright and his brother on loan for the remainder of the season, while midfielder Nick Freeman joined us on loan from Championship side Wycombe. I have to confess I am a fan of JMD, but he has struggled for game time this season and the addition of Dan Kemp would probably have reduced that even further. Freeman is reportedly a central midfielder and is approaching 97 league appearances at the age of 26 so could potentially add something further to our engine room. Here’s hoping anyway.
Up the O’s!