I have to confess that I have rewritten the headline and introduction to this post after yesterday’s much grittier performance away at Crawley. Originally the post was going to be all about Orient’s struggles on the road and how we needed to do our utmost to start putting things right on our travels. Ultimately a goalless draw played out with ten men for an hour isn’t something to get massively excited about, however grinding out a result and at long last finding a way not to lose when we were up against it for probably the first time this season, must be taken as positives.
However before looking at last night’s game we do unfortunately need to reflect on Saturday’s events at the stadium formerly known as the Reebok. Going into that one it is probably fair to say that confidence wasn’t massively high amongst the Orient faithful that we would get back on track after the lacklustre defeat at home to Forest Green. The more optimistic amongst us might have felt that playing a team nestled in the lower reaches of the table, having won just 7 of their 24 matches, and whom we had battered 4-0 in the corresponding home fixture were ripe for the taking. Others, perhaps more wisely given Orient’s uninspiring form away from home this season, may have seen it as a potentially tricky trip where anything other than a defeat would have been a good return. Even if your hopes weren’t high, I doubt too many of us expected our boys to be sent back to E10 with their tails firmly between their legs.
Ahead of the game at the now christened University of Bolton Stadium, injury and suspension forced Ross to rejig the side a bit: with Dan Happe serving his suspension for the sending off against Forest Green, Josh Coulson was back in to partner the now seemingly established Tunji Akinola in the heart of the defence, Lee Angol’s second hamstring injury of the season ruled him out so we had no other option but to move Ruel Sotiriou into the central striking role, his place out wide was taken by Dan Kemp although he was somewhat surprisingly deployed on the right with Wilko moving to the left. In what seemed to be a tactical switch, and one that quite a few people on Orient message boards have been calling for for some time, Hector Kyprianou replaced Cissé in the holding midfield role.
If we are being completely honest with ourselves, other than the odd foray down the left with Conor trying manfully to play something like an orthodox winger, we didn’t create very much going forward at all in the first half, and if anyone was going to take the lead before the break it was the hosts. That they didn’t do just that in the ninth minute was only down to the sharp reflexes and flexibility of Lawrence Vigouroux who saved spectacularly from the unmarked Delfouneso from very close range.
We mustered little in terms of attacking threat and in truth it always felt like we were going to struggle, once again it was evident how much we are missing DJ not just for his goals but also his general work rate in harrying and chasing the defenders to force them to play the ball quicker than they would like. I remember vividly in the home game against Bolton how much pressure our striker put on the veteran Alex Baptiste hurrying him into an error that led to a very early penalty, on Saturday the defender looked much more assured as he was allowed to play at his own pace. We can only hope that DJ’s return is imminent as we just don’t look the same team without him. Hopefully the news that Tristan Abrahams had re-joined the club on loan from Newport County is a move designed to complement our top goal scorer rather than replace him.
One of the foundations of our recent run of form has been reducing the number of goals we concede but alarmingly on Saturday in the space of just two minutes we showed all too familiar failings at the back to concede two second half goals and the match. The first came from a relatively tame looking ball across the face of goal that Broph for some bizarre reason turned into his own net, it wasn’t even with his right foot. The second saw three defenders just watch Eoin Doyle simply slot home Gnahoua’s ball into the area. Here’s hoping that loan acquisition Adam Thompson can add some organisation and more tenacious defending to our rear guard for the remainder of the campaign.
A fixture clash created by Arsenal’s visit to Wolves kicking off at 6pm meant that I was restricted to snatched glimpses of the first half during breaks in play at Molyneux yesterday evening, Mrs Football Nerd did her best to keep me updated though so I am safe in the knowledge that: we hadn’t won the free Papa John’s pizzas again despite booking our match pass well in advance, Crawley were shit even missing an early penalty, there was nothing wrong with Conor’s goal and sadly Hector’s red card was probably justified.
Reduced to ten men away from home against a team who we had beaten at our place back in December I am sure I wasn’t alone in fearing another capitulation and another dismal away defeat. However, credit where it is due, the lads showed a battling spirit that hasn’t always been evident this season, an attitude that everything may have conspired against us but we were going to dig in and earn a point. Our cause was admittedly helped by some woeful Crawley finishing but there were moments when we could have nicked all three points.
On the face of it a draw away at Crawley isn’t going to define our season in any way but given how poor we have been on our travels this season it felt like a step in the right direction. With the games coming thick and fast once again this is no time to rest on our laurels however as we host Colchester on Saturday a team that sit low in the table but who we owe one to after humbling defeats in recent seasons, and then the daunting trip to Cumbria to face Carlisle, if we come out of those two with some more points to the cause we can start to think about climbing up the table again. Here’s hoping so!
Up the O’s!