Originally, as I normally do when the O’s are in the two games in a week routine, I was planning to write about Saturday’s goalless draw at home to Colchester United within the context of what had happened up in Cumbria in the rearranged fixture against Carlisle. However as we are all too aware, first that match got moved to a 2:30pm kick-off (wtf were they thinking, don’t they realise that some of us have to give the appearance that we are working from home?), before rather unsurprisingly being called off altogether for the second time in a matter of weeks.
Quite what the logic behind even trying to move the game to early afternoon in midweek is anyone’s guess, surely it would have been wiser to leave it as an evening kick-off and to inspect the pitch before our boys set off on their travels up there? That way saving us an ultimately futile 600-mile round trip as well as the costs of the hotel and the coaches. Mind you logic is a concept not overly familiar to a lot of people involved in the EFL as we shall discuss later in this piece with news of the withdrawal of the agreed salary cap.
Deprived of the opportunity to try to put things properly back on track up at Brunton Park, although that was never ever a given by any means; Ross, his coaching staff, the players and all of us have more time to brood upon what went wrong on Saturday than any of us would reasonably want.
Even though our recent matches against Colchester have been rather humbling: 2-1 away and 3-1 at home on Boxing Day last season, and that rather dispiriting 2-1 defeat back in November, their recent form having not managed a victory in the league since the heady days when we used to be allowed out of our houses and the pubs were still open, the 8th of December to be precise, suggested now was a good a time as any for Orient to put things right.
With DJ only judged fit enough for a place on the bench, it was new loanee signing Tristan Abrahams’ turn to assume the place on the rotating carousel of central strikers as both Lee Angol and Ruel Sotiriou are injured. I know it isn’t his favoured position and one that he hasn’t looked particularly effective in when asked to play there, but I can’t help but wonder if deploying Conor centrally might prove a more of an effective option, perhaps as part of a two with one of our wingers/ number 10’s. Certainly he couldn’t have been anywhere near as anonymous as the aforementioned three have proven to be.
In an all too familiar story we seemed to struggle to seize the initiative in the match, something we should have been more than capable of given the doldrums in which our visitors found themselves. Make no mistake Colchester aren’t as good as Forest Green but did a similar job in keeping us at bay in the first half save for a couple of early sighters from Conor which were more of his own making than the result of any cohesive team play. There was, as seems usual again, the odd hairy moment at our end most notably when Nouble’s header crashed down off the crossbar but mercifully stayed the right side of the goal line from our point of view.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether the number of matches all teams have been forced to play with little rest in between was taking its toll, or whether the fact that all of our new January acquisitions: Kemp, Freeman, Thompson and Abrahams were starting the match had taken away the automatisms and instinctive combinations that we had built up through our good spells with a settled side earlier in the campaign?
Despite the introduction of Captain Fantastic Jobi McAnuff early in the second half, our frustration continued. Any threat we had came from Wilko on the right but for the fourth match in succession we registered a blank on the scoresheet. Thankfully DJ managed around quarter of an hour as sub and hopefully suffered no adverse reaction as given the evidence of the last few weeks his return to spearhead our attack cannot come quickly enough.
After the match Ross chose to focus on the positive of the clean sheet rather than our ongoing failings in front of the opposition goal. It certainly points to an element of solidity that hadn’t been especially evident up to this point, but unless we start finding the net on a regular basis again a place in the play-offs looks somewhat ambitious. We currently stand just four points off seventh place and it can certainly be argued that results went our way to an extent last night with Tranmere and Newport losing and Morecambe drawing, however a victory and a few goals up in Harrogate on Saturday afternoon might spark a bit more optimism.
In other news, as alluded to earlier, it was reported yesterday that an independent arbitration tribune ruled that the previously agreed salary cap for League One and Two clubs must be withdrawn in what to me seems like a classic case of the lunatics taking over the asylum!
The salary cap was introduced back in August to address issues of sustainability and the staggering wage inflation across the lower leagues, essentially to ensure sensible and appropriate financial management to avoid situations like the tragic demise of Bury and Macclesfield. However, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) has argued that the vote on the caps was “rushed through” and described their adoption as “unlawful and unenforceable”. Essentially, they have argued that regulations designed to protect the future of the clubs are unfair as the bigger clubs won’t be able to spend what they want.
Almost beyond comprehension is the fact that one of the most vocal critics of the cap was Portsmouth (yes that Portsmouth who fell from the Premier League to League Two and very nearly went out of business altogether thanks to ridiculous overspending!) Chief Executive Mark Catlin who said: “A blunt tool of a hammer as a salary cap doesn’t achieve that because you’re going to limit some clubs in what they can spend, unfairly, but still allow clubs with smaller budgets and income to be able to match those clubs.”
In other words, and forgive me for paraphrasing, we’re all for protecting the future of the game as long as it doesn’t allow the smaller clubs to compete with us. Only in football hey? Thankfully for us O’s fans we can relax in the knowledge that our owners and chief executive have not only the interests of the club but also the game as a whole within their hearts.
Up the O’s!