“Personally, I hold out little hope for our trips to Cardiff this weekend to face Newport County or to Carlisle on Tuesday night.” Those were the fateful words of your author in last week’s post, goes to show what I know hey! (Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings- Yet more frustration on the pitch but reassuring words about the health of the club off it.)
On a serious note however, after three fairly lacklustre performances in the thumping at Exeter and two draws in succession, I think we all needed a lift. The 1-0 wins away in Cardiff and then just a matter of days later at Carlisle felt very much like a step back in the right direction for Jobi McAnuff and his charges, although Newport might be wondering what it is about them that seems to raise our performance levels!
The fact that our interim manager had to put himself back in the team not only suggests how important his contribution has been on the pitch this season, but also highlighted the lack of creativity without one of our more influential players. Brophy’s suspension for accumulated yellow cards and Nick Freeman’s training ground injury presumably forced his hand in making that decision to a degree.
The other changes on Saturday saw Joe Widdowson and Tunji Akinola return as the full-backs in a move that few amongst the Orient faithful would have argued with, while DJ was given the central striking role in place of the ineligible Tristan Abrahams (tries desperately to avoid the obvious cheap joke about whether anyone noticed the on-loan Newport man’s absence!).
A 1-0 win over a team that going into the game were sitting in fifth place with bona fide promotion aspirations, suggests that we have started to address the problems that were hindering us, while we did look a bit more organised without the ball and pressed with a bit more intensity than we have seemed to muster for a while, there was however still a lack of real impetus or spark to our attacking play. Despite the shift back to the 4-3-3 shape that seemed to work a bit more effectively earlier in the season, once again DJ was isolated and cut off from the players designed to support and combine with him, which is something that is starting to become a bit of a worry for yours truly at least. Thankfully other than forcing a good save from Vigs early on and hitting an upright later in the first half Newport didn’t cause us too many concerns at the back.
If you had asked me to predict the outcome at half-time, I would have suggested the best we could have hoped for was a creditable goalless draw but thankfully Wilko had different ideas just after the hour mark. After striking a fierce drive at the keeper minutes earlier he stole in at the far post to bundle the ball home after a Dan Kemp cross. The linesman decided this was the perfect time to let us all watching know he was at the Cardiff City Stadium and merrily waved his flag for offside. Thankfully referee Barrott was having none of it and overruled the decision presumably for a touch by a defender on the way through. It wasn’t the prettiest or most convincing of wins, but it was very much the lift the players probably needed.
To then follow that up with another solid enough single goal win has really started to rekindle the momentum within the squad and given us something to begin to build upon. Although in complete fairness the fact that the game was finally played at the fourth time of asking after a Covid outbreak and the pitch being frozen twice may have helped us out to an extent as Carlisle are clearly not the team they were earlier in the season. Going into the match the home side had won just once in their previous eleven games and seemed to be an almost different side to the one that was operating in the upper echelons of the table a few months ago.
Last night’s game felt very similar to Saturday’s not just from the point of view that it was the same starting eleven, but also that save for an early lively looking effort from DJ we failed to create very much, so much so that after about twenty minutes or so Mrs Football Nerd wondered out loud what the end of the ground we were allegedly attacking actually looked like! The blustery wind that you could clearly hear on the live stream certainly didn’t help, but it was another occasion on which our attacking players struggled to get into the game.
At the other end we had to be thankful for the wind impacting Carlisle’s deliveries into the box and some solid work from Vigouroux in our goal. At half-time I remember thinking to myself, just as I had done on Saturday, that a draw would be a decent result and a good point, without necessarily expecting us to hold on.
Things got a bit more lively from an Orient perspective in the second half at least in terms of the fact that we seemed to offer a bit more going forward, obviously having the wind behind us will have helped but it also seemed watching on the stream that Wilko had moved more towards the centre of the pitch, something I for one think we should try more often as a means of getting more support for DJ. Wilko nearly opened the scoring with around twenty minutes to go when he cleverly looped the ball over a couple of defenders and let fly with a dipping volley that whistled just over the bar.
As the half wore on and it looked like being a goalless draw to go with the alleged 1-1 in the corresponding fixture at Brisbane Road that no one other than Dulcet Dave seems to remember having taken place, Vigs played one of his almost trademark outside of the boot passes to send Wilko on through the inside right channel, their keeper had committed himself and found himself in no man’s land outside his penalty area and Wilko nonchalantly clipped it over him and into the net to steal another three points.
Those two wins have lifted us above Carlisle and up to 11th in the table 7 points off the play-offs, for Jobi it is 3 wins and 11 points in his 6 matches at the helm. Qualification for the play-offs may not be beyond reach but would require us to keep building on this momentum that we have generated, something that we haven’t done over more than 3 or 4 games throughout the entire campaign. Next up is Oldham at home on Saturday followed by Mansfield and Walsall over Easter all of whom sit below us in the table, if we can find a way to score more goals and continue to be solid at the back we have every reason to believe that there might still be something to play for for the remainder of the season. Here’s hoping so anyway!
Up the O’s!