Three wins in a row, nine points in eight days and up to ninth in the table just four points off play-off qualification, albeit having played a game more than Newport and Exeter who sit above us. What a turnaround it has been for interim manager Jobi McAnuff and the Orient squad.
While we can’t pretend that everything is totally rosy: the games against Newport and Carlisle weren’t exactly classics and were actually quite a struggle to watch, our leading goal-scorer’s form has come to a grinding halt, when our 39 year old manager chooses understandably not to put himself in the team we struggle for creativity and with a grand total of just 42 league goals scored, the 15th lowest in the division, we aren’t exactly the most free scoring side in League Two.
At least last Saturday there looked to be more cohesion and incisiveness to our play. It is a drum that I amongst many others have been banging for some time, but having James Brophy offering a genuine attacking threat wide on the left not only makes us look more threatening when we go forward, it also holds the width on one side so Wilko on the right is able to move more towards the centre where he is proving that he is more of a danger to the opposition.
Now that the dust has settled to some degree after Ross’ dismissal, it seems clear that the board genuinely felt we had a chance of sneaking into the playoff places but didn’t think that Ross was capable of delivering the consistency that would secure our place. If nothing else Jobi is starting to pick up the results that suggest that he is going to give us an outside chance of doing just that. With 27 points still available nothing is guaranteed but we have given ourselves something to play for what remains of the season.
One of the other things that is becoming clear is that the starting eleven is much more settled than it had been, and we look like much more of a cohesive and balanced team. When Jobi deems himself available to play we seem to move to the 4-3-3 that was familiar and relatively successful earlier in the season, when he doesn’t start then the 4-2-3-1 offers greater security in front of the backline and utilises Dan Kemp, who seems to be beginning to deliver in a red shirt, as a number 10. It was that positioning that led directly to Kemp’s goal against Oldham last weekend.
Rather intriguingly it has been going back to the players that have been part of the squad for a while that seems to have sparked the turnaround in results: the reintroductions of Jamie Turley and Joe Widdowson into the defence, Brophy playing in his best position and moving Craig Clay back into a deeper defensive position to support Cissé when Jobi isn’t playing have all served to make us a better unit. It would however be more than helpful if DJ could grab himself a goal to get back on track.
As much as getting results, admittedly against teams that a club of our reported ambition should be beating, Jobi’s tweaking of the side may have had an indirect impact on the squad management issues that we were always going to have to deal with come the summer. A quick scan of the Transfermarkt website suggests that we have as many as 19 players who will reach the end of their contract come the summer as well as the loanees due to return to their parent clubs and of course Jordan Maguire-Drew due to come back to us. Securing the players we need to keep, jettisoning the ones we don’t and bringing in better players to improve the squad looks like quite some task for our Director of Football and the Board if we are serious about having a real push for promotion next season. Stability in the manager’s position would help in that process rather than looking to try and bring in another new manager as well as sort out the playing squad in the summer. Thankfully it seems as if Jobi is doing enough to make that a real possibility going forward.
With games to come over the Easter weekend away at Mansfield who sit 19th and then at home to Walsall who are a place below them, there is a real chance to build on the momentum that we have generated with the three successive victories. After that we head to Cheltenham for what looks like a tough challenge against a team sitting second in the table a week on Saturday. if we headed there on the back of five wins in a row, things could start to get very interesting.
Up the O’s!