Well what a nice and quiet news week it’s been in world football then! Thankfully last night’s Orient game provided not only a welcome distraction from the whole European Super League power and money grab by the Dirty Half-dozen, but also a timely reminder of what real football looks like. The result may not have gone our way but as all of us know only too well after what we have been through in the not-too-distant past, the club is alive and well and that is something that needs to be appreciated.
I am sure going into the last five games of the season we all knew that qualifying for the play-offs was a big ask and that even if we won every single one of our remaining matches that might still not be enough to get us there. Equally after doing what we needed to do on Saturday against Barrow thanks to two second half goals from Dan Happe and Dan Kemp, the challenge presented by league leaders Cambridge United was always going to be a much more daunting task.
Interestingly, the one change that Jobi made to the side from Saturday was to bring in Ouss Cissé in place of acting skipper Craig Clay to partner Hector Kyprianou as part of the double pivot in midfield, other than that it was very much a case of as you were. I can’t be alone in noticing that there seems to be far less rotation in personnel from our interim manager compared to Ross, which allows a greater stability and cohesion in the side.
Before the game on Orient TV Glen Wilkie and Andrew Butler were both suggesting that we have tended to play well against the better sides in the league whereas we seem to struggle against those lower down the table. So it was to prove again as we started very much on the front foot with DJ nearly stealing away from Cambridge’s backline and firing a shot at goal Callum Burton in their net did well to turn away.
Cambridge’s goal threat throughout this season has been clear and not just from League Two’s leading goal-scorer Paul Mullin, so when they took the lead after just 19 minutes, albeit somewhat against the run of play, it was deflating if not massively surprising. Even the fact that the goal had been scored by a player called Ironside failed to raise even the faintest TV crime drama-based smirk in the Football Nerd household! Credit to the O’s however who regrouped and looked to muster a response.
Chances were at something of a premium however after the opening goal, but just when we were resigning ourselves to going in at the break a goal down Louis Dennis, who it has to be said has looked pretty lively down the left wing in the last couple of matches, fired a cross into the area that just evaded DJ, the ball rebounded around the goalmouth then bounced off Hector’s knees to Dan Kemp who fired in the equalizer. It has to be said that our attacking midfielder does have a very handy habit of popping up in exactly the right place at the right time, that is four goals since his arrival in January, a welcome contribution.
The second half got off to a very lively start with chances at either end in quick succession, first Louis Dennis had a shot blocked in their area before Cambridge broke up the field and forced Vigs to tip a shot from Boateng over the bar. Things then calmed down a bit and Craig Clay came on to replace Hector in the heart of midfield.
Just past the hour mark from a corner Vigs did well to save Taylor’s header only for the ball to rebound straight to Tracey who simply had to bundle the ball home from “point blank range” as Dulcet Dave no doubt described it. I can’t be sure as I was too busy swearing at the screen and our annoyingly familiar sloppy defending!
Four minutes later the visitors were handed the opportunity to extend their lead when referee Declan Bourne judged that Jamie Turley had hauled down a Cambridge player in the box not the first nor the last “interesting” decision the official made over the course of the ninety minutes. Mullin of course made no mistake from the spot and we were left with it all to do to rescue something from the game.
One thing that this Orient squad has shown over the course of this topsy turvy season is a level of resilience however and just four minutes later we were back in the match. Wilko’s towering header from Brophy’s cross from the left hit the post but the rebound hit Drysdale and went into the net with DJ lurking. It was another clear example of why going forward we need to find a system / set-up that allows Conor to get into more central areas where he has proven he can be dangerous.
Rather than pushing on and really putting the league leaders under the cosh for the last quarter of an hour or so we managed to shoot ourselves in the foot as we seem to have done so often in the past. Quite what Jamie Turley was thinking I guess we will never know but in rushing to take a throw-in deep in our own half he succeeded only in weakly finding that man Ironside who with no one up with him to pass to simply slammed the ball home and with it went our play-off aspirations for this season.
After the whistle a number of the Orient players and staff approached referee Bourne, clearly annoyed with some of the decisions that he made. I realise full well I am biased, but I am not sure I have ever seen a more inconsistent refereeing performance and I remember our days in the National League. The penalty shout we had late on looked much more clear cut than the one he gave to them. To try to diffuse the situation Bourne opted to book Vigouroux for his remonstrations maybe if he was allowed he should have given himself a yellow card for that display!
With three games to go we stand four points off the play-off places having played a game more than the teams ahead of us, it is not completely impossible but it would take something miraculous for us to make up the ground in such a short space of time. All we can do is our utmost to win our remaining games and to finish as high up the final table as possible. A top ten finish and stability was very much the ambition for this season and we still look very much on course for that, it’s just a shame that our hope of extending the season looks like coming to nought.
Up the O’s!