As the legendary baseball player and manager Jogi Berra once famously said: “It’s like déjà vu all over again!”, once again in the space of just 4 days Orient went from winning comfortably at home, at least in the end, to being frustrated by a team lower down the league on our travels.
In last week’s post I reflected on the fact that if a team were to average around 2 points per game, which is of course very unlikely as it is the equivalent of winning every home game and drawing every one away from home, they are almost guarenteed to be in the play-off mix come the end of the season. Currently in League 2 only leaders Forest Green are averaging over the magical 2 points per game mark. Orient however seem to be taking it absolutely literally by following up Saturday’s 4-1 win over Sutton United with another frustrating draw, this time at bottom of the table Scunthorpe United.
Starting with Saturday, and for the second match in succession skipper Darren Pratley was consigned to the bench to allow Craig Clay and Hector Kyrpianou to pair up in central midfield again. The fact that the same pair started at Scunthorpe and that Theo Archibald continues to be deployed at left-wing back despite it having been recognised that he needs to improve defensively, suggests to me that with just over a third of our league games completed, KJ has pretty much settled on his first choice eleven, at least for now. It may well be that those on the periphery of the starting line-up may have to be reliant on the inevitable injuries and suspensions for an opportunity to show what they can do.
In another slice of “haven’t we been here before?” familiarity, the O’s again fell behind to an early goal, when Shad Ogie mis-controlled a crossfield pass allowing Sutton’s Isaac Olaofe to race clear and fire past Vigs at his near post. It was little consolation that this week it came after 18 minutes rather than the 36 seconds it had at Rochdale.
Thankfully it didn’t take us too long to get back on terms, Tom James’ long throw was flicked on by H for Archie to prod home at the far post. You could feel the relief in the stands and see the confidence lift amongst the players. Just before the break Sutton rattled the post to remind us there was still plenty of work to be done to secure the win.
If the O’s had taken their time time to settle in the first half, in the second they were off to a flyer Archie tore down the left wing and clipped a cross into the middle, Sutton’s keeper Bouzanis spilled it and H was on hand to nod the ball over him and into the unguarded net. From there it was largely one way traffic, but the result wasn’t secured until 8 minutes from time when H notched his second of the match and 9th of the campaign, hooking home on the volley after Sutton hadn’t cleared another James long throw. Then in added time Archie played a clever corner to James driving into the area and the wingback rattled home from 12 yards. Job very much done in that one, the win lifted us up from 9th in the very congested top half of the table to 6th and the frustration of the previous week evaporated.
So off to Scunthorpe we went, and on a Tuesday evening no less, the first midweek away trip for the missus and I in our Orient-watching history. With the last train to get us back to London while the Tube would still be running leaving Scunthorpe at 20:48 (or 3 minutes into the second half!) we decided that a late November evening in beautiful Scunthorpe was more than anyone could possibly wish for. A bit of Internet research turned up the excellently located (10 minutes’ walk from the station and half an hour to the ground) and very reasonably priced 42 Apart-Hotel on Doncaster Road.
Despite having to change at Doncaster after retravelling the majority of the trip to Leeds from a week and a half ago, the journey slipped by easily enough and we landed in Scunthorpe just after 2pm. As we went to check-in at the hotel, the O’s media guys were just in front of us (it seemed like we had definitely picked the right location!) although for a brief moment due to a mix-up in the name the booking was under, we very nearly ended up offering the pair of them the opportunity to crash on our floor. Thankfully it sorted itself out in the end although I suspect the place may not have been anywhere near fully booked.
Having spotted the Class 6 bar on the way up, advertising very cheap drinks and handily located approximately 20 yards from the hotel, we rather obviously decided that this was the perfect place to get our latest awayday adventure underway. At just £5.60 for two pints, it would have been rude not to!
After a few rounds in there and with our stomachs reminding us that we hadn’t eaten anything on the way up, not helped of course by the lack of a shop on the train, we decided that it was back round the corner to the equally handily-placed Wetherspoons for something to eat. After a good feed and another pint or two we decided it was time to head up to the ground to meet up with Lord Dazza and co at the Hungry Horse on the retail park near the ground. Amply fed and watered though we decided that the cab office across the road was much more appealing than the half hour walk. We nearly came to regret that decision when we were originally told it would be a 40-minute wait, until the boss in the back ordered one of the drivers to end his break and take us up there. We weren’t going to argue!
Once inside the Hungry Horse, or the Old Farmhouse to use its actual title, we got serious accommodation envy when the lads showed us pictures of Daz’s lodge (available to rent we believe!) on a site just outside Lincoln, an hour’s drive away. It came as no surprise whatsoever when we were told it was officially titled “E10” very much a home away from Brisbane Road.
After a pint and a catch-up with the guys, the missus decided she couldn’t leave the place without having a go on one of those funfair grabber machines located on the way into the Wacky Warehouse children’s play area. Amazingly she won not one, but two prizes which will provide her with (albeit cheapo!) reminders of our time in Scunthorpe.
Glanford Park when it opened in the late 1980’s was the first new league football ground to be built in England since the Second World War, and while it does feel a little bit dated and perhaps in need of a spruce up, it is not completely clear why the club continue to state the intention of developing a new stadium or enhancing the capacity of their current home. Certainly, the average attendances of just under 2,500 don’t really merit it.
Once again it was the same starting line-up for Orient but with the hope that with the home team sitting bottom of the table, this felt like a perfect opportunity for us to pick up all 3 points on our travels for only the second time this season. It was therefore somewhat frustrating that we struggled to impose ourselves on the game in the opening period. We did however seem to spark into life midway through the first half when Mitch sent Hector charging down the right and his dipping cross was tucked away by “Drinaldo” for his 10th goal in all competitions this season.
If we hoped the first goal would be enough to break the home side’s resistance we were to be sadly mistaken however. Once again we seemed to lose our tempo and to play within ourselves. Whether deliberately or not we seem a lot more timid on our travels. There was very little to excite what was a sizeable (at least for a Tuesday evening!) travelling faithful for the rest of the half.
We started the second half in search of a second goal to put the game to bed but were to end up frustrated wasting very presentable chances through Kemp and Drinan. Just past the hour mark we would rue those missed chances to extend our lead, a corner from our left resulted in one of those scrappy goalmouth scrambles and Scunthorpe’s Jake Scrimshaw was quickest to react to poke home the equalizer.
From there we pushed and pushed for a winning goal but wasted chances with H hitting the post then misdirecting an effort wide from close range when it looked easier to score, and then Paul Smyth, on as a sub for Dan Kemp, sent racing through the middle by H saw his dinked effort trickle wide.
After the match back in the Old Farmhouse with the gang we rued the missed chances that could have sealed it and also the fact that we have now drawn a total of 10 matches (7 of them away from home), the most of anyone in the division. While we still sit just 4 points off 3rd place and the automatic promotion places, if we could have just turned say 3 of those draws into wins we would really be amongst it.
Now it is onto 4th placed Northampton tomorrow in what looks like a very tricky trip, ironically a draw in this one would feel like a much more creditable result. Although as Mrs Football Nerd commented, we do tend to play better against teams higher up the table. Here’s hoping anyway!
Up the O’s!