If rumours (or the bookies) are to be believed, so far both Darren Ferguson and Neil Lennon have ruled themselves out of the opportunity to become Orient’s next manager. Although I personally have my doubts about how likely those rumoured appointments ever were, the fact is that a week and a half into the “process” we seem to be nowhere nearer finding out who the next permanent manager is going to be. Given our recent managerial appointments since Justin’s tragic passing, would it really surprise any of us if it was announced that Matt Harrold was to remain in interim charge until the end of the season? Not something I personally would be against; I hasten to add.
Perhaps the main conclusion that we can draw from the current situation is that the sacking of Kenny Jackett was, as we might have suspected at the time, a spontaneous response to ongoing poor results rather than a planned move with a replacement lined up. While, as some of the Orient social media pages have been suggesting, there seems to be no sign of panic coming out of the club (would they really admit it if they were?), a sizeable part of the fanbase is starting to feel just slightly jittery, your author probably included, the longer the lack of clarity over the next permanent manager continues.
I should of course point out that my growing worry is nothing at all to do with Matt as interim boss, in fact there have been some encouraging signs of progress in the way that the team’s attitude seems to have improved, in the engagement with the fans and with us actually managing to score more than one goal in a match for the first time in such a very long time. The worry is that every game that goes by where we don’t start putting distance between us and the drop-zone, the danger of us being sucked into a real battle for Football League survival grows. Some wins and some points on the board in quick succession would of course start to ease the nerves, but that really needs to start happening soon.
The match against Carlisle last Saturday was a case in point, no matter how poor our form has been over the last few months, a home game against a team that was hovering just above the drop-zone (although only 2 points behind us in the table), who like us had sacked their manager (although unlike us they had moved to replace him immediately, clearly having a plan in place) and who had won even less games than we had (6 to our 7 up to that point) provided an ideal opportunity for the players to show us what they are made of. However as seems to have been the case all too often this season we weren’t capable of taking it and put in another uninspiring performance.
Going behind to another early goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of us again, and when Archie was shown two yellow cards in quick succession early in the second half, our fate was very much sealed. Credit to Carlisle for showing resilience and seeing the game out despite our improved efforts, but it was another frustrating result at home.
In the programme notes Nigel Travis called upon us to: “…can I encourage all fans to take this opportunity getting right behind the team, really make the Breyer Group Stadium as full and loud as possible and hopefully make it the fortress that it was earlier in the season and that historically it has been!“, maybe he should have also addressed that to the players who for the main were disappointing and showed little passion for the cause, other than the odd exception.
Tuesday night’s performance at Colchester was more encouraging (we scored not 1 but 2 goals and didn’t lose!), although it was another example of us conceding a lead thanks to sloppy defending and poor game management. At least this time we were able to rescue a point at the death thanks to Ethan Coleman’s scrambled equalizer. However, Carlisle’s win at home to fellow strugglers Rochdale saw them pull level on points with us, with undoubtedly the momentum created by two victories in succession having them believing they can make themselves safe over the coming weeks.
Next up for us is the visit of 21st placed Stevenage in what feels every bit like the proverbial relegation six-pointer and very similar to the Carlisle game last week. After that we head to mid-table Hartlepool followed by a visit to runaway leaders Forest Green Rovers in what is a very busy March schedule. If we fail to win tomorrow and barring miracles at Victoria Park and the New Lawn, we could find ourselves in even deeper trouble by the time we face Rochdale at Brisbane Road in a fortnight’s time.
Without overstating it, the next couple of weeks are absolutely crucial for the O’s, we desperately need points and as fans we could all do with something to get behind and to help us to start to believe again. Some certainty in who is going to be overseeing the squad for the rest of the season would also help.
Up the O’s!