The 4-2 defeat by automatic-promotion-chasing Northampton Town provided something of a reality check for the recently reinvigorated Orient faithful. Going in at half-time 4-1 down suggests it was our worst performance of the campaign, but it really didn’t feel like that. In fact for a fleeting moment when Jordan Brown scored at the start of the second period, a brief flutter of hope seemed to permeate throughout the ground.
Alas any hope of a famous comeback was stymied by Northampton’s defensive organisation and stability, before being halted in its tracks completely when Shad Ogie was shown a straight red card for reacting to what looked like a pretty nasty tackle.
Obviously if you bring your forehead close enough to an opponent for the referee to deem there was “contact” you are walking a fine line, but I for one simply cannot believe that the initial “tackle” from Danny Rose was deemed only a yellow card offence, if the reaction was apparently worthy of a dismissal.
As Orient-biased as most of us undoubtedly are, it is definitely true to say that none of the officials covered themselves in glory last Saturday, least of all the linesman on the East Stand side who seemed so uninvolved in the proceedings (other than rather amusingly dropping his flag the one time he tried to use it!), he might as well have paid the entrance fee to watch the match like the rest of us.
While there is no disgrace in losing to a better team, and we did put up some semblance of a fight for portions of the match, it did demonstrate the standard and the level of performance that we will need to reach next season if we are to achieve what we all hope we are capable of. Rather than being downhearted hopefully we can use it to motivate us going through the summer and into the start of the next campaign.
Speaking after the match, a clearly disappointed Richie suggested that: “For the first fifteen minutes I thought it was quite even…and then for the next half hour we played with our flip-flops on.” Clearly intimating that he felt that our players played as if they felt they were already on holiday, and that a degree of complacency may have crept into the squad as a result of a lack of competition for places over the recent run of matches.
The squad we have is not untalented or lacking in quality, at least in the majority of cases, however since the start of the season it has felt, to me at least, that it has always been a bit light in numbers, especially given the inevitable impact of injuries and fixture congestion. While the (in)famous transfer committee will point to the 6 new arrivals in the January transfer window, at the time of those acquisitions we already knew we would be without both Tom James and Craig Clay for the remainder of the season, presumably that Alex Mitchell was going to miss games through his planned reportedly not-football-related operation and that it was highly likely that other members of the existing squad would miss game time through injury, illness, suspension, or indeed a combination of all three.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can also question, with the exception of Otis Khan, and possibly Jordan Brown, what contribution the new additions have actually made, especially those that came in on loan? When it was announced that all 3 of: Dan Moss, George Ray and Frank Nouble wouldn’t be with us next season, I doubt very much that their departures will be mourned by too many of the Orient faithful. Assuming of course we can build on the foundations of the squad that we already have, the first part of the process of course being to try to keep hold of those players whose contracts are coming to an end.
According to an article on the Football League World website, a total of 12 of the current squad will be out of contract come the start of the summer: Darren Pratley, Adam Thompson, Callum Reilly, Tom James, Sam Sargeant, Ruel Sotiriou, Hector Kyprianou, Jayden Sweeney, Matt Young, Rhys Byrne, Antony Papadopoulos and Daniel Nkrumah.
Obviously the 3 names that leap out at you from that list are those of Darren Pratley, Tom James and Ruel Sotiriou, although Hector has made a total of 44 appearances including the majority of our league games, Adam Thompson provided vital cover at right back in the absence of James and his seeming back-up Clay and also allowed Ortis Khan to be deployed further forward, and the youngsters like Byrne, Young in particular, Papadopoulos and Nkrumah have shown some encouraging potential.
Presumably the board and Richie will be hoping to encourage Pratley, James and Ruel to extend their stays in E10, along with trying to agree a permanent deal with Lincoln for Theo Archibald given the positive noises that have been made about all 4. The gaffer might also welcome the opportunity to try to integrate at least some of the promising younger players, hoping they continue their development in a similar vein to the way that Shad Ogie has become an integral member of the squad and indeed team this season. He will also inevitably have his eye on some players more suited to the style of play he wants to embed and with what he wants to achieve. Might that therefore mean we look to offload some under contract players to allow that to happen?
With just two games left to go, while there is seemingly little to play for in terms of league position, it still remains vital that we stay focused and continue to put in the effort that we have been and aim to finish the season on as positive a note as we can. The result against Northampton shows what can happen if the lads aren’t 100% at it. Here’s hoping we get back on track against Crawley tomorrow.
Up the O’s