Forgive me if you have heard this one before, but Orient secured all three points last Saturday thanks to a strike from range by Tom James. It wasn’t however just the nature of the Welshman’s goal that contained a large dollop of déjà vu, as we won in the sunshine in Crawley, just as we had done back in April on our final away trip of last season. To carry on the familiarity, we won without really looking all that impressive.
In the lead up to last Saturday’s match (<strong>Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings- The O’s get off to a winning start. Is versatility the way forward?</strong>) I wondered if Richie might stick to the line-up that he had largely been forced into naming at home to Grimsby the previous week with Tom James in midfield and Paul Smyth nominally leading the forward line? Rather sensibly the gaffer decided that we would be better off playing players in their more customary positions; so we had James reverting to right back with Craig Clay replacing him in the heart of the midfield and Charlie Kelman replacing Smyth in the central attacking role. While the logic in the team selection was most certainly there, the level of performance, especially from an attacking point of view, simply wasn’t.
A quick scan of the match stats shows that Crawley had almost 2/3rds of the possession, enjoyed a much higher passing accuracy (80% to our 65%) and that even though we managed a total of 11 shots at goal, only 2 of them were on target. No wonder Richie thought “we got away with one”. Don’t get me wrong I am all for a team that doesn’t play at its best but still manages to win a game, especially away from home, however hopefully that level of performance can very much be filed under early season development and is nowhere near what we are going to be capable of this season.
While we take the victory and move on, Richie’s post-match interview proved to be quite revelatory in terms of some of the transfer market moves he and the club are trying to make. Prior to Saturday’s trip to Crawley, we got the news that young midfielder Ethan Coleman had joined Bromley FC on loan for the duration of the season. Richie then revealed after the match that Connor Wood had been told that he can find a new club in order to free up funds to allow us to bring in another midfield player (or possibly even two). As the boss briefly outlined the squad depth he suggested that while we had the famed two players for every position at the back and up front, we only had three senior central midfield players in Darren Pratley, Craig Clay and George Moncur. Strangely there was no mention of Jordan Brown (although admittedly he was injured at the time), was this a simple oversight as Brown featured as a sub on Tuesday night, or a potential hint that he might be on his way out on loan/ permanently?
Despite those comments, at the time of writing on Friday afternoon we have had no further news of any incoming players. Is it, as Richie suggested, him being a bit hesitant to give the move(s) the go ahead in order to make sure the recruit(s) is the one he wants, or are we struggling to either find the right player(s) or convince them to come? Hopefully all will be revealed in the fullness of time. One thing that does seem clear however is that Richie was far from impressed with the infamous January transfer window business that saw us bring in 6 new players (admittedly 3 of whom were on loan), now only Brown remains, at least for the time being.
Onto Tuesday night and a trip to our “friends” from Nailsworth in a League Cup tie that the gaffer readily admitted was a match that we probably didn’t need. From what I can gather from the match report, highlights and comments on social media it was a game where a much-changed Orient side put up something of a fight and if we could have taken one of a couple of chances to get back on terms we might have got something from. In reality it was always a big ask to win the tie and maybe we are, in true football cliché style, better off concentrating on the league and our hoped-for push for promotion.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s game against Mansfield, it looks a tough test for us. In the games against the Stags last season they frustrated us with very un-Clough-like spoiling tactics which secured them a goalless draw at Brisbane Road; however, by the time we went to Field Mill they were a much-improved side and largely outclassed us while we were very much mired in the doldrums. Eventually they finished in the final play-off spot and reached the final at Wembley ultimately losing 3-0 to Port Vale. So far this campaign they lost away at Salford on the opening day but beat Tranmere at home last week, their achievements last season of course suggest that they are likely to be in the mix again this time around.
From an Orient perspective, perhaps the biggest concern is the lack of goals from our forwards so far, the 3 we have scored have come from a Moncur penalty and two wonder-strikes by Tom James, we really need the likes of: Ruel, Archie, Paul Smyth, Charlie Kelman and H to start putting the ball in the back of the net to kickstart our attacking momentum. Saturday would be an excellent time to start.
After Saturday we head off to Swindon for what looks like another tough test against a side that qualified for the play-offs despite the fact that we did the double over them (the only team we did), even if they have got off to something of a stuttering start losing at Harrogate and drawing at home to Salford. While Orient haven’t really taken off just yet, how we fare over this next week might tell us quite a bit about our prospects for the season. Let’s hope it’s good news!
Up the O’s