I ended last week’s post (<strong>Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings- Orient maintain their perfect start to the league campaign but are less than impressive.</strong>) by suggesting that the games at home to Mansfield and then away at Swindon and Colchester in quick succession would tell us a quite a bit about our prospects for the season. After last night’s draw at the County Ground, a match in which I have to agree with Richie’s assessment in that we could, and probably should, have scored more goals and won the game, there is plenty to excite the Orient faithful about our prospects for this campaign. 10 points out of a possible 12 is a decent start and even though we are just pipped for top spot by our old friends Salford on goal difference, I think we can all be pretty satisfied with the way the O’s are shaping up in 2022/23.
Last Saturday’s match against Mansfield started in a bit of a bizarre and surreal manner for Mrs Orient Nerd and me, and it wasn’t only to do with the blistering conditions at Costa-del-Brisbane Road. We headed down to the Supporters Club to renew our membership for the season, after catching up with a few of the regulars, the missus spotted Glenn (or as many of you will know him: Ted Talks Orient), who is actually the brother of two of the better half’s oldest friends. He was over on a flying visit to England from Alsace and had leapt at the opportunity of introducing his daughter’s boyfriend Stan, a Lyon fan, to the delights of watching a “proper football team”.
Even though I have been in fairly regular contact with Glenn through social media and our connection as contributors to the Orientear, we had only actually met in person once previously. That was way back in January 2006 when he convinced us and a few other members of his extended family and friends to accompany him to watch the O’s play Charlton at the Valley in the FA Cup.
On to the actual match and the big surprise in terms of the line-up was that newly recruited Idris El Mazouni, whose signing had only been announced the previous day, started the match in the problematic holding midfield role. He fitted in really well, looked composed on the ball and gave us the drive in midfield that we have been lacking for a while, as we were to see midway through the second half in particular.
The O’s got off to probably the worst start possible when Vigs was judged to have brought down Rhys Oates in the area after just 20 seconds. All through the week I had been thinking that this was going to be a tough match but at that very early point it was beginning to look even tougher. Thankfully Mr Doughty decided no further action was required against our keeper and we kept the full complement of players on the pitch.
From the resultant spot-kick, Vigs plunged low to his right to turn Mclaughlin’s effort wide of the upright, it was to turn out to be just 1 of 7 crucial saves that “Chile’s Number One” made in the first half alone in a truly impressive and thoroughly deserved player of the match performance.
After all the excitement in the opening couple of minutes, the match settled down a bit, the intensity was still very much evident, but it was a fairly even contest, although in complete fairness it was Mansfield that created the better opportunities only to be denied by Vigs time and again.
After the break, and undoubtedly as a result of the sweltering conditions, things slowed down a little bit. If we were struggling with the heat in the stands I can only imagine what it was like to be on the pitch. George Moncur forced a save from Pym in their goal on the hour mark and then Dan Happe headed just over from the resultant corner as the O’s started to build real pressure. Just a matter of moments later, El Mizouni exchanged passes on halfway with Paul Smyth before driving towards the penalty area and unselfishly setting up Charlie Kelman for his first goal for the O’s.
Another really positive aspect to Saturday’s performance was the way that we dug in and stayed solid for what was left of the match and the 6+ minutes added time to secure all 3 points once again.
On to Tuesday night and a return to Swindon from where we have such happy memories from Easter Monday. The missus’ and my decision to actually go on holiday this year ruled us out of a Tuesday night trip to Wiltshire, but we of course happily tuned in and watched in the company of Dulcet Dave and Matt on Orient Live. While it is always fun to go on awaydays, especially in midweek, we also missed all the idiosyncratic fun of watching on the stream last season.
This was another game that got off to a lively start when Harry McKirdy (is it me or is he just a real pain in the backside to play against?) put the home side ahead after just 4 minutes. Rather encouragingly our response was almost instantaneous with Paul Smyth restoring parity just 3 minutes later tapping home after a sweeping move that started with Vigs playing the ball to Shad Ogie who squared it for El Mizouni who found Archie on the right with a beautiful sweeping pass, the winger’s cross setting it up perfectly for Smyth. It was another example of the exciting incisive football that we have seen in glimpses throughout the season so far. After the match Richie said: “that’s what we’re trying to get, no more than 5 passes [to get up the field]” if that is the blueprint for how we are going to play and we can produce that style of football on a consistent basis, we are going to be an exciting team to watch. It also provided another clear indication of what our new deep-lying midfielder can bring.
Orient were pretty much dominant for the rest of the half but despite some good efforts on goal, from George Moncur especially, we couldn’t make them count. There was also a spell in the first 20 minutes or so of the second half when we had further chances to secure the victory but couldn’t take them. The fact that Swindon keeper, Sol Brynn, was voted the home side’s player of the match, tells you all you need to know about the O’s dominance for the majority of the game. Swindon put us under a bit of pressure right towards the end of the game, but we held firm and secured a decent away point and a solid start to the season.
It still feels to me as if there is a lot to come from this squad, but I think we can all be fairly satisfied with the start we have made. Up next is a trip to Colchester another solid performance and decent result would build on our early momentum. The missus and I will be in Rotterdam celebrating her birthday, so it will be another instalment of Orient Live for us.
Up the O’s