Some earlier than usual musings this week, as the missus and I are off on a (baseball-related) jaunt to our favourite city for the first time since Coronavirus changed the world, New York. It does mean that we aren’t available for the short away trip to Wimbledon, but any of you who know us can probably guess exactly what we’ll be doing at 10am local time on Saturday morning!
Going into last Saturday’s match there seemed to be a general consensus amongst the Orient faithful that despite their slow-ish start to the season and their position in the league table, Tranmere would pose a significant challenge to us. To win what felt like something of an attritional contest despite not really playing at our highest level for large parts of the match, showed that when needed we can dig in and tough out a result. What’s that old saying about winning ugly?
After all the changes for the Oxford match in midweek, it came as no surprise whatsoever when the line-up was revealed as the full strength one, the only player missing being Archie who had a calf issue. Ruel came in on the left-hand side of the attack with Paul Smyth shifting over to the right. Meanwhile Aaron Drinan made a very welcome return to the bench.
Whether it was the way Tranmere set-up in their diamond midfield, or the tweak to our line-up, but we struggled to get a foothold in the game early on. Having a right-footed player on the right in Paul Smyth seemed to stifle Tom James’ forays forward a bit, which is usually one of our attacking strengths. When Archie plays on the right his natural tendency is to cut inside which creates room for the Welshman on the overlap.
Having not really threatened their goal, we seemed to spring into life just past the half-hour mark when skipper Darren Pratley pushed forward into midfield and played it out to Smyth on the right wing, his dipping cross was too much for Turnbull to deal with and he turned it past his own keeper to give Orient the lead. From there we saw out the rest of the half fairly comfortably.
For the opening period of the second half, we were in what Richie described as “survival mode”, although in fairness I can’t remember Vigs having too much to do to protect our lead other than one low shot. Ruel went off with an injury and then Jordan Brown and Craig Clay replaced Prats and George Moncur, which allowed us to get more of a grip of the midfield.
With just 5 minutes to play Paul Smyth did it again, after El Mizouni recycled the ball deep inside Tranmere territory he played it to Kelman who slid Smyth in with a delightful pass and the Northern Irishman did the rest, firing low into the bottom lefthand corner to seal all 3 points.
With Barrow going down 3-1 at Northampton, we now sit 3 points clear at that the top of the League 2 table, and are one of only 3 unbeaten sides in the EFL, (Ipswich and Portsmouth being the other two), doesn’t that sound great?
Now it’s on to two more away games first at 15th placed Wimbledon and then at Rochdale who sit rock-bottom of the table with just 2 points from their opening 7 matches. Without wanting to get carried away at this very early stage, if we can emerge from those with our unbeaten record intact I think we can all be happy with our start to the campaign. As Dulcet Dave said on last week’s LO Down podcast: there will inevitably be bumps in the road and periods where our form drops, but for now our focus has to be on getting as many points on the board as possible and extending our good start.
Before signing off for this week, It would of course be remiss of me to not mention the medical emergency on Saturday which had the fans in the South Stand and the coaching staff asking the officials to stop the game. Thankfully the lady in question is reportedly ok, but apparently there is new guidance in the EFL against the match officials halting the game in such instances. While I kind of get that it could be exploited by some to interfere with the proceedings, I very much agree with Richie when he said after the match: “morally it doesn’t sit right with me…that’s all it is, a game of football.” Not like the league officials to be out of touch with reality is it?
Up the O’s