The one thing that I think we have all learnt from both an Orient-supporting and worldwide perspective over the last few years is to expect the unexpected. The last time I penned (keyed?) these musings the missus and I were off to New York City on a baseball-related adventure to see if the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge could continue his chase for a record 62 homeruns, the highest total set by a player not having been proven to have taken performance enhancing drugs. To avoid boring you all to tears, I won’t go into any further details about a sport that is about as far removed from football as you can get but suffice it to say that the push continues. Of course, our holiday meant missing the trip to Wimbledon and a first visit to their new ground, but we were planning on watching it in the company of Dulcet Dave and Matt Hiscock from the comfort of our hotel.
As soon as we arrived and checked in, I flicked on the TV to be greeted with the news that the Queen had sadly passed away. With the EFL subsequently taking the decision that all of the weekend’s games would be suspended. While I understand that these are very sad times for many people, it seemed strange that it was only football that chose to halt its programme, with many other sports continuing as normal. As many commentors have said, might it have been better to let the matches go ahead and to allow football fans to pay our respects in our own way?
I get that there was a concern that a minority might have spoiled the tributes, but at the same time across the country many supporters would have had to change their travel plans etc, likely at quite a personal cost. Equally the casual workers that work at the grounds will have lost a day’s pay and the clubs themselves will have incurred costs that they won’t be able to recoup.
Attending two games at Yankee Stadium did however provide an eye-opening revelation of where football at the highest levels seems to be looking to follow. With a beer and a large hotdog coming in at just under $24 (approximately £21) being amongst the more “reasonable”(sic) offerings at the concession stands, not to mention the staggering ticket prices which go up and down according to the demand for a particular game; it is easy to see how the big clubs have cottoned onto the fact that over-inflated prices for admission and food and drink to a captive market is almost a licence to print money. While I think the majority of the Orient faithful have been more than happy about the way that Nigel, Kent, the board, Danny Macklin and now Mark Devlin continue to work to improve what is available to fans at Brisbane Road, we would never want to push the prices up to Premier League let alone major American sports’ levels. In many ways it feels as if the “real (and affordable!) football” niche is the one that Orient should aim to promote if they want to continue to attract new fans.
Onto matters on the pitch, and the O’s were back in action again on Tuesday evening away at Rochdale. Ahead of that match Richie Wellens was (more than) deservedly announced as the winner of the League 2 Manager of the Month award for August. While these awards tend to go to whichever manager’s team has done the best over the month, in our gaffer’s case it should also be taken as recognition of the massive turnaround throughout the club since his arrival after the dark days of last winter.
The only change to the starting line-up for the O’s was Jayden Sweeney coming in to replace the injured Rob Hunt, while Aaron Drinan and Archie, both on the way back from injury, had to be content with a place on the bench as Ruel Sotiriou, Charlie Kelman and Paul Smyth continued as the front three. While obviously it is still early days, and injuries and suspensions will undoubtedly have an impact going forward, having genuine options, especially from an attacking point of view, feels like a much stronger position than we have been in for a while.
After having to battle for a result against Tranmere in our previous outing, this felt like another match in which we had to dig out a win. There was little in the way of goal mouth action in the opening period save for a couple of balls into the box from set-pieces by the hosts, and a brace of efforts from George Moncur: the first he opted to shoot when perhaps he should have squared it and the second a dipping effort that fizzed just over the bar.
The match seemed to spring into life on the half hour mark when Ruel Sotiriou forced an excellent stop from O’Donnell and then just a matter of minutes later Moncur notched his first goal for us from open play, curling an effort home after being set up by a clever through-ball from Jayden Sweeney.
From there and into the second half the match became something of a stalemate as Orient didn’t really do enough to get a decisive second goal thanks in no small part to some resolute defending by the hosts. In stoppage time Rochdale were awarded a penalty when Vigs bundled Sinclair over in the box. However, just as he had done against Mansfield a few weeks previously, our keeper atoned for his error by plunging to his right to parry Quigley’s spot-kick and secure all 3 points for the O’s. It was far from our best performance of the season so far, but it felt very much like a game we probably wouldn’t have won this time last year.
Next up is Walsall who got off to something of flyer winning their opening two games but haven’t managed a victory since and currently sit 14th in the table. As encouraging as the grinding out of results has been over our last couple of performances, this feels like a game, especially at home, that we should be looking to win more comfortably and to continue to build our momentum. Here’s hoping anyway!
Up the O’s