Well that’ll teach me! I have been following Orient long enough to know that optimism is an incredibly dangerous trait. No sooner had I finished reviewing Orient’s League 2 record-breaking start to the season in last week’s post, than we were brought back down to earth with a resounding bump. Saturday’s defeat by Newport County was painful to take because it was completely out of keeping with the way we had played in the opening 10 matches.
If we are totally honest about this, I guess we all knew that we would inevitably drop points at some stage in the opening weeks/months of the season, it just felt very much like a bit of a sucker punch doing so at home where our record to date has been almost impeccable.
Going into the match there was just the one change to the team with Tom James returning to right-back in place of Jordan Brown who had deputised up at Barrow. I don’t know if I am, with the benefit of hindsight, reading too much into it, but we seemed really flat right from the off. There was a very early chance for Newport when we were sloppy playing out from the back and Tom James ended up giving the ball away with a poor pass, thankfully Wilding was only able to push his finish from a clever ball over the top wide of the right-hand upright.
That should have been a wake-up call, and we did rouse ourselves to create several good chances: first Paul Smyth curled an effort just wide of the top corner and then forced a save from Townsend in their goal with a cutback from the bye-line. Moments later Charlie Kelman powered a header against the crossbar before George Moncur fired an effort just wide and then Archie narrowly missed the target after cutting in off the right wing. Then finally Paul Smyth forced an acrobatic looking save from Townsend. If we could have taken one of those chances, then it may well have been a different story altogether.
Midway through the first half it was the visitors who found the back of the net however, from a corner Evans nodded home at the back post and we were 1-0 down. As good as the defence has been for the most part this campaign, it looked sloppy which made it even more galling.
Just minutes later, Vigs was put under pressure thanks to an under hit back pass from Omar, not the first time the big defender has been a little bit casual back there this season, our keeper ended up bringing Evans down and the referee pointed the spot. That was the third penalty that Vigs has conceded this season but unlike against Mansfield and Rochdale he wasn’t able to keep Bogle’s effort out this time.
The overwhelming feeling I had at half-time was that we had been a tad complacent coming into this match and had been caught out. However, having watched it back I think that might have been a bit harsh. While we were sloppy for spells, we created more than enough decent chances in the opening period but the two goals in quick succession pretty much took the wind out of our sails.
In the second half we started like a team that knew if it could pull one back it might have a chance of getting back into the match. Charlie Kelman was fouled on the edge of the area and Tom James surprised everyone in the ground by shooting low and round the wall, the ball struck the post and may have crossed the line but Arron Drinan, on as a half-time sub, made sure slamming home his first goal of the season.
While we had regained the momentum after pulling a goal back, we just couldn’t seem to find the all-important equalizer, no thanks to some “generous” refereeing decisions in favour of the visitors. I vividly remember a couple of, if not three, very reasonable penalty shouts (according to Dulcet Dave there were actually a total of 7 penalty claims in total!). Mr Whitestone however remained unmoved by the appeals of the players, coaching staff, and most of the Brisbane Road crowd. It is all too easy to suggest bias in these matters, but it really did feel as if we were a bit hard done by. In the end we fell to our first loss of the campaign.
After the match Richie (just yesterday crowned League 2 Manager of the Month for the second consecutive month) said that: “it’s a good wake-up call for us… in terms of our performance we should win the game easy,” and then: “11 games, 1 defeat we just need to reset and go again.” In terms of the officiating, it is fair to say our gaffer wasn’t best pleased with the way the referee handled (or actually didn’t!) Newport’s game management and time wasting, questioning why only 5 minutes were added on when the ball was only in play for a grand total of 24 in the second half. While we have been guilty of similar tactics in holding onto games this season, most notably at Barrow the previous week, we also seem to have been punished for it with the amount of time added on and yellow cards to our players.
So now we have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down as we go into 3 tough matches at Doncaster, at home to Northampton and then up in Carlisle. It is an oft-used cliché, but it is usually the mark of the strength of a team in how they respond to adversity. Personally, I wonder if we might start to see a bit more use of the squad now that our undefeated run has come to an end? After Saturday’s game Richie openly admitted that he had been a bit reluctant to change a winning side, but that he perhaps should have looked to freshen up the line-up a bit.
Annoying as losing in a game we should have probably won no doubt is, if we can get back on track quickly over the next 3 matches, then there still remains real grounds for positivity for this season, perhaps though I might remain a bit more cautious in mine!
Up the O’s