Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings- Paul Smyth’s on fire, League 2 is terrified!!!

Hands up if you thought Paul Smyth was man of the match in Orient’s 1-0 win over Salford last Saturday? Yep, just as I thought, that’s unanimous! Seriously just when you think the mercurial Northern Ireland forward couldn’t improve on his magical strikes, he goes and produces another one that simply had to be seen to be believed. Just in case you haven’t watched it over and over again on the replay, as I am sure the vast majority of Orient fans have since, allow me to try to do it justice.

It all starts high up on the left wing with Orient attacking the North Stand end of the ground with Smyth with the ball at his feet toying with a couple of Salford defenders, neither of whom seem abundantly sure what he is going to do: come inside or take it to the bye-line. He then shapes to go to the line, chops sharply tucking the ball between his opponent’s legs, while the defender loses his balance and bundles Smudge over. At this point Smyth and most of the rest of us were appealing for a penalty, then realising the referee isn’t going to give it, he then stands up with the ball somehow still at his feet, beats two more defenders and fires across face goal and into the bottom right-hand corner. It was just one of those moments that are worth the admission price alone.

That goal took Smyth to 7 in the league for the season so far, and while he is obviously our leading marksman this campaign, his contribution to the side is more than just simply the number of goals he has scored. You can almost sense the apprehensiveness of defenders when Smudge picks up the ball and looks to go at them. Personally, I have lost count of the number of free kicks that he has won for us as panicked oppositions players resort to simply chopping him down, rather than see themselves left for dead.

Beyond even that though, it is the sheer audacity and skill involved in his strikes that gets fans off their feet. If you find yourself with some spare time, I would highly recommend watching a compilation of his Orient goals on Youtube (or other suitable platform of course!), I absolutely guarantee it will bring a smile to your face. Back in my formative football years, my Dad used to differentiate certain types of forward based on the oft-used cliché as being either “great goal-scorers” or “scorers of great goals”, I think our mercurial number 7 definitely belongs in the latter grouping.

Before last season in a conversation with my cousin’s husband, a QPR fan, I asked him what we were getting when Smyth signed for the club. His response was that there was definite talent there but that injuries had stymied his opportunities to make a breakthrough. Something I am sure we can all relate to given his bad luck last season. While we can’t wrap him in cotton wool, Richie and his staff seem to be actively trying to manage his minutes, and with the extended run of matches this term, we are starting to really see his undoubted ability.

Of course, being Orient fans we are not just worried about him staying fit this season, but there is a growing fear that a club from a higher level will come in and tempt him away either in January or the summer. I guess this is part and parcel of being a club lower down the league structure in that once you find a real gem of a player there is always the danger of having them cherry-picked by clubs with a higher status and larger financial resources. Like many of the current squad Smyth’s contract expires in June and as with Aaron Drinan in the summer, we can only hope that Martin Ling and co are already in discussions about a potential extension, to try to secure his service beyond just this campaign.

Beyond Smudge’s brilliant goal on Saturday, the win was another assured performance from the O’s. Salford came into the game on the back of four consecutive away wins and will inevitably have promotion aspirations themselves, but we seemed to nullify their threat for the most part, and probably should have won by a greater margin. What better way to respond to our slight wobble over the first fortnight of October, than by reeling off 3 wins on the spin in potentially tricky encounters?

After Saturday’s match, while I am sure suppressing a wry smile after putting one over his formers employers, the gaffer repeated a familiar refrain: “Even though it was only 1-0 it was really comfortable, we should have scored a lot more goals.” Difficult to disagree on either count, and we can only imagine how we are going to perform if we can up our return in terms of scoring rate as I believe many of us think we can.

 At the other end, that is now 10 clean sheets in our 16 league matches with just 9 goals conceded, which is the lowest number for any team in the top four divisions. Impressive stuff not just from our backline but as Richie said, “the whole team”.

 Attention now of course switches to the trip to Crewe in the first round of the FA Cup and while obviously the club would benefit from a run in the competition, it sounded very much like Richie and the lads would prefer to continue to try to build on our excellent start to the season. He wasn’t giving too much away but I would expect some changes to the line-up.

After that we face away trips to Wimbledon, Harrogate and Stockport, if we come through those three with our lead at the top of the table maintained or better still extended, then Brisbane Road is very much likely to be buzzing when Bradford come to town on the first Saturday of December.

Right, I’m off to watch Smudge’s goals again!

 Up the O’s

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