We probably all knew that going to Stevenage and getting a result against a team very much in form and closing the gap behind us was going to be a big ask. However, the meek manner in which we slipped to a 3-0 loss, which could and possibly should have been even more comprehensive, wasn’t something that any of us were really expecting. The game itself was pretty much done and dusted in the eleventh minute when Jordan Roberts netted Boro’s second meeting little resistance from the O’s rear-guard. For the first time in the 10 months that Richie has been at the helm, I found myself in a frustrated sense of shock at how we had simply failed to turn up in a match that really mattered. So where did it all go wrong?
Listening to the gaffer’s post-match interview and reading the thoughts and feelings of other Orient fans, it seems there is plenty to get stuck into.
As Richie himself admitted, he probably got the set-up of the team wrong. While we all welcomed the signing of two centre backs to plug the gap left by the injuries to Dan Happe and Shad Ogie and to a slightly lesser extent Omar Beckles’ three game suspension, it seemed a strange choice to select Ed Turns an inexperienced youngster, and Jamie McCart who had only joined the club earlier in the week, as our central defensive partnership. Especially as we all knew what to expect from Stevenage and their approach to the game.
While obviously we had limited options, it remains something of mystery as to why Adam Thompson, who has filled in ably in the absence of the three defenders previously mentioned, was stationed at right back. Even more so given that we had both Jordan Brown and Craig Clay available and capable of doing a job there. Not only did we deprive ourselves of Thommo’s experience in the middle, but the player himself would probably admit that there were better options than him to play on the right hand side of the defence.
The fact that Richie changed the system: moving to a three at the back and replacing Thompson with Harry Smith just past the half hour mark, tells you all you need to know about how ineffectual we were in the opening period of the match.
While the gaffer took responsibility for “getting the team wrong”, he also pointed out that the players themselves needed to look at themselves and the so-called performance that they put in, suggesting: “[the] players need to look in the mirror as well, because of the fact that first and foremost if you don’t compete here…”. We didn’t compete and we got exactly what we deserved out of the game for me.
Idris El Mizouni’s red card (albeit for two yellows) was our third of the league campaign all of which have come in the last four matches. Where earlier in the season we seemed to be attracting too many yellows, a red also carries a suspension and we perhaps have to be thankful that El Mizouni, as silly as his two bookings were, will only miss the one match. If we had an uphill task after conceding two early goals, the dismissal made the challenge in front of us akin to scaling a mountain. Going forward surely a keen focus of our approach has to be on being much more disciplined in our play.
Toothless in Attack (again!)
Obviously this week’s analysis is somewhat tempered by the fact that we played half the match with 10 men, only registering 8 shots, 0 on target, despite having just over half of the possession, has done absolutely nothing to assuage my (ever) growing worry that we simply aren’t scoring enough goals. If in the half hour or so after conceding the second and before the red card we could have somehow mustered a goal, it may have put some doubt in the home side’s minds and given us something to build upon. To be honest we never looked like it.
The final word on what happened on Saturday should of course rest with Richie who summarised the game as follows: “Stevenage played like they were second in the league today and wanted it, we played like we were an end of the season team wanting the season to end.”
The defeat capped off a thoroughly disappointing run since we beat Sutton in mid-December. In those last six games, admittedly mainly against teams in the top half of the table, we have scored just once, picked up just six points, and are in danger of surrendering top spot if Stevenage can win their game in hand (thankfully it was postponed on Tuesday and they are involved in FA Cup action this weekend!).
It is often said in football that after a period of adversity the mark of a good side is the way that they are able to shake off the malaise and go again. In our next seven fixtures up until the end of next month we face: Tranmere Rovers (15th), AFC Wimbledon (13th), Crewe (17th), Walsall (11th), Rochdale (24th), Crawley (21st), Grimsby (16th), albeit it with four of those matches being away from home. Getting back on track, rekindling some momentum, and garnering a decent points return from the next 21 available, has to be the focus for the coaching staff and the players from this point forward. On a more positive note at least we know that Tom James and Omar Beckles should be back on Saturday, with El Mizouni available the following week for the match at home to Wimbledon.
Our start to the season has been so good it would be an absolute tragedy to throw it all away through this run of indifferent form. Richie and the boys made us all start to believe in the first half of the campaign, let’s hope they can do it again, a positive result up on the Wirral this Saturday would be an excellent place to start.
Up the O’s