Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings- The O’s burst out of the doldrums with two statement victories.

Well let’s be honest about it: 2 wins on the bounce, with 3 goals scored, and 2 more clean sheets to take our total to a scarcely credible 19 out of 30 matches, was a stunning way for the O’s to break out of their recent doldrums. With the teams chasing immediately behind us all holding games in hand, we might not have definitively stretched our lead; but it really felt that the most important thing was getting back to winning ways after an almost completely barren run of 7 matches.

If I am being totally honest, after Wimbledon’s spoiling approach in the corresponding fixture at their place in November, I was concerned that we might struggle against them at home. I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised at the way we set about our task last Saturday. It almost felt like we decided that rather than try to match them at their own game, we would simply try to out-football them. The fact that we enjoyed approaching 60% of the possession shows how well our tactics worked.

We may not have created that many gilt-edged chances early on, but the way that increasingly Wimbledon looked to interrupt our flow by flinging themselves to the ground with the minimum of encouragement (greetings Mr Pell!), suggests that they were struggling to cope with our possession-based approach.

In the end it was a moment of magic from George Moncur in the 64th minute, in which he managed to somehow find the net from an acute angle with a number of players in the way, that settled the match and sent us away from Brisbane Road with “Rockin’ All Over the World” ringing in our ears for the first time in what has felt like a very long month.

It may not have been the most comprehensive or convincing display we have put in this season, but it was exactly what we needed to reignite the belief of the squad and the fans.

On Tuesday night in Crewe, the gaffer made a couple of enforced changes to the starting eleven: Craig Clay replacing Jordan Lyden who is finding his way back to full match fitness after a long injury absence prior to joining us, and Tom James returning to replace Rob Hunt who had injured himself getting out of the way of Moncs’ winner the previous Saturday.  

After an early scare and once we settled, we played some excellent football, admittedly against a team very much struggling for form and on the back of a 3-0 humbling at home to Grimsby in their previous match. During the first half we played fairly directly, constantly turning their defence around and looking to get in behind them. Rather bizarrely the opening goal from Ed Turns (more on him later on!) came from Crewe failing to clear a corner despite a number of opportunities to get rid of it.

After half-time and another early chance for Crewe, we dominated the game playing the incisive forward-thinking football that has been conspicuous by its absence for a good few weeks. The second goal was really well worked with Jayden Sweeney breaking down the left and playing it inside to Kieran Sadlier, the on-loan Bolton man’s composure on the ball allowed him to work space in the area and then pick out Archie arriving late to slam home.

In a refrain from earlier in the season: we could, and perhaps should, have scored more but a 2-0 victory on our travels, our first away from home since Stockport in November, augmented the statement made by beating Wimbledon. As the gaffer said afterwards it feels “like we’re back.” So, what has changed?

First up it seems like the new January additions have reinvigorated the squad. We may not have seen too much of Lyden and McCart just yet, but both Turns and Sadlier are really starting to show the quality that they can add. In the opening period of his debut against Barrow and for the whole game at Stevenage, I was genuinely worried whether Turns was physical enough to rise to the challenge of lower league football having come from the cosseted world of a Premier League academy. However, in the last two matches he has shown a calm composure, a tenacity in the tackle, and the quality on the ball that we would of course expect. We might as well enjoy him for the rest of the season as he looks destined for the very top.

Sadlier simply oozes class; he is neat and tidy on the ball and is the very definition of a “heads up” player. In the second half at Crewe in particular it was a pleasure to watch him. Right now of course he is occupying Paul Smyth’s position on the left hand side of our attack, but once Smudge is back fit it will be really interesting to see what Richie’s thinking is in terms of how we deploy those two with Moncs and Archie. We lacked creativity in our recent poor run, but with options like we now have if/when they are all fit and firing it should lead to some exciting attacking play.

In addition to the impact of the new signings some of the existing squad seem to have found a new lease of life. Idris El Mizouni seems to have come back from his enforced absence as the driving force in the heart of midfield he was in the earlier part of the season. Similarly, Omar Beckles looks back to his best at the back, while the exciting Jayden Sweeney and the ever-dependable Craig Clay have shown they can slot in and add something as required. With the likes of Darren Pratley, Jordan Brown, Rob Hunt as well as the aforementioned Smudge potentially set to return in the coming weeks, the squad now looks nicely set for the run-in.  We just need Aaron Drinan and Charlie Kelman to start finding the back of the net more regularly!   

We have now played 30 of our league matches (I know, I know where has the time gone?) and have just 16 left to go. I have seen various people doing the maths on social media, but it feels like anything above 85 points should be enough to secure promotion, to achieve that we would need 7 wins and a draw. If that turns out to be correct that gives us plenty of wiggle room (as our friends across the pond would say), although of course winning the league would be the cherry on top of our promotion cake.

For now all we can do is focus on taking each game as it comes, next up is a trip to Walsall who might be sitting in 14th place but are only 4 points off the play-off places with a couple of games in hand. It will no doubt be a tough test, but a positive result would really add to the statement we have made over the last week.

Up the O’s

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