Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings- Orient are becoming stronger at just the right time.

In the end Orient got the job done against Crawley Town last Saturday thanks to a strike early in the second half from the continually impressive Idris El Mizouni, although in a familiar refrain we definitely should have scored more. With Stevenage losing away at Stockport, we extended our lead at the top of the table to 13 points, albeit with us having played three games more. Just as crucially the safety net to fourth place now stands at 16 points after Stockport’s midweek win at Rochdale.

In the interests of not getting too carried away too early, all I will say is that it was another positive step forward for the Orient and our promotion and title ambitions. With 13 games to go I promise I am taking nothing at all for granted, but I confess I have found myself having a sneaky look or two at the League 1 table this week and starting to look forward to some of the awaydays that we might have in store next season if we can see the job through.

Speaking after the victory over Crawley, the gaffer was effusive in his praise for his charges, saying: “in terms of 1-0 wins you ain’t gonna see a more dominant 1-0 win” and that it was: “a really good performance by everyone”, hard to disagree with that. Although once again some of the debate after the game centred on another match in which our main central attacking options couldn’t take the chances that came their way.

I get that it is unusual for a team that is performing as well as we are to not have at least one striker who is in double figures for league goals scored at this stage, but increasingly it seems that as long as the goals are coming from elsewhere, Richie isn’t too concerned, although he did suggest that both Aaron Drinan and Charlie Kelman could do with a lucky break in front of goal. It would certainly help towards our ultimate goal if either or both start finding the net on a regular basis again, assuming of course that the injury that forced Drinan’s first half replacement isn’t too serious.

While we know that there has been sickness in the camp over recent weeks, it struck me when all four of Paul Smyth, George Moncur, Darren Pratley and Adam Thompson joined the fray in the second half that Richie might face some selection dilemmas over the remaining weeks of the season.

I admit I am guessing here, but I would imagine that the loan signing of Kieran Sadlier was motivated as much by the worry about Paul Smyth staying fit for the rest of the season, as it was by the availability of the player. It will be really interesting to find out how Sadlier slots into the team structure going forward. There is a strategy in baseball and other US sports called the “platoon system” whereby two players share gametime for one position. Might this be the thinking for Smudge and Sadlier, or might the on-loan Sadlier get given an opportunity in the number 10 role in place of Moncs and/or Ruel Sotiriou?

Equally, in the middle of the park it seems very much that Idris El Mizouni is a nailed on starter, but such have been Craig Clay’s performances over the last four matches since coming into the team at Crewe, that it would feel harsh if he were to make way now that Prats is returning to fitness. That is of course not even to mention Jordan Brown who was really making his mark before he got injured, or Jordan Lyden who has the experience of a title-winning campaign, albeit truncated under Richie at Swindon a couple of years back.

In the defence Ed Turns, who I am convinced was brought in as back-up when Dan Happe and Shad Ogie were injured at Northampton, has probably exceeded all expectations, and has seemingly claimed a starting position for himself with some assured displays. While Ogie is back fit, it is difficult to see how he or another loanee Jamie McCart force their way into the team barring (crosses fingers and hopes not to jinx it!) injury or suspension.

Similarly, at left back Jayden Sweeney has been highly impressive since coming into the team, he seems to offer us more of a threat from an attacking point of view and has been solid enough in his defending; however Rob Hunt has more experience and we know is definitely a trusted option for Richie.

Using the squad effectively, keeping players as fresh as possible, and using different options at the right time will be key in achieving what we all hope we are going to this season. A few weeks back Richie asked us to imagine how strong we would be with a fully fit squad to choose from, we are getting very near to that, and it truly promises to be an exciting run-in to the campaign.

The club posted a highly intriguing post on social media this week which showed Richie’s record since taking up the role less than a year ago. He has now been in charge for 46 league matches, the equivalent of a full season and his record of: 28 wins, 9 draws and 9 defeats for a points per game average of 2.02, is simply phenomenal, especially when you consider the state we were in when he walked through the door. I was going to say imagine how that might translate into a full season, but we are already witnessing it, and in fact our points per game this season is even higher than that at 2.12. As the club said in their post: “Frightening!”

Next up of course is a trip to the Cleethorpes seaside to face Grimsby Town who sit 17th in the table and whose recent form is the very definition of up and down having won 4, lost 5 and drawn 1 of their last 10 matches. I am steadfastly remaining in the “one game at a time” mindset, but another positive result would be another step forward towards where we want to go. Who knows we might see one of our strikers get back on the scoresheet!

As a football obsessive of a certain vintage, it would be completely remiss of me to not mention the sad passing of John Motson. He was simply the soundtrack to my formative years watching football on TV. Motty cleverly enhanced the action on our screens with poignant and interesting narrative, and his skill of being able to conjure up the most bizarre statistics and snippets of information is something that I have taken to heart in my own football-watching. You can never replace a legend of course, but thanks to all those recordings of his commentary capturing so many iconic moments in football history and his influence on the modern generation of commentators, his quirky, obsessive genius will live on. Thank you for all those memories Motty and Rest in Peace. 

Up the O’s

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