Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings: It’s all about perspective.

Depending on your point of view, last Saturday’s 2-2 draw away at Grimsby was either a case of us dropping two points as a result of some lax and sloppy play at the start of the second half, or a hard-fought battle and a point gained. The match itself was something of a roller coaster of emotions in the biting North Sea wind, the intensity heightened given we are entering the most crucial part of the season.

With an unchanged team, save for Charlie Kelman carrying on in the central striking role in place of the injured Aaron Drinan, the O’s started the game largely in control of the ball and moving it around to try to carve out the all-important opening goal.

It came midway through the first half when Kelman’s persistent pressing forced Grimsby keeper Max Crocombe to rush a clearance, it was seized upon by Craig Clay who instantly sent Ruel away down the right flank, he calmly picked out Kelman who was afforded the time to gather the ball and work space for himself before slotting home. It may not have been the most sensational strike we have seen this season, but the importance for the team, our ambitions and undoubtedly for the player himself should not be underestimated. Hopefully notching his first goal of the calendar year will spur the young striker on for the remainder of the campaign.

Leading 1-0 at the break, all we needed to do was to stay calm and play our game at the start the second half. However, whether through a feeling that the job was already done, or a lack of composure and control when we needed to stick to our game plan, we somehow managed to gift the Mariners two goals in a highly iffy opening seven minutes of the second period.

The first came when Craig Clay’s weak ball out of defence went straight to Grimsby’s Driscoll-Glennan out on their left, the speedy transition caught us out completely, although surely somebody should have cut out the ball across the face of goal that allowed McAtee to turn home largely unopposed. We then let them in again just minutes later when Tom James’ woeful attempted pass back, presumably intended for Vigs, succeeded only in playing Lloyd through on goal, his calm finish put the home side 2-1 up. As we joked after the match, it was the best assist James had produced all season, it was just a shame that it benefited Grimsby.

The gaffer’s response was immediate, sending on Adam Thompson, Darren Pratley and George Moncur in place of James, Clay and Sadlier. It might have seemed harsh at the time, but as he admitted after the game the triple change was: “Out of frustration from my point of view, my team talk at half-time was: ‘I’ve been here as a player, I’ve been here as a manager, they will up it, just play forward on transition’.” The goals we conceded felt naïve when we needed composure and to stick to doing the basics right.

The response did the trick as a mere 10 minutes after entering the fray, Moncs drew us level with a low curling effort into the bottom left hand corner after being picked out by Ruel. The 495 travelling fans went nuts with relief.

There was more drama to come however, when with just quarter of an hour or so to go, Grimsby were awarded a penalty, a cross from the left was judged to have hit Adam Thompson on the arm as he slid in to block. I remember watching anxiously from the far end of the ground, hoping Vigs would work his magic yet again, when facing a spot-kick and keep it out. Driscoll-Glennan’s effort was a nice height for our keeper but, as Richie alluded to after the game, it is the sheer presence of Vigs in penalty situations that plays on the opposing player’s mind. That is now a total of 3 penalty saves by Vigs this season and an incredible 17 in his career to date, 9 of which have come for the O’s, for a total success ratio of just over 31%, which is quite simply phenomenal.

That save was enough to secure another hard-fought point away from home. Given the way we managed to fight our way back into the match it has to be seen as another game down and another point gained in our push for promotion and, whisper it quietly, the league title.

With just 12 games to go it feels like we are well and truly in the business end of the season, and the way we view results from here on in has to be within the context of the league table and the results of those teams chasing us. Earlier in the season we might have been disappointed to drop two points away from home to a team in the bottom half of the table, however considering where we are now and what we are chasing, it has to be seen as a positive result, albeit one that perhaps could have been even better if we hadn’t been so sloppy early in the second half. The fact that Stevenage lost at home to Tranmere made our point even more significant.

Even though Stevenage managed to win at Wimbledon thanks to a late goal on Tuesday night, our lead at the top now stands at 11 points albeit having played two games more, and just as importantly the gap to fourth is now 15 points, although Northampton have a game in hand.

Next up of course is Swindon at Brisbane Road tomorrow afternoon in front of what promises to be another packed house. It is difficult to know what to make of the Robins given that their form, a bit like Grimsby last week, has been very up and down, although they have won their last two: away at Salford and at home to Harrogate. It feels very much as if we are in for another intense afternoon, another positive result would take us that little bit closer to where we all hope we will be come the end of the season. Here’s hoping anyway!

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