Another week and another draw for the O’s in which they were leading before being pegged back by the opposition. This time Swindon equalized just past the hour mark cancelling out Omar Beckles’ early opener. While it was undoubtedly frustrating that we hadn’t put the game to bed earlier, the one mitigating factor is that we didn’t have to come back from a goal down to secure another vital point in our ongoing push for promotion and (hopefully!) the title.
Once again Stevenage’s shock defeat at bottom-of-the table Rochdale meant that the damage to our lead at the top was limited; although Carlisle’s third straight win saw them leapfrog our friends from Hertfordshire into second in the table, our lead remains at a comfortable enough 11 points. It seems clear now that the biggest challenge for top spot is most likely to come from the Cumbrian side. Of course we face The Blues at Brisbane Road in just under a month’s time in what promises to be a very important match. Northampton’s victory at home to struggling Crawley saw the safety net to secure automatic promotion reduced but is still a relatively healthy 13 points.
As we touched upon last week (Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings: It’s all about perspective.) not picking up maximum points, in this case at home, is always disappointing but we have to be thankful that the damage to our position is relatively limited, and that it is another game down and a small step closer to where we want to be. Although I can’t be alone in having the ongoing nagging worry in the back of my mind that not scoring enough goals is continuing to hamper our momentum somewhat.
Speaking after the match, the gaffer echoed the frustration that we are all feeling, stating: “I’m a little bit disappointed because in the first half we bullied them a little bit…and then we didn’t continue to do that.” He also suggested that when teams play against us they feel they have nothing to lose given our league position, and then when they come in at half-time a goal down, they have no option but to try to really go for it and throw caution to the wind. It certainly felt like that at Grimsby the previous week as well as against Swindon last Saturday.
One of the biggest positives from Saturday’s performance was another solid half an hour or so for Paul Smyth in his continuing return to fitness. He was bright and lively and provided a timely reminder of just what he might be able to contribute through the run-in. Personally, I wonder if we might see something of a rejigging of our forward line once Smudge is fully back up to speed.
That is now seven matches unbeaten after our winter wobble, and while we could have made our position even stronger having drawn three of those matches, we have undoubtedly steadied the ship after that rocky spell over the festive period and through January.
However, looking ahead (I know, I know, I promise I am remaining firmly in one-game-at-a-time mode!) we face six teams in the top nine of the table and five games against teams in the bottom half, so our destiny remains very much in our own hands. As Richie said last week, we just need to keep our points total ticking over and to see where it takes us. We need a further 13 points to reach the magical 85 point mark which is basically four wins and a draw.
Normally at this juncture I would look forward to our next match which was due to be a tough-looking trip to Mansfield who always seem to offer a stern test, but as we know the impact of the early spring British weather very much put paid to that particular adventure. As frustrating as it always is when a game is postponed, especially considering our promotion aspirations, maybe a bit of rest for the squad and more time for those returning to fitness may not be a bad thing.
On a slightly different tack, anyone who read the matchday programme from Saturday’s match can’t have helped but notice Mark Devlin’s “From the Boardroom” piece in which he touched upon the not completely unexpected prospect of price increases for next season, stating: “I need to set the expectation that prices will need to rise next season, both season cards and match tickets. Some of these rises may need to be in the region of 20%.” Given the increasing costs in all aspects of life and running a football club, and the fact that we all hope to be truly competitive at a higher level next season, as long as it doesn’t feel like we are being fleeced for the sake of it (hello Premier League!), I guess we can understand where the board is coming from on that one and will have to reluctantly accept it.
Our Chief Executive also highlighted that the search for a new training ground has been narrowed down to three sites, with one emerging as a “clear favourite”; and that a specialist project manager has been engaged to look into addressing the limitations of the East Stand. For those of us who sit in the oldest part of the ground it feels like welcome news, although on a slightly facetious note I might suggest that the most effective option might involve a wrecking ball followed by a complete rebuild, as “charming” as the old place is.
Of course, yesterday marked Richie’s first year anniversary in charge and while the transformation of the team, and in fact the whole club, is unquestionable, the boss was ultra-professional in his summation of the last 12 months suggesting: “we’ve achieved nothing yet.”. You just get the feeling in the coming weeks we might well be in a position to say we have definitely achieved something. Here’s hoping anyway!
Up the O’s