Well, that was a very fun four days wasn’t it? Have we all recovered yet? Are we all ready to carry on the party at Brisbane Road tomorrow?
Normally during these weekly posts, I try to analyse and understand how the O’s have been performing and to look forward to and preview upcoming matches, however that all seems a bit redundant this week. Being totally honest I have been in full “party-hats-on-mode” since our promotion to League 1 was confirmed in the Priestfield gloom last Tuesday evening.
After the glorious win against Sutton United in the sunshine at Gander Green Lane, we all knew (expect for Sky Sports and BBC of course!) that we needed just a solitary point at Gillingham to secure our second promotion in four years. However, I for one was so focused on our need for the solitary point, as well as advising/berating the beyond incompetent referee Mr. Brook, that I wasn’t fully keeping track of the match at the County Ground between Swindon and Bradford.
However, when Swindon scored with just eight minutes to play in that match, while our game had been paused thanks to floodlight failure, the word soon spread through the massed Orient ranks in the away end and full scale pandemonium ensued. It felt thoroughly justified and you just knew that Richie would be made up, (as we say in the North West!), that a club where he had achieved promotion previously had done us a big favour.
The turnaround that our brilliant Head Coach has instigated and brought to fruition with our club in just over a year has been quite simply phenomenal. This season has been an absolute joy to be part of as a fan and judging by the scenes of jubilation at the end of the match it has been for the players too. At the risk of being slightly churlish, I couldn’t help but cheekily wonder what Gillingham’s Director of Football: a certain Kenny Jackett, made of the scenes of celebration.
Of course while Richie has done a fantastic job over his time in charge, Nigel Travis, Kent Teague and the rest of the board and, credit where it is due, Martin Ling, have spectacularly transformed our club from the doldrums that we found ourselves in in April 2017. In just six years they have rescued us from non-league and guided us back to where we all know we should have been all along, to the point that we are now debating issues around stadium capacity, the scarcity of tickets for the games in the run-in, and whether we will be ready for a crack at promotion from League 1 in the next few seasons.
Sometimes, as I am sure most of us do from time to time, I find myself looking back to the dark days and shaking my head in disbelief about where we now find ourselves. To sum it all up, I think this quote from the official club website is perfect: “Through all of the pain, all of the grief, and all of the doubts. Through all of the joy, all of the passion, and all of the faith. We. Are. Back.” We most certainly are!
Without wanting to bring a premature end to the party, there are of course still four matches for us to play, starting with Crewe at home tomorrow. While going up is undoubtedly an achievement in itself, I am certain that the board, Richie, the players and us the fans would love to cap this wonderful season off with a nice shiny trophy signifying that we are champions and to further affirm that we were the best team in the division over the entire gruelling campaign.
Having done some quick back-of-a-fag-packet maths, by my reckoning with our lead now “just” the 7 points, we need 4 more points to be pretty much assured of top spot as our goal difference over Northampton is +9 and +8 over Stevenage, 5 points would make it mathematically certain.
Having looked at the other two teams’ fixtures: Northampton play Harrogate and Bradford at home and then Tranmere away, while Stevenage travel to Mansfield and then Swindon before hosting Grimsby and then finishing their campaign at Barrow. Without wanting to jinx things, there are definite opportunities for both of them to drop points, which would of course help our cause further.
As Richie highlighted in his post-match interview after Gillingham, the only thing that could derail our title push is if we drop our intensity and focus, thinking that the job has already been done. He cited a couple of recent examples of teams that once they have sealed promotion with matches still to play, then didn’t go on to finish top of the table. The feeling I got was that he for one is 100% focused on securing the title too.
Of course on the other side of that argument, it may well be that with promotion in the bag our boys are able to relax and play the sort of free-flowing football that they have shown they are capable of and we end the season on an absolute high.
For now though, I am just going to focus on thoroughly enjoying each of our four remaining matches, continuing to revel in the fact that the first part of our mission has been completed and our beloved O’s are League 1 bound, and of course humming “Wagon Wheel” on a pretty much constant basis!
Up the O’s