Why were we even worried that after securing promotion at Gillingham last Tuesday the O’s wouldn’t go on and win the league title to cap off what has been a truly remarkable season? The fact that we did so in the very next game, and thanks to Stevenage losing once again (hooray hooray!), merely added to the party atmosphere in front of another sold-out Brisbane Road crowd.
The scenes with the majority of us on the pitch after the final whistle were so reminiscent of when we won the National League and secured our return to the Football League just four years previously, but also provided a pertinent reminder of just how far we have come in such a short space of time since Nigel and Kent took over the club and set about the task of returning it to where we all know we belong.
It feels easy to say now, but if we look back across the season was our success really unexpected; or was it more of a case of enjoying our form and the way we played, for the most part, throughout the season but keeping our expectations under control (well we are Orient fans after all!)?
The seeds were undoubtedly sown by the way we finished the last campaign once Richie had arrived, but we started this season like a team and a club very much on a mission: winning nine out of our opening ten games, the only slight blot on the copybook being a 1-1 draw away at Swindon, a game that if we are honest we could, and possibly/probably, should have won.
The unexpected loss at home to Newport followed by draws at Doncaster and then at home with Northampton hinted at an ever-so-slight wobble, but we soon righted the ship with another solid run of seven wins out of eight, the only loss being at the New Plough Lane in controversial circumstances and a horrible atmosphere.
Through the festive period and January, we won just one game out of seven, and if there was any point during the campaign where doubts may have been creeping in, at least amongst the Orient faithful if not the manager and players, that was most definitely it. Although the points cushion built up to that point was enough to keep us in pole position.
Immediately after the defeat to Tranmere up on the Wirral we reeled off an impressive run of thirteen matches unbeaten (seven wins and six draws) which took us all the way to Gillingham last week. It may have felt nervy at times but looking back with the benefit of hindsight, did it ever really look in doubt?
Beyond the results though it has been the level of performance and the style of football that has been so consistently impressive throughout the whole campaign. Gone are the dark days of “hoof and hope” (© Mrs Orient Nerd) that we suffered for so long during the end days of Kenny Jackett’s tenure, replaced by an exciting, slick, free-flowing, passing-based style that has been a pleasure to watch. Watching the players, it seems that they have really enjoyed this new and much more effective approach too.
Speaking of the players, one of the things that has really stood out has been the togetherness of the squad this season. Those who had been here in the previous campaign, especially those who arrived ahead of the 2021/22 season, looked so much more relaxed and to be enjoying what they were doing than the previous season, skipper Darren Pratley probably the most pertinent example. The new recruits who joined us in the summer and the January transfer window, for the most part, seemed to slot seamlessly into the overall group and the way that we play our football. George Moncur, Idris El Mizouni and Rob Hunt quickly established themselves as key players, while Ed Turns and Kieran Sadlier in particular settled in quickly to play key roles in the run-in. A clear indication of the harmony between the manager, director of football and the board; but also a reinforcement of Richie’s huge personality and excellent man-management skills.
In many ways securing promotion and wrapping up the title with three games still remaining could have proven to be an anti-climax, but the evidence from Tuesday night’s performance and victory at Mansfield despite making six changes to the recognised starting line-up and being reduced to ten men for the last half hour plus added time, suggested very much that the coaching staff and players are fully committed to striving to finish the season off in the best possible style.
With Bradford and Stockport very much in the play-off mix, both of our final two matches look like being tough challenges, but it will be a really nice change just to enjoy them without the tension and pressure that we have all been living with over the last few months. Plus of course they provide the perfect way to keep the celebrations going.
Before signing off for this week, I should of course mention that, thoroughly deservedly, Super Richie Wellens was named the EFL League 2 Manager of the Season this week and that Lawrence Vigouroux, Omar Beckles and Idris El Mizouni were selected in the Team of the Year. A huge congratulations to all four, although it did make me wonder quite what Paul Smyth had to do to get into the “side” given the season he has enjoyed for us? Mind you since when did we really care what the EFL thought anyway?
Up the Champion O’s!
2 thoughts on “Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings- Job very much done by our League Champion O’s!”
A quite exceptional season for the Os
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