03 October 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Notts County 1, 3/10/15

A game in which... the entire Orient team remained locked in the dressing room for a full 30 minutes of the second half. And while Andy Hessenthaler tried unsuccessfully to pick the lock with his credit card ("Leave this to me lads, I saw it in a film") and Connor Essam sat in the corner weeping like a baby ("My sisters used to barricade me in a cupboard, ok") Notts County simply waltzed around the pitch unencumbered by opposition players.

Thankfully they only managed to score once during that time, and when Orient eventually broke free from their temporary prison, a poacher's effort from Jay Simpson and a belter from Sammy Moore allowed them to take all three points. A win – hurrah! – and a just-about deserved one after an impressive first half.

Jump off your seat moment... Only one candidate here: that's right, the moment when Ian Hendon killed a plummeting ball stone dead on the touchline almost if he didn't used to be a lower league journeyman. Just kidding, of course we must hail Sammy Moore's wonder-goal, a shot that dipped and swerved so much it was almost if he just booted it and got lucky. Jesus, just kidding again.

Sammy Moore in action today 
Give that man a medal... Sammy Moore. Because aside from his thunder-strike, he also volleyed in a sublime Bradley Pritchard dink – yeah, you heard – and put in a performance so industrious that Jeremy Corbyn is currently trying to renationalise it.

Taxi for... It was an improved performance from Ollie Palmer after Tuesday's catastrophe, but the big striker still left fans scratching their heads – and not just because there's been an outbreak of nits at Brisbane Road in the last week after resident practical joker Paul McCallum hid everyone's shampoo in Alessandro Angelieri's in-tray. Palmer's a decent player, for sure, but he needs to start putting away some of his chances or he'll soon be replaced by... Oh, hang on, there isn't anyone.

In the dug out... With the squad at its current size, it's little surprise that Ian Hendon's tactics are to simply play the 11 senior players he has available to him in a diamond formation and then bring on Blair Turgott with 30 minutes to go. (Notts County, by contrast, have about 96 players available for selection.) With the loanee additions that the manager promises are coming this week, he should be able to radically shake things up. Expect, for example, Blair Turgott to sometimes come on with just 25 minutes to go next time.

Mathieu Baudry in action today 
Meanwhile on Twitter... "No footballer has ever loved a head bandage as much as Mathieu Baudry,"tweeted fan James McMahon today in response to the fact that the French defender ended up swathed like an Egyptian mummy for the 476th game in succession. His latest head injury is so bad it requires plastic surgery, prompting a sympathetic tweet from Aussie larrikin Alex Cisak: "It's not like his looks can get any worse!" What a drongo.

29 September 2015

Leyton Orient 1 Carlisle United 2, 29/9/15

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A game in which... the cracks in Leyton Orient became deep ravines, much in the way Andy
Hessenthaler's face has evolved over the years. For what might have previously been described as minor wobble has now become evidence that much more needs to be done if we're going to get out of this division.

Yes, yes we had loads of chances – approximately 478 in the first 15 minutes of the second half – but if you don't score them and then give away stupid goals it's futile to bemoan our luck. Especially for five games in a row. Jay Simpson is going to have off days, and Dean Cox can't score a wonder goal every week, so someone needs to figure out some other ways for Orient to win.

Jump off your seat moment... The moment when Andy Hessenthaler quite literally did jump off his seat in an apparent effort to play peacemaker in a mild verbal clash between Ian Hendon and Keith Curle. Turns out Orient's assistant boss is the world's worst peacemaker as his method of arbitration involved massively inflaming the situation then getting sent off. Next week: Hessenthaler attempts to reunite the Labour Party by punching Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall in the face.

Give that man a medal... Poor Mathieu Baudry. Playing in League Two, he must feel like a sophisticated French epicurean forced to eat in an Aberdeen Angus Steak House every week. Against Carlisle tonight the centre back avoided metaphorically vomiting all over pitch (Connor Essam did that for him) and instead repeatedly chewed up and spat out the opposition attack. Nice goal too.

Taxi for... Is Ollie Palmer the new Shaun Batt / Jonathan Tehoué? By this I don't mean "Can he DJ?" or "Could he down a KFC Family Bucket in one gulp?", but rather: Is he a player that can only create impact off the bench? Because after a game-changing substitute appearance against Wycombe Wanderers, the big striker hasn't done much in his two subsequent starts, and tonight missed a couple of fairly presentable chances.

In the dug out... To diamond or not to diamond, that isn't the question according to Ian Hendon, who said after the game: "Don't talk to me about formations, pal, I got formations coming out of my arse. What we need is the rub of the green, and by that I mean I'm simply hoping that if I keep doing exactly the same thing over and over again then we might get lucky at some point. What's that expression about even a broken clock being correct twice a day? Well, I only need it to be correct once or sometimes twice a week, so we should be fine I think." I'm paraphrasing a bit here, obviously.

Meanwhile on Twitter... "Honeymoon period is over" tweeted fan BenLOFC after the match, quite correctly, though I'd suggest that if Orient's current form is a figurative post-wedding holiday then it is one in which the bride has run off with a local barman, the groom has third-degree sunburn and Olly Murs is the headline act at the hotel's cabaret night. On a more serious note, Orient clearly need more depth in their squad. I'd venture another striker, a more experienced left-back, and an additional winger. Think we're ok for central midfielders for the time being though...

20 September 2015

Leyton Orient 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1, 19/9/15

Action from Orient v Wycombe  
A game in which... Wycombe were so willing to wrestle Orient players to the ground yet feign injury at the mildest retaliation it would be no surprise if their entire squad were issued with spandex leotards and signed up for WWE Smackdown. I say this with only a little bit of massive disrespect because in many ways this was a consummate League Two performance from the away team and Orient were unable to match it for much of the game.

Luckily Ian Hendon has a plan B, which any idiot can see is much, much better than his plan A. So with the diamond ditched, substitute Ollie Palmer in immense form and the continued brilliance of Jay Simpson the Os managed to salvage a point. Can't complain when we're still top of the table, but Orient are going to need to better get to grips with the physical side of League Two if they're going to stay there.

Jump off your seat moment... There have been few times in Orient's history when fans could with near-certainty predict that if a striker had sight of goal, he'd score. Personally speaking I usually took the moment an Orient front man was put clean through as a cue to go get a cup of Bovril. No longer, for Jay Simpson is the lethal finisher we've been craving for years and today took his goal with typical panache.

"Stone Cold" Ollie Palmer 
Give that man a medal... If Wycombe Wanderers were pretenders to the WWE then Ollie Palmer was the real deal: a Stone Cold Steve Austin of League Two. In the 45 minutes that he was on the pitch the chiselled man-giant put in one of the most commanding, physical performances seen at Brisbane Road since the time Jonathan Tehoue piled in on Marc Laird for taking a spoonful of his half-time trifle.

Taxi for... The young lad – no doubt fuelled by nitrous oxide or insect urine or whatever it is the youth take for kicks these days – who decided to invade the pitch in the second half. Curiously no steward appeared to deem it necessary to intervene until it was finally left to a fluorescent-jacketed 92-year-old to stagger in slow motion towards the interloper, a scene eerily reminiscent of the entire Orient career of James Scowcroft.

"Come on Bradley, I'm sure you can manage 60 minutes"
In the dugout... Today Ian Hendon did not select Bradley Pritchard. Let that sink in for a moment, for it is the first time in Orient's 134-year history that the midfielder has not started and finished a game. Admittedly the former Charlton man was injured, but that didn't stop Fabio Liverani playing him on the wing on one occasion with two broken legs, third-degree burns and chlamydia. Man up Hendon! Aside from that, the manager claimed he was "delighted" with his team's performance, suggesting perhaps he was stuck in traffic until the 70th minute.

Meanwhile on Twitter... George Porter has been called up for England! No, not in his own mind. No, not on Fifa 16. Like, for real. Yep, the "Non-League Messi", as he's often referred to by no one but himself, got a call up to England C this week and wasted no time in boasting about it on Twitter. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Except Jamie Jones I suppose...

13 September 2015

Cambridge United 1 Leyton Orient 1, 12/9/15

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"I think they're giant cats, Maureen" 
A game in which... Leyton Orient's urban-dwelling fans were utterly bemused by the sight of a herd of cows outside of Cambridge's Abbey Stadium. Were they giants cats? Radioactive guinea pigs? And why was a bloke who looked suspiciously like David Mooney trying and failing to hit them on the arse with a banjo?

While this confusion reigned, a football match broke out – to some extent anyway. Orient dominated for certain periods and probably should've scored more, but without the benched Dean Cox the quality of the final ball was noticeably lacking. A point away from home is never a disaster, but it's fair to say this wasn't a game that'll live long in the... what was I saying again?

Jump off your seat moment... The exquisite, floated pass from Mathieu Baudry – performed totally blindfolded – that put Jay Simpson through to score Orient's equaliser. Worth mentioning too how well the Frenchman and Connor Essam are complementing each other in central defence: Baudry the footballing equivalent of an evening of foie gras, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a discourse on the merits of Descartes; Essam more 14 pints of Fosters, a curry and a visit to A&E.

Give that man a medal... Bradley Pritchard is apparently going to play every single second of every single Orient match until the end of time. But at the moment that is no bad thing for the midfielder is proving the value of having someone run around a lot and play very short passes to nearby team mates. Once again the former Charlton man was instrumental in much of the Os' more forthright football.

Frazer Shaw 
Taxi for... So far he's been excellent but today wasn't the best day for Frazer Shaw. Once past the halfway line, the left back's powers seemed to drain from him, like Superman faced with Kryptonite; Indiana Jones in a pit of snakes; or Francesco Becchetti in the company of an Albanian law-enforcer. The fine young player that he is, Shaw will come good again though.

In the dug out... With Coxy carrying a knock, Ian Hendon reverted to a formation often favoured by Fabio Liverani: the four central midfielder classic. Where the current manager differed from his predecessor is that a) he didn't also select four central defenders b) he's not insane. And while fans might liked to have seen Blair Turgott given more time on the pitch, the fact we're still sitting on top of the league table suggests Hendon does still have some idea what he's doing.

Meanwhile in the press room... Robbie Simpson cupcakes! I kid you not, and Orient commentator Dave Victor had the photographic evidence to prove it. They reportedly came in two flavours: mediocrity and despair, and fell to pieces as soon as they got anywhere near your mouth. *taps microphone* *winks*

02 September 2015

Johnstone's Paint Trophy: Luton Town 2 Leyton Orient 1, 1/9/15

These two were on the bench for Orient
A game which... Ian Hendon did everything in his power to lose. He wore a tracksuit; he selected a bench made of up three 11-year-olds and two unfortunate holidaymakers who'd got lost on the way to Luton Airport; he played Bradley Pritchard at left midfield for part of the game; he deliberately substituted off all his reliable penalty-takers when the game was level at 85 minutes... And yet still Luton wouldn't take the bait until they guaranteed themselves victory by going down to 10 men.

So, Operation Concentrate On The League ended perfectly for Orient. And while for obvious reasons it wasn't our most fluid performance of the season, there were also some encouraging moments from this makeshift, youthful team.

Jump off your seat moment... The moment in the first half when Luton's creaking behemoth of a centre back Stephen McNulty tried to shepherd the ball back to his keeper only for Scott Kashket to dart in front of him and nearly steal a goal. Indeed, the battle between the pair throughout the game was reminiscent of an ageing rhinoceros trying to lazily swat an irritatingly persistent dung beetle with his tail. What I'm saying here – the dung beetle comparison notwithstanding – is that Kashket was pretty good.

Give that man a medal... Since Joe Maguire only signed on loan from Liverpool yesterday, he obviously didn't get the secret memo from Ian Hendon that spelled out in morse code: "WE MUST LOSE THIS GAME BUT MAKE IT LOOK A BIT LIKE WE AT LEAST TRIED TO WIN BECAUSE I THINK IT'S ILLEGAL TO THROW GAMES." What else could explain the fact he actually looked pretty assured in central defence?

Jack Marriott: princess
Quiz question... If you're a professional footballer who's just missed a point blank header in front of the opposition fans, who then mildly goad you, do you: a) ignore them, being that you're a professional footballer b) ignore them, being that you're a professional footballer, then score your next chance to shut them up or c) sarcastically applaud them, stick your middle finger up then get sent off? If you answered c) then you're Jack Marriott, in which case what the hell are you doing reading this blog? You should be out doing things more consistent with your apparent level of maturity, such as playing peek-a-boo or dressing up as a princess from Frozen.

In the dugout... According to Ian Hendon, a number of players were taken ill before and during this game, including Sean Clohessy who came off at half-time. Did someone spike Orient's traditional pre-match meal of a massive fry up at a greasy spoon cafe? Did someone (other than Ian Hendon and every single Orient fan) want the Os to lose at any cost? I do not know the answers to these questions, but I did see Andy Hessenthaler buying 37 packets of laxatives at a chemist on Leyton High Road earlier in the day. You do the math.

A "club source" pens news of Jack Payne's
impending signing back in 1843
Meanwhile on Twitter... "Football. Bloody hell," said Sir Alex Ferguson once of the unpredictability of our beloved sport. And given that we never quite know what's around the corner it probably makes sense not to promise to tattoo your own face if a certain player signs for your club. Or similarly, best not pledge to "shit in your own hands and clap" as Dan Slawinski did when the Jack Payne to Orient rumours began back in the year 1843. Jack: welcome to Orient. Dan: hope you've got some strong detergent.

29 August 2015

Leyton Orient 2 Bristol Rovers 0, 29/8/15

A game in which... Orient couldn't have been more workmanlike if they'd played the entire 90 minutes drinking Tetley tea, bearing their bum cracks and shouting sexist insults at women. Remember this was a Bristol Rovers side that haven't lost away from home for a year and the Os needed to be at their most patient and efficient – and were excellent in controlling large parts of the game. Add the touch of class that comes in the human form of Jay Simpson and you're looking at a team who probably won't ever lose again. (Send your complaints to me marked "Jonah" after Luton stuff us 8-0 on Tuesday.)

Shane Lowry
Jump off your seat moment... Three of them actually, all courtesy of the aforementioned Jay Simpson. The goal, of course – by way of some crazy-paving footwork – and then two sliding, last-ditch tackles down the other end of the pitch that demonstrated his utter commitment to the cause. What a joy it is to see such a talented player giving it his all in League Two rather than sulking like a spoilt three-year-old girl upset that not enough people have praised her pigtails in the last four minutes. Or Shane Lowry, same difference.

Give that man a medal... Jay Simpson again, obviously, but let's focus for a moment on the excellence of Sammy Moore. Fans rightly worried that without Romain Vincelot not only would Orient be short of quality beards, but that we'd be playing in the Ryman Isthmian League Division One South by 2019/20. (You do the math.) Not so! AFC Wimbledon fans used to sing "He's here, he's there, he's everywhere" to Moore, and not just because he used to surreptitiously follow people home after matches. His industrious performances should be equally valuable to Orient this season.

Taxi for... Referee Darren Drysdale. If the RAF sergeant took the same approach to his day job as he does to officiating football matches then I suspect he would discharge half his squadron for unregulation eyebrows while the other half would be given medals of honour for mistakenly dropping bombs on their own airbase. What I am saying here is that he was woefully inconsistent. Still, at least he didn't try to launch his own clothing range called Superdrysdale. Oh hang on...

In the dug out... Ian Hendon actually utilised three different formations at different times in this game, much like Fabio Liverani, although probably not because he'd forgotten how many players make up a football team. What is becoming evident is that the manager is a Top Man in more ways than just his choice of suits. He actually seems to know what he's doing.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Our esteemed president's match day behaviour is becoming increasingly bizarre, from his walk on before the season opener to high-fiving fans from his blacked out limousine after the Dagenham game. Today, according to reporter John Walker, Sr Becchetti was jumping up and down in the tunnel after the match with the joyous abandon of someone who'd just evaded capture by the Albanian police force. What next: running round the touchline naked? Apologising for single-handedly relegating us? The mind boggles...

19 August 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Stevenage 0, 18/8/15

A game in which... Orient stared League Two in the face and said "You're not as hard as you think
you are, pal. And you can give me my dinner money back too." Yep, this tough, well-disciplined Stevenage side were a good indication of the type of school bullying we can expect in this division but the Os matched them in intensity during the first 70 minutes, albeit without fully hitting their stride.

That all changed in the final 20 minutes when Orient blew away the opposition with some breathtaking attacking and three goals: one good, another excellent and another that's already contender for goal of the season. Go straight to the top of the class Blair Turgott. And stop picking your nose.

Deano bringing his mazy run to a conclusion 
Jump off your seat moment... So many to choose from, not least Blair Turgott's aforementioned screamer – volleyed straight in from a Sean Clohessy cross, itself a volley – but let's focus instead on the moment Dean Cox decided to dribble around the entire Stevenage team 42 times each. Had he been able to finish from his ridiculously mazy run, it would have been the best goal scored by anyone in any sport in all time. Instead he decided that the only fitting coup de grâce would be to cut a couple of breakdancing moves on the penalty spot while the ball bobbled away to safety. Still, great helicopter.

Give that man a medal... Comparing Bradley Pritchard's performances of this season with last is like comparing the complete works of Beethoven to the sound of a spoilt six-year-old screeching for more sugar while repeatedly scraping her fingernails down a blackboard. And then vomiting. Tonight the former Charlton man made sweet, sweet music in midfield with another display that hit the right notes. (Honourable mentions too to Sean Clohessy and Sammy Moore.)

Taxi for... Dean Wells. It was certainly a novel move on Stevenage's part to place a convicted football hooligan in their squad and tonight the defender came up against the team whose fans he'd fought outside Liverpool Street Station in 2010. It seemed, however, that without his firm to back him up, Wells the Hooligan was all mouth and no Stone Island trousers. With the might of Ollie Palmer bearing down on him in injury-time he ran for cover, stumbled over then lay on the ground trembling in fear as the Orient striker slotted the ball into the net. Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough? Oh, you're not.

In the dugout... Given that he's now selected the same XI for three League games running, it would be easy to describe Ian Hendon as the polar opposite of Fabio Liverani. But then again, it would be easy to describe anyone with even the faintest notion that football is a sport in which eleven players try to get a ball into their opponents' net the polar opposite to Fabio Liverani. What is evidently true is that the new manager has engendered a team spirit and has got the squad enjoying playing football. Something that only the most depraved of masochists could have said of last season.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Respect to Pór Bæring Ólafsson for travelling all the way from Iceland – the country, not the shop – to watch his beloved Leyton Orient. He got to meet Francesco Becchetti, but it wasn't all bad because Pór also rubbed shoulders with Paul McCallum and witnessed the Os in superb form. What a top geyser. (Yeah, sorry, my Iceland material is pretty limited.)
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