07 November 2015

FA Cup: Leyton Orient 6 Staines Town 1, 7/11/15

A game in which... Orient and Ian Hendon proved a point. The point was that if we're playing in the Ryman Premier League in the 2018/19 season we'll probably fare reasonably well. Just kidding, no one can complain about a 6-1 victory, but I'm not sure it tells us much about the Os' prospects for the rest of the league season. As for the opposition, I'm contractually obliged to make a reference to Ali G, so let's just say big up the Staines massive for their commitment to playing attractive, passing football, despite the scoreline.

Jump off your seat moment... Now, we all know Dean Cox likes to be the big fish in a little pond, but today he must have felt like a humpback whale in a puddle such was the ease in which he slotted his 30-yard free kick into the top corner of Staines' goal.

Give that man a medal... Today saw a blistering substitute performance from Scott Kashket and proof twice over that – contrary to recent evidence – Ollie Palmer is not biologically incapable of placing a ball into an empty net. But man of the match has to be Frazer Shaw, who was faultless in defence, penetrating in attack and set up two of the goals. What a way to mark his return to the starting XI.

Taxi for... Lloyd James. What a way not to mark his return to the starting XI: he misfired passes, repeatedly got caught in possession and missed one chance that was such a sitter it was actually delivered to him via Furniture Village.

In the dug out... Was Ian Hendon resting first choice players or were these his new first choice players? Has the diamond been ditched for good or was 4-4-2 simply the order of the day against Staines? Would James and Payne really play together in central midfield in a league match? No one knows the answer to these questions, least of all Ian Hendon.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Not only is Orient president Francesco Becchetti wanted by the Albanian authorities for fraud and money-laundering, but he's also under curfew until a hearing on 7 December. It's not all bad news though, because fan Fred Nathan has some friendly advice: "If I was him, I'd negotiate so he could be locked in his house at 3pm most Saturdays."

01 November 2015

Leyton Orient 0 Accrington Stanley 1, 31/10/15

A game in which... the entire Orient team scooped out their own brains with a spoon and placed candles inside their empty skulls in an apparent attempt to give Accrington a Halloween scare. It didn't work: the visitors needed no tricks and treated themselves to the easiest three points they're likely to get all season.

With ghastly defending, horrific attacking and an eerie absence of tactics, this was a bloodcurdling performance from Ian Hendon's team. Yes, the league table says we're still in the play-off places, but 11 points in the last 11 games paints a truer picture of the scale of our gruesome predicament.

Jump off your seat moment... Orient had one clear-cut chance in the entire game. One. Tragically that chance fell to Connor Essam, who would likely not score a goal were he to play football infinitely in a time-space continuum. Now, I'm not saying Essam has a head like a 50p piece, because that would be a hideous slur on a 50p piece, which can theoretically only spin a ball off in one of seven random directions. But there really is little point in the defender coming up for corners if – like today – he can't convert into an open net from two yards.

Essam and Baudry 
Give that man a medal... Dean Cox had to spend only another pointless 30 minutes or so on Ian Hendon's naughty step before the manager introduced him to the pitch, albeit bizarrely in place of the one player – John Marquis – who'd looked vaguely effective in the opening salvos of the game. And, God knows, once there the winger tried his little heart out, but must have felt like he'd arrived late at a Halloween party at which all his friends were taking their zombie costumes a bit too literally.

Taxi for... "Bradley Pritchard is a central midfielder and that's where he'll play," lied Ian Hendon at the start of the season before repeatedly sticking the former Charlton man out on the right where – as numerous former Orient managers have discovered and yet bizarrely ignored – he is utterly ineffective. The gaffer has now tried 4,567 different formations in his 18 games in charge, all of which contain both Pritchard and his footballing doppelgänger Sammy Moore in one guise or another. Unless Hendon knows of some ancient curse that says the hounds of hell will be unleashed on Brisbane Road should the pair ever be separated, it might be an idea to try dropping one of them.

In the dug out... Now, I am not suggesting that Ian Hendon should be sacked. (Though Becchetti pulled the trigger on Russell Slade for a run of results far less damaging than the current one.) But it would be helpful if the manager could give fans the slightest sense that he actually knows what he's doing rather than reverting to Liverani-esque behaviour such as inexplicably dropping star performers; publicly blaming his players in post-match press conferences; and double training sessions. What next: "Big house in the box"? The return of Gianvito Plasmati?

Meanwhile on Facebook... It's half-time and you're enjoying a Brisbane Road burger (ok, stay with me on this, you're going to have to use a bit of imagination). You need a little sit down, and where better to do it than the opposition dug out, as the fan in this video proves. Minutes later a pair of ever-vigilant stewards intervene, although should the interloper have chosen the home dug out they probably wouldn't have bothered. Tactically he may have done a better job than Ian Hendon in the second half...

17 October 2015

Leyton Orient 2 Oxford United 2, 17/10/15

A game in which... Orient's first half performance wasn't just dire, it was a stain on the whole of human history, like the Crusades, the Black Death or Amanda Holden. In fact, it was worse than that: it was a display of Fabio Liverani-esque ineptitude. That the Os rallied in the second half, showed some fight and came away with a point should be commended, but let that not paper over the cracks. Seven points from our last eight games is relegation form.

Jump off your seat moment... A first senior goal for youngster Scott Kashket, who was just a twinkle in his father's eye when Orient last played Oxford in League Two, nine years ago. He won the man of the match award in the Supporters Club too – quite something given he was only on the pitch for 43 seconds – and was soaked in Champagne by Mr Becchetti for his troubles. What's the president going to do if Kashket actually wins us a match one day – piss on him?

Give that man a medal... Ollie Palmer continues to confound. Put him in the starting line up and he trudges up and down like an ageing donkey giving sporadic rides to doleful toddlers in a faded seaside town. Bring him on at half time – as Ian Hendon did today – and he's a thoroughbred racehorse, all rippling muscles and lustrous hair. What I'm saying here by way of equestrian analogy is that he won a lot of headers and generally managed to point them in the right direction.

Taxi for... Plenty of candidates for this one today, including woeful performances from Dean Cox and Blair Turgott, but let's instead point the finger of shame at Mathieu Baudry. Today, not content with just a bandage on his head, he also added a Petr Cech-style protector. Next week he'll also include a sombrero and by the end of the season will play each game in the guise of an overloaded hatstand at a low-rent department store. I say this because presumably all this headgear is obscuring his vision: why else would have he simply planted the ball in front of Kemar Roofe for Oxford's first goal, then randomly scattergunned the ball around for the rest of the match?

In the dugout... Imagine this: you've gone into hospital for a routine wisdom teeth removal
operation, and during it the surgeon inadvertently severs your jugular vein, but then just about manages to sew it up again before you die from massive blood loss. Would you praise him for saving your life, or chastise him for almost killing you in the first place? Today Ian Hendon was that surgeon, making a catastrophic error in his team selection (4-4-2 but with no Payne or James?!) but then atoning for his error with some bold half-time substitutions.

Meanwhile on Twitter... When he's not spraying people with Champagne or allegedly laundering money through failed Albanian hydro-electric schemes, what does our esteemed president get up to? That's right, he leers out of car windows like a maniac – or, as TLC might say, hangs out the passenger side of his best friend's ride, trying to holler at Orient fan Billy Herring.

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

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

"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*
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