23 April 2019

Solihull Moors 0 Leyton Orient 0, 22/4/19

A game in which... Orient showed nerves of steel, fists of iron, balls of fire and guts of glory – which was just as well given that Solihull's tactics largely consisted of propelling 11 human-shaped blocks of concrete in their direction for 90 minutes.

And I don't mean this disrespectfully, as the Moor Men (is that their nickname? I shan't bother to look it up) are very, very good at this and in the first half made it impossible for the Os to find any rhythm at all – much like the time Josh Coulson ill-advisedly attempted to body-pop at Faces nightclub, Gants Hill, after downing two expresso martinis and a WKD Mango Crush in quick succession.

The second half saw more chances – for both sides, to be fair – but this gritty, resolute Orient team held firm. And with Salford – still reeling from Man Utd's 4-0 defeat to Everton – losing to Fylde, promotion is now within Orient's grasp. It's in touching distance. The fat lady's about to sing. It's ours to lose. Or to put it another way: it's the equivalent of us being 2-0 up at Wembley at half-time in a play-off final. What could possibly go wrong?

Moment of magic... Two, actually so let's worship at the altar of Dean Brill and probably bring him some hot cross buns or something as he gets hungry a lot. On 75 minutes he somehow managed to claw the ball off his line and smother it to prevent the Moor Men (?) taking a late lead. Earlier he pushed a goal-bound header round the post with an acrobatism that belied his hefty frame to such an extent that any watching quantum physicist must have scratched their head and thought "Right, I think we may need to look at the laws of the universe again."

Praise be... It says something about the brilliance of this squad that in any other campaign any of Craig Clay, Jobi McAnuff, Macauley Bonne, Joe Widdowson, Josh Coulson, Dan Happe, Josh Koroma, Marvin Ekpiteta or Dean Brill would be a shoo-in for player of the season. Everyone else has played a vital part too. I mean, consider this: if we lose on Saturday but still go up on goal difference then we'll be parading James Alabi around the streets of Leyton for his late leveller against Halifax in September that will have made the difference. How's that for impact?

In the dug out... Justin Edinburgh described watching this game as "hell", an overstatement that demonstrates he probably never saw Orient play in the 40-odd years before he became manager. Sit through 90 minutes of an Alberto Cavasin-era performance, mate, I'll show you hell. Anyhoos, as he's done pretty much all season the manager got the selection, tactics and substitutions spot on – all the while sporting a chinos/trainers/open-necked shirt combo which suggests that post-match he'll be heading to a mid-market seafood restaurant on the Marbella beach-front.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Orient celebrity fan Julian Lloyd-Webber set the tone for the day with this: "Setting off this morning for @SolihullMoors V @leytonorientfc Can't remember feeling this nervous since the first time I performed @BrittenOfficial's Cello Symphony!" – something I think all fans can relate to.

"Some gloriously non-League row ordering" tweeted Dave Fawbert in response to the quirky seating arrangements at Damson Park (his picture below). Mid-game the home supporters lobbed a flare at us, which is apparently a traditional greeting in some parts of the West Midlands. "Solihull fans using their team tactics in the stands. Fair play. That flare went straight up in the air as high as they could get it," observed Matty.

But the final word has to go to Keith Goldhanger, who perfectly captured the mindset of an Orient fan with this prediction for Saturday: "Salford will lose, Orient will lose 1-0 and Solihull will win 9-0 at Dagenham." Hold tight all...

19 April 2019

Leyton Orient 2 Harrogate Town 0, 19/4/19

A game which... was the footballing equivalent of joyously stuffing yourself with a massive chocolate cake shortly after entering a restaurant, then nervously picking at the cheese plate over the next 90 minutes, before finishing with a glorious single McVitie's Ginger Nut. Yes, that's right readers, the laboured metaphors are going to be OFF THE SCALE this evening, so hold tight.

So, while Orient certainly weren't at their flowing best for much of the game, they did restrict fellow promotion-contenders to a handful of chances and played with such grit that Waltham Forest Council have asked if they can spread the team across icy roads come winter.

Anyway, this was a victory of huge significance, especially given Salford's late winner at Boreham Wood which was no doubt celebrated wildly by whichever of their 38 fans in attendance didn't miss the goal because they were sneakily watching a YouTube compilation of Nicky Butt's best Man Utd goals on their iPhones.

Moment of magic... Another late goal from the "Ginger Alabi" Matt Harrold, who joins that special pantheon of Orient players who can consistently change games from the bench but are largely ineffective should some freak set of injuries ever require them to play 90 minutes. Efe Echanomi, Jonathan Tehoué and Shaun Batt to name but three (because I can only name three) all have a place in fans' hearts, as will Harrold if he can do the same against Solihull or Braintree...

Praise be... Let's all take a moment to appreciate the full glory of the walking-forehead-with-a-few-other-smaller-body-parts-attached-to-it that goes by the name of Josh Coulson. This guy has been immense this season and today bookended the game with a goal – expertly spammed from bonce to back of the net – and a flying interception that prevented a last-ditch Harrogate equaliser.

Taxi for... Now, referees in the National League have a very tough job, so we shouldn't criticise them lightly. We should criticise them very, very heavily because God knows we have been on the receiving end of some howling decisions of late. Last week James Dayton was sent off for having his ankle dislocated, and today Craig Clay was yellow-carded for the little known football offence of "having the same surname as the material used in pottery".

In the dug out... An interesting revelation about the art of the manager from Dean Cox this week in E10 Mess's superlative four-part podcast on the 2013/14 season. Apparently Russell Slade would send the diminutive winger into the Supporters Bar after games to find out what fans thought about the tactics and formation, and then would GENUINELY TRY TO IMPLEMENT THEIR SUGGESTIONS IN TRAINING! Seriously. Fans are notoriously idiots! We know nothing. Obviously Justin Edinburgh isn't resorting to such lunacy otherwise he'd have listened to the "drop Bonne" Brigade and we'd have been relegated. And just imagine if Ian Hendon had paid attention to fans' calls to never ever allow Connor Essam, Sean Clohessy or Armand Gnanduillet near a football pitch again. Where would we be now? Oh, hang on...

Meanwhile... "We have received reports that fraudulent tickets for Solihull Moors on Monday are being sold on Leyton High Street" tweeted the official club account today without any apparent irony or being hacked or anything. First up, lads, it's Leyton High Road not Leyton High Street you flaming idiots. Secondly, I took it upon myself to check the authenticity of said tickets – pictured below – and found them to be flawless copies of the originals, which does me a favour as I can now finally leave the queue after two weeks. See you in Solihull...

06 April 2019

Leyton Orient 2 Halifax Town 2, 6/4/19

A game which... began with only three points being good enough, yet ended with Orient fans wildly celebrating a draw thanks to a last-gasp bundle into the net by the illegitimate son of Princess Diana and a gingerbread man.

Some stuff happened in between – mostly our defence looking uncharacteristically baffled at the sight of a little circus fella with a top knot running at them with the ball. But fair play to Orient, coming back from 2-0 down takes character and the late goal will be psychologically significant if nothing else. That said, failing to beat a building society team – what the fuck?

Praise be... Josh Koroma, a player whose selfishness has such force it is sucking all the world's limelight inexorably towards him. A player whose stats today read: attempts at goal: 467; passes: 0. And a player who'll shoot from any angle, including from within the home dressing room or the team coach. But by God if he keeps scoring the type of screamer he did today, keep being selfish mate.

Taxi for... Come on, you think I'm going to single out a player for criticism when we're pushing for promotion? Well you're right, I am. Jay Simpson: terrible performance. Almost as if he came to us having played virtually no football in a country more renowned for sports such as baseball, beer pong and cheerleading. Don't worry, though, he'll come good.

In the dug out... I'll say one thing about Justin, he's not afraid to throw everything at a victory, and by the time the game ended today there were only two defenders left on the pitch, one of whom is the club's most prolific goal-scorer of 2019. Meanwhile four strikers, three wingers, Craig Clay and a kitchen sink all piled into Halifax's box, and I'm pretty sure every single one of them – and perhaps even James Alabi who wasn't even playing – got a touch in the scramble that led to the equaliser. In Just we Trust – unless we don't get promoted then sack the fucker immediately.

Are we going to get promoted? Well, we ain't gonna do it the easy way, but God bless this spirited group of players for getting us in the position where it's still in our own hands with five games to go. They are knackered, clearly. Macauley Bonne has played so much football this season he no longer bothers taking his kit off between matches and just jogs around the dressing room from Saturdays to Tuesdays to keep warm. Dean Brill rarely has time to have more than 6 or 7 meals a day. James Brophy's left foot is so tired that today he kicked the ball with his right for the first time in his career, with predictably catastrophic consequences. Keep the faith though, readers.

Meanwhile... The club's attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records for slowest moving queue in history is proving highly successful, with some fans waiting up to three or four hours before being able to shuffle forward another six inches today. Yes, in a time when we can land craft on Mars, grow human organs in a laboratory and build robots to perform complex tasks, Leyton Orient Football Club cannot get its shit together to issue tickets to more than four people at any one time. There are still some unfortunate fans queueing for tickets to the promotion decider against Bury in 1962, while those waiting for a chance to see our FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal in 1978 still have many years before they're going to be near the front...

01 December 2018

Leyton Orient 2 Gateshead 0, 1/12/18

A game which... began with Orient's 11 players suffering collectively from the extreme chronic fatigue caused by playing 90 minutes of football once or occasionally twice a week. As such, it looked very much like the game might be heading the way of the 0-0 draw with Aldershot, or worse, until Justin Edinburgh presumably bawled at half-time "DON'T YOU IDIOTS KNOW THAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE PROVIDING A SERVICE THAT OFFERS A DEGREE OF EXCLUSIVITY TO SUPPORTERS WHO PAY A PREMIUM?"

That seemed to do the trick. Well, that and another moment of magic from Josh Koroma and a juggernauting assist from James Alabi. Top of the league? Yep, we're having a laugh.

Praise be... Occasionally a young player comes through the ranks at Orient and lights up Brisbane Road with mercurial talent. The next day we sell that player to Norwich or Barnsley. No doubt Josh Koroma will go on to bigger and better things, but let's enjoy him while it lasts. Today's goal was yet another twisty-turny treasure, and if it wasn't for the extreme chronic fatigue I suspect he would have celebrated by running all the way to Bromley to laugh in George Porter's face.

Taxi for... With another table-topping victory under our belts, it would be unnecessarily cruel of me to single out a low-performing player from today's game. So that's exactly what I'll do: Sam Ling. Rubbish. What's that – he wasn't match fit? Yeah, tell that to the supporters who pay a premium.

In the dug out... "I hold my hands up and admit that I majorly fucked up the team selection," said Justin Edinburgh after Tuesday's draw with Aldershot, officially the worst result ever in the history of the club. Did he, though? Or is it probably acceptable that we don't win every single game? Personally if I was the manager of a team that had amassed 50 points in 23 games I'd select the same players over and over again until they bled through their eyes. Which, coincidentally, is what happened to me when I tried my first bottle of vino from the new Orient Wine Club last night.

Are we going to get promoted? Well, frankly if you're blessed with a striker who'll probably score 30-odd goals if he doesn't get injured, one of the league's brightest young attacking talents, a rock solid defence and, weirdly, Craig Clay then probably even Fabio Liverani could get us up to League Two. I jest, naturally, because a lot of the credit has to go to Justin Edinburgh for instilling the spirit and getting the team to play as it does – and Liverani would of course still be playing Bradley Pritchard on the right wing.

Meanwhile... And so to the Legends Lounge debacle. Quick summary: If you drink a pint of your own piss, or run naked across the pitch, or watch Orient's 2002/03 season review DVD, you become an "Orient Legend" and are allowed to drink in the Legends Lounge in the West Stand, which is modelled on the waiting lounge of a regional airport in the 1970s. Non-legend fans are also allowed in the bar after matches and mix with the legends and possibly some celebrity ex-players like Marc Laird or Billy Beall.

This week the club hierarchy decided to end the practice of allowing the plebs to mix with the aristocracy on the basis that legends should expect some sort of exclusivity and to have a post-match pint without some fucking peasant from the South Stand asking for a selfie. Then literally three or four people mildly questioned whether this was a good idea and the club immediately did an about turn and reversed the decision.

Anyway, I think I have a solution. The club should absolutely "provide a service that offers a degree of exclusivity to supporters who pay a premium" so perhaps everyone else should be forced to leave each game after 85 minutes to ensure the "legends" can enjoy the final moments in relative peace? You're welcome.

12 August 2018

Leyton Orient 2 Barrow AFC 2, 11/8/18

A game which... began with all 11 Barrow players simultaneously hurling themselves to the ground, each in apparent need of sustained medical treatment. It turned out this was all part of a monumental effort on the part of the away team to waste as much time as possible, a curious tactic against Leyton Orient where every second the ball is in play is a second in which our defence could make some sort of catastrophic goal-conceding error.

Still, can't blame Barrow for literally destroying the whole point of football and it was up to Orient to respond. And respond they did, by ensuring that they did indeed make two catastrophic goal-conceding errors in the small amount of time the ball was actually on the pitch. 

I would comment further on the game, but I think the Barrow goalkeeper is still getting ready to take a goal kick...

Barrow in training for their match against Orient
Praise be... Mercifully, due to an administrative error, Macauley Bonne still plays for Orient, and we can thank the striker for the two goals that ensured we didn't actually lose. That said, Bonne did somehow manage to hit the Barrow goalkeeper (yes, I've mentioned him twice now but am still refusing to look up his name on Wikipedia) from point blank range minutes before his first, which means of his three shots on target he only converted two, which is frankly unacceptable at this level. Get rid. 

Taxi for... Charlie Lee, who was so anonymous against Barrow that I'm beginning to suspect he did actually play every single game last season entirely undetected. Someone other than me check the stats. And while you're at it, is there any evidence that Lee is actually any good? Other than in comparison to Craig Clay, obviously. 

In the dug out... You can say one thing about Justin Edinburgh: he knows his best team. And that team is the one constructed in his imagination with all the summer signings that didn't materialise. Still, can hardly blame the gaffer for sticking to the centuries-long Orient tactic of playing 4-4-2 and hoping for the best. But his team probably need to be a bit more streetwise in this league, for at the moment they are metaphorically paying a Soho pedicab driver £40 to take them 30 yards up Shaftesbury Avenue to an Aberdeen Angus Steak House while simultaneously being pickpocketed.

Are we going to be promoted? Well, three points from three games, and only 129 points left to play for. You do the math. That's right, it's literally impossible and now the focus must be on building for 2019/20. I jest: of course it's mathematically possible for Orient to be promoted. Probably won't be though unless we get a better goalkeeper and central midfield, but let's not have a meltdown just yet. After all, winning games early on is overrated. We achieved eight consecutive victories in 2013/14 and didn't even get promoted. Pathetic. 

Meanwhile... Superb trolling (as spotted by @weststandmick) from Barrow manager Ian Evatt, whose take on the game was: "We dominated the early stages but then got involved in their gamesmanship and physical side of things. We are not built for that, we are a footballing side." Evatt can currently be seen wandering the streets of Barrow dressed as a pot maniacally accusing kettles of being black. 

14 June 2018

School Report: Leyton Orient 2017/18

Just because the season ended ages ago and it's the World Cup, doesn't mean there isn't time to run the rule over Leyton Orient's class of 2017/18... 

Steve Davis 
“A total lack of aptitude in all areas. Expelled.”
“We searched high and low, applied rigorous criteria and left no stone unturned in our search for the ideal manager of Leyton Orient – and Steve Davis is that man” said director of football Martin Ling in the summer of 2017, shortly before hiring a colour-blind decorator to repaint his house and asking a block of concrete to teach him to pole vault. Turned out there was good reason Davis was the only manager available in mid-July for thus began the most eye-bleedingly catastrophic tenure of the Orient dug out since, well, the season before. At least Alberto Cavasin had the excuse he couldn’t speak English and Fabio Liverani that he was clinically insane. What was Davis’s get out clause? I’ll tell you: it was all the players’ fault. Yet unlike the equally hapless Ian Hendon (also all the players’ fault) he didn’t have Connor Essam in the team to substantiate it. Next.

Macauley Bonne 
“Top of the class”
There have been countless barren years in which Orient fans dreamed of a hard-working striker with both skill and physical presence – a selfless team player who’d lead the line and bang in 20+ goals a season. We got one of those this year in Macauley Bonne, yet for some it wasn’t enough. “HE MISSES TOO MANY CHANCES” they yelled, apoplectic with rage at the sight of a National League striker not converting 100% of his goal attempts. Me? I’m off to smoke an extremely expensive Cuban cigar in honour of Bonne’s season. Although if it doesn’t light first time it’s going straight in the fucking bin, that’s for sure.

Dean Brill
“Vocal. Momentary lapses in attention. Good eater.”
“Hey Deano. Neither Charlie or Sam are quite cutting it in goal. What do you suggest?”
“Well, funny you should say that…”

It’s not often that the goalkeeping coach becomes the goalkeeper, but then again it’s not often that a man can eat his own weight in cheesecake and survive, yet Dean Brill has achieved both. I mean, fair play to the lad, he was pretty adept at beach-whaling himself in front of goal-bound shots and plummeting himself at the feet of opposition strikers. He also couldn’t keep his mouth shut – useful both for berating Joe Widdowson and ensuring that any airborne sources of nutrition found their way into his stomach. 

Jake Caprice
Fast worker, but error-ridden”
I have to confess, I quite liked Caprice for the first part of the season, if only because he was the one Orient player who you’d fancy beating a critically-wounded sloth in a race. He got forward well, got a half-decent cross in and could create space with a sharp change in a direction that, while identical from match to match, benefitted from the fact National League defenders don’t get to watch video reports on their opponents. What I failed to notice until later in the season was the bloodcurdling trail of destruction he was leaving behind him in his own half, as left wingers marauded through the vast open spaces Caprice had left unguarded, picking off goals at will. Thankfully Justin Edinburgh thought to himself: “The one thing we definitely don’t need in this team is pace” and put Caprice out of his misery for the remainder of the season. 

David Mooney
Inspirational, yet mostly ineffective”
Oh Moons. I wouldn’t say a bad word about the man who almost propelled us to the Championship if only he hadn’t changed his priorities midway through the season from promotion to “scoring with a lob”. But this story has a fitting denouement for after Orient had typically blown a 3-goal lead against Dover Athletic, Moons’ four-year mission to successfully chip the keeper finally came to pass. Aside from that sublime moment, not much else happened for the Irishman this season other than the usual conveyor belt of offsides, dives and misses. Still love him though.

George Elokobi
“Big character”
You might think that it would take an industrial-standard hydraulic system to raise someone of George Elokobi’s stature off of the ground. You’d be wrong, as evidenced by the bicycle-kicked goal the defender scored against Aldershot and his numerous less successful attempts to repeat the trick. For those who were there on this momentous occasion it was like watching if not poetry in motion, at least a limerick or the sort of senseless rhymes you make up as a six-year old. George is a talisman, a leader and quite frankly I would still have him in the Orient team even if he literally could not kick a ball to save his life. He wouldn’t be the first after all.

Ebou Adams
“Must stick at things for longer”
What a tidy little player Ebou Adams proved to be in his loan spell. Always hungry for the ball, strong in tackle, careful in possession, penetrating in delivery. Scored the best goal of the season too. Still, it was obvious to fans that we’d be hard pushed to keep such a talent at Orient into 2018/19 – this young man was destined for bigger and better things. So it came as no surprise when he signed for, hang on… EBBSFLEET UNITED! Kill me now. 

Jobi McAnuff 
“Wise head on old shoulders”
What’s the difference between Jobi McAnuff’s second spell at Orient to his first? More tackles in the second spell for starters – one compared to none. But that’s not why we pay to see Jobi McAnuff is it? We pay to see the winger use both his Premier League and international experience to dominate games, destroy defences, score wonder goals from distance. And he definitely did do all those things last season, although admittedly most of them were in the same game.

25 October 2017

Leyton Orient 0 Gateshead FC 2, 24/10/17

Imagine a team assembled by Paul Brush, coached by Fabio Liverani, motivated by Alberto Cavasin and given tactical instruction by a packet of cheese and onion crisps. That team would've made swift work of the Orient side that lost 2-0 at home to Gateshead tonight. 

Now, Orient have certainly suffered bigger defeats in the past and, by God, there were some calamitous performances in the Becchetti days. But in the context of a bottom-of-the-National League clash against a side who haven't won in six, and who haven't won away all season, tonight's loss could be considered the ultimate nadir of a football club whose entire history is a nadir in itself.

But anyway, don't listen to me, listen to Steve Davis. Here's what the "manager" had to say about how tonight's catastrophe unfolded:

"I have to hold my hand up. The system didn't work and I needed to change that." 

Ok. The "system" – let's call it that, shall we? – Davis began the game with was the 5-3-2 that has served him so well in the previous four or five games in that we haven't lost every single one of them. Fifteen minutes – and one goal down – later and the manager ditched that in favour of playing our top-scoring striker wide out on the left; our non-scoring striker in the middle; one of the two right backs on the wing; and our two wingers in central midfield.

Somehow that didn't work, so via a couple of other short-lived, transitional formations, Davis eventually opted for a trusty 4-4-2, with our right back at left back; and three wingers across the midfield four. By the end of the game I think we were playing 3-2-5-2-4 or something, but by then I'd lost the will to live.

Now, you could say that this constant tinkering demonstrates that Davis has an astute, nimble football brain. But if you did say that you'd be sectioned.

"It was a very scrappy match." 

Thing is, by calling the game "scrappy", Steve, you're sort of implying that both teams were complicit in a less-than-pedigree spectacle. This is bullshit. Gateshead were efficient enough. Conversely, each Orient player reacted as if every single nightmare in their life had been visually illustrated on the ball such that they became rigid with terror every time it span towards them.

"The way we reacted after the second goal was very disappointing. We just gave up." 

I dunno, it looked to me like Orient had given up shortly after kick off, Steve. Or perhaps on the way to the game. Or perhaps after you slagged off the whole team after Saturday's defeat. Or perhaps when you were appointed manager in the first place.

"Dave's miss was a real turning point." 

This could be true, in the sense that it could bring an abrupt end to the whole Football's Funniest Bloopers genre. I mean, no future compilation of howlers could ever compete with just looping Mooney's miss over and over again. As a turning point in the game: less so, in that "turning points' usually infer that something has changed from before to after.  In this case, Orient were equally abysmal either side of it.

"That was the poorest home performance we've had."

Add ".... in the entire history of the club" and you may have hit the nail on the head there Steve.

"We were second best straight away." 

That is very flattering, as there were blades of grass, small insects and discarded globules of player mucus out on the pitch that could well lay claim to being better than Orient tonight.

"The young players are finding the pressure difficult to deal with."

Oh yeah, it's definitely all their fault isn't it? If anything the young players have been the ones showing the most resilience and grit, while seasoned professionals (such as Ellis and MacAnuff tonight, for example) have been woeful. Next.

"I know I'm the right person to turn this around." 

There really is precious little evidence to support this, is there? No one wants to return to the trigger-happy days of the Becchetti regime where gaffers were fired for having the wrong socks, or playing Scott Kashket. But then again there's nothing "stable" about persisting with a demonstrably inept manager with a penchant for blaming everyone but himself for the unfolding disaster.

You can't blame Davis for individual player mistakes, and no one really expected us to get promoted this season. But this group of players should be doing much better than they currently are and the visceral lack of understanding between them on the pitch; the apparent lack of team spirit and fight; the absence of any discernible plan; and the bizarre press conferences don't exactly support the idea that in Davis we've got the right man to take the club forward. (Here) we go again...
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