09 March 2020

Leyton Orient 2 Cambridge United 1, 7/3/20

A game in which... Orient did the footballing equivalent of a reformed 90s indie band who get a festival crowd going by playing all their early hits, then shoot themselves in the foot by announcing mid-set "Here's a new one we wrote..." thereby extinguishing all goodwill, before just about pulling it back again by finishing with one of the same early hits played for the second time.

Look, what I'm saying here in this tortuous analogy – obviously – is that the Os were so dominant in the first 63 minutes that to then concede and find themselves hanging on at the death was rather pointlessly self-destructive. That said, what an impressive 63 minutes it was, where it almost appeared that Orient were a coherent football team. Well done.

Moment of magic... Orient's out-of-character first goal, in which James Brophy – a left back who's never knowingly made a tackle – executed a crunching interception, then Craig Clay – a box-to-box midfielder who's never knowingly run box to box – took the ball the length of the pitch to lay it off to Jordan Maguire-Drew – a man who's never knowingly passed a mirror without stopping to conduct a three-hour personal grooming regime – who then actually scored.

Praise be... So many candidates for praise today but let's start with Jobi McAnuff for an explosive return to the pitch, where in the space of 15 minutes he covered more distance, completed more passes and took more shots than he did during the entirety of his Becchetti-era spell at the club.

Next: Craig Clay. Incredibly, he's raised his level from last season. His level is now mid-to-lower table League Two midfielder. Respect.

Next: Danny Johnson. Now, it may be true that the striker has had absolutely no discernible impact on any game of football he's ever played in, other than scoring tap ins, but by God if you need someone to not miss too many open goals from six inches out then he's your man.

Next Laurence Vigouroux, whose personal motto appears to be: "Why do something the easy way, if instead you can do it with a load of shithousery thrown in." Remember, this is a man who once paid a £50 fine with 5,000 1p pieces, a philosophy he brings admirably onto the football pitch.

In the dug out... Say what you like about Ross Embleton's formations, selection or tactics, but his philosophy of playing half the team out of position finally paid dividends today and for that I salute him. And moreover, he did that without Dean Brill – off sick – by his side with a clipboard which meant no one knew who they supposed to be marking at corners.

Meanwhile in the treatment room... 

Ross Embleton: Sorry to hear you're injured Wrighty – shame you'll have to sit this one out
Josh Wright: No, no gaffer – I can play, it's only my quad that's gone
RE: Do you know what your quad is Wrighty?
JW: Yep, it's the muscle that allows me to execute four varieties of sideways pass
RE: What are the four varieties?
JW: Short, quite short, very short and really short
RE: So if you can't do that, what else do you think you'll contribute to the game?
RE: You're back in next week

11 January 2020

Leyton Orient 1 Grimsby Town 1, 11/1/20

A game which... heralded the start of a bold new era for Leyton Orient, albeit one that differs from the previous era only by the fact Ross Embleton has blacked out the word "interim" on his business cards with a felt-tip pen.

So, same old, same old, with the new Orient paying homage to every single Orient team of the past by being mostly shit, then getting a bit of a head of steam up and nearly scoring, only to concede catastrophically before somehow rescuing a point.

But let's not be too harsh, hey, because even though the board have clearly given up on this season, the team haven't and put in a fair degree of effort for at least 20 minutes of the second half.

Converting pressure into goals might help, but Rome wasn't built in a day – indeed, if the Leyton Orient squad had been tasked with constructing the eternal city it would probably now resemble Stevenage.

Moment of magic... An outrageous bit of showboating by Conor Wilkinson in the second half when he weaved Lionel Messi-style in and out of probably at least 40 Grimsby players before collapsing to the ground in the penalty area dazzled by his own brilliance.

Jordan Maguire-Drew, of course, was hugely affronted by this blatant land grab for his title of Official Resident Showboater and immediately pulled off a defiant –if entirely pointless – succession of stepovers. Not to be outdone, James Brophy then attempted to dribble the width of the pitch – and I do mean width, not length – only to lose the ball, allowing Grimsby to score. Great work lads.

Taxi for... Josh Wright. Not because he was particularly bad – he never particularly is – but because he's in danger of joining the ranks of players such as Tom Newey, David Hunt, Tom Parkes and Andrew Cave-Brown who made numerous appearances for Orient with no discernible impact, good or bad. Let's call them The Forgettables. The type of players about whom, towards the end of a match, you wonder aloud as to their injury status, only to find they've been on the pitch for the entire 90 minutes.

In the dug out... A chance for head coach Ross Embleton to prove he was his own man and set himself apart from his predecessor interim head coach Ross Embleton. That meant leaving Lee Angol on his own up front trying to deliver flick ons to himself; Josh Coulson inexplicably returned to the side; and recent goal-scorer Ruel Soteriou without a part to play. As you were...

Meanwhile, in the director of football's office... "I'm 100% convinced Ross Embleton is the right man for the job," said director of football Martin Ling this week, which is why it only took him until January to appoint Ross even though he's been at the club for years. "Football is a results business," he went on, neatly explaining why he's backing a man whose record in League Two is played 23, lost 9, drew 8, won 6.

I jest, of course, and I'm hardly going to question Martin Ling's judgment just because in Steve Davis and Carl Fletcher he made the two worst appointments in managerial history, so to speak. Truth is, I'd also have given it to Ross who is the most decent bloke you're likely to come across in football and deserves a shot at this, even if the process by which we arrived there appeared to have the hidden hand of Alessandro Angelieri guiding it...

10 November 2019

FA Cup: Leyton Orient 1 Maldon & Tiptree 2, 10/11/19

A game which... answered the question as to whether it was possible for there to be a worse Orient manager than Alberto Cavasin. "Hold my beer" said Carl Fletcher as he somehow contrived to ensure his team lost to opponents four tiers beneath them in the pyramid – statistically the worst result in the club's history.

Except he didn't say "Hold my beer" did he? He said: "I've been working on passing my beer to someone all week, though if we knew why no one held it we'd all be millionaires wouldn't we?"

And it's not just that we lost. Shit happens. It's the fact that in the space of five games Fletcher appears to have rabbit-in-the-headlighted us from a team that seemed to be establishing themselves and holding their own in League Two to one catastrophically lacking in morale, motivation, organisation, tactics and ability. So to speak.

Moment of magic... All the moments of magic came from Maldon & Tiptree, who were superb and fully deserved their victory. And good luck to the Salty Jam Lads (I'm guessing that's their nickname, right?) in round two. Back to Orient, and curiously we did actually score a goal courtesy of substitute James Dayton who will now be fined his entire match fee for ignoring Fletcher's instruction to "stay in your own half Dayts, we've got Matty Harrold up front, he doesn't need any support".

Taxi for... Ooh, tough one this week. I'm going to go for... Carl Fletcher. It is possible that the new manager's first weeks at the club could have gone worse, but only if he inadvertently poisoned the entire squad with his welcome gift of homemade flapjacks; accidentally burnt the entire Breyer Group Stadium to the ground while frying an egg in the club kitchen; and re-signed Connor Essam.

Now, if I sift through all the clichés and nebulous blandisms in Fletcher's car-crash interviews I think what he's trying to say is that he wants to the team to play in a certain way and that'll take time to work. That certain way appears to be lumping the ball to an isolated lone striker and hoping for the best. That could indeed take time to work. All of time.

No one wants to return to the managerial merry-go-round of the Becchetti era, and I do hope that the Fletchmeister, as no one will ever call him, turns it round. But I'll say this: so far it appears the manager is so far out of his depth that there are as-yet-undiscovered species of marine life swimming past him wondering how he hasn't exploded under the 16,000 psi of pressure typically found in the Hadalpelagic Zone of the oceans. (Thanks Wikipedia.)

In the director's box... "Every time I looked at what we was looking for he ticked every box," said Martin Ling of his decision to hire Carl Fletcher. Which begs the question: what were the boxes? Was this perhaps the result of a catastrophic mix up of forms and in fact the former Bournemouth man was simply applying for a free ticket to the Plymouth game to scout Marvin Ekpiteta? Or perhaps an enthusiastic local teenager named Carl Flitcher had applied to be a ball boy and wires got crossed? Or perhaps the other 39 applicants were just really bad at ticking boxes and kept smudging the ink and stuff?

Meanwhile in the press room...

Media officer: Right Fletch, you ready for your post-match interview?
Fletch: Like I said, I've put in 110%.
Media officer: You didn't say that, but fine - you're ready?
Fletch: I take each interview as it comes. So to speak.
Media officer: Fletch, you know it might be better if you used fewer clichés...
Fletch: Like I said, a stitch in time saves nine.
Media officer: Ok. Just try answering the questions honestly Fletch...
Fletch: If we knew how to answer questions we'd all be millionaires and wouldn't be here.
Media officer: You're thinking of the TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Fletch, rather than a post-match interview.
Fletch: Depends how you look at it. So to speak.
Media officer: Just get out there and try not to embarrass us too much.
Fletch: Like I said, I'm just focused on the next interview.
Media officer: No Fletch, you haven't done this one yet...
Fletch: A good interview is better than a bad one, but a bad one is worse than an ok one.
Media officer: 😐

13 October 2019

Leyton Orient 3 Walsall 1, 12/10/19

A game in which... Joe Widdowson scored. Take that in for a moment and spare a thought for Eliud Kipchoge who, just hours earlier, became the first human to run a sub two-hour marathon only to find that by teatime his feat was only the second greatest sporting achievement of the day.

But wait, there's more: Joe Widdowson scored the goal – his first since 2009 BC – with his right foot. Remember, the defender is so left-footed that he rarely even bothers booting up his right, preferring to take to the field wearing a single novelty Spiderman slipper he received for Christmas a few years back. Occasionally he simply leaves his right foot with kit man Ada for safe keeping.

And so, in scoring a right-footed screamer, Widdowson's achievement transcends that of sporting endeavour and sits proudly alongside man's first landing on the moon; the mapping of the human genome; the development of vaccines; and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

From an Orient perspective the sheer euphoria of the goal propelled them to perhaps their most convincing 45 minutes of football this season, scoring twice more in the second half and cruising to victory. And there was only the one catastrophic defensive calamity too, which is progress.

Moment of magic... Widdowson aside there was also the fortifying sight of Matt Harrold scoring his first career goal that wasn't either a header or a tap-in during a last-minute scramble in the six-yard box. And thank the Lord that when Craig Clay was put through on goal by a Walsall mix up he had enough time to remember he couldn't shoot for toffee himself and therefore the good sense to square the ball to his ginger-headed team mate. Tidy finish it was too from Harrold, who is likely to lead the line for the next three games thanks to Conor Wilkinson's attempt at strangling an opponent to death.

Taxi for... James Alabi. And I mean that in the kindest and most literal sense: Alabi would have needed a taxi home after expending so much energy chasing down lost causes in his first three minutes on the pitch that he was subsequently unable to even drag one foot in front of the other. This was unfortunate as in his fourth minute on the pitch he was actually played through on goal and could do nothing more huff to a bewildered stand still. Which is a shame as he would almost definitely had scored had he made it anywhere near the goal. Right?

In the dug out... It's incredible to witness how simply removing the title "interim head coach" from Ross Embleton has liberated him into making sensible footballing decisions like not playing five at the back and dropping Sam Ling. Yes, yes I know he's injured, don't write in. Credit to Ross though, he seems to have got the team into something of a groove, just about in time for a new manager to come in and rip it all up again.

In the bars... On Friday night fans of the recently introduced O's Lager – all zero of them – were left shell-shocked when it was announced that the lukewarm dishwater was to be replaced in the bars around the stadium. By what, though? Well, the logic from CEO Danny Macklin appears to be that since it would be impossible to find a lager universally liked by all Orient fans it was safer to opt for two that are universally despised, namely Budweiser and Coors Light. The last word, however, went to the club's social media manager who cheekily chose to celebrate victory on the official Twitter feed with the off-brand message "If Carlsberg did second-halves..." I say "last word" because he's now been fired.

Meanwhile in the Director of Football's office... 

Kent Teague: Hi Martin, what's up?
Martin Ling: Not much
KT: Just wondering how the search for a new manager was coming on Martin
ML: It take time to read 40-plus application forms Kent
KT: Right, I estimate it would take about four or five hours. It's been three weeks
ML: I also have to cross-check them on Wikipedia
KT: Ok, but again that's probably another three or four hours' work...
ML: And I've been on the phone to Colin Calderwood
KT: Great! What about?
ML: Oh nothing, just saying hi really
KT: Martin...
ML: Yes?
KT: Have you lost the application forms?
KT: Martin?
ML: I think they're definitely somewhere... Sorry. I heard Ryan Jarvis has got his coaching badges. No?

30 September 2019

Leyton Orient 3 Port Vale 3, 28/9/19

A game which... began with a miracle right up there with feeding the five thousand, the raising of Lazarus and the 1848 apparition of the Lady of Lourdes: namely that Port Vale's defence appeared to be actually worse than ours. "Hold our beers" said the Orient back five as they set about undoing this celestial aberration by conceding two typically calamitous goals and ensuring the team went into the break 2-1 down.

Something was clearly said at half-time, that something being "Get in the shower Ekpiteta you donkey, you're off" and the Os reverted to 4-4-2 and some semblance of balance. Well, at least Port Vale weren't getting in behind our "wing backs" – and, yes I am making quotation marks in the air right now with a sarcastic look on my face – quite as often.

There was also a lot more attacking intent and impetus, which is nice to see – well done – not least because it's now clear that we're going to need to score at least three goals to even get a point in every game from here on...

Moment of magic... An absolute banger of a goal from Conor Wilkinson who I might have accidentally said had no end product last week. In fact the former Dagenham and Redbridge man is showing increasing evidence that he might actually be quite good, also setting up the O's opener with a delightfully-placed cross. He needs to be careful though: if he starts to put in a decent shift and score a lot of goals then a large proportion of Orient fans will demand that he is dropped, as is our quaint tradition.

Praise be... Did you see Josh Wright's attempted bicycle kick in the second half? Well, I say bicycle but perhaps broken scooter doused in petrol then set ablaze and thrown into a canal might better describe his affront to the art of acrobatic goal attempts. Aside from that a good day's work – two goals and a few telling interventions – from the Essex Exocet, as he's known to no one.

Taxi for... Craig Clay. And I obviously write this with great regret because I put my heart and soul into supporting that guy last season and didn't even slag him off once apart from one time at the start of the campaign when I made him the punchline of a cheap joke about Charlie Lee. So let's try to be calm and balanced about his display against Port Vale and simply say it was the worst performance by any sportsperson in any sport in all of time.

In the dugout... The crowd sung Ross Embleton's name at the conclusion of the game, which is some achievement since it's a name syllably-inconsistent with most traditional football chants. No matter: Ross deserves it for taking on a role he never aspired to at a time of great emotional distress for the club. He is a man of dignity, integrity and total professionalism and should continue to command the highest respect among our fans. That said, employing the failed 5-3-2 formation again – what a twat.

Are we going to be relegated? Well, let me put it this way: has a team that concedes at least two goals every game ever stayed up? I have literally no idea what the answer to that is so feel free to hit me up with some stats if you're Neilson Kaufman. I should say that there was enough in the second half to give me faith we'll avoid the drop: Conor Wilkinson's increasing influence; George Marsh's maturity in midfield; Jordan Maguire-Drew's peach of a cross for the last-minute equaliser; and Matt Harrold's all-round gingerness. It's going to be a bumpy ride though, isn't it?

Meanwhile on Soccer A.M.... 

Ross Embleton: Right lads, we're on You Know The Drill this week. We need two volunteers - first come first served. Who's up for showing what skilled players we have at the club?
Conor Wilkinson: I'm in gaffer!
RE: Nice one Sargent Wilko. Anyone else?
James Alabi: Me too gaffer!
RE: .... ... ... ... Anyone else?
JA: You said first come first served
RE: I think I said we'd draw names out of a hat
JA: No, you said first come first served gaffer. It was like three seconds ago.
RE: You know it's a shooting drill James?
JA: My speciality!
JA: I mean my speciality compared to say goalkeeping or embroidery
RE: Just try not to embarrass us James
JA: Message received and understood gaffer...

Watch what happened here: https://twitter.com/SoccerAM/status/1178248766626902022 

18 September 2019

Leyton Orient 1 Crewe Alexandra 2, 17/9/19

A game in which... after six consecutive seasons of either boom or bust, Orient returned to their normal resting state of being mildly shit. This means that anyone who began supporting the team post-2012/13 will now be experiencing a sickening realisation akin to Charlton Heston discovering that the Planet of The Apes was actually Earth; Keanu Reeves uncovering that humans were being farmed for energy by a race of artificially intelligent beings in The Matrix; and fans of Milli Vanilli receiving the news that Fab and Rob didn't actually sing on their own records.

Yeah, don't come here expecting any contemporary cultural references, right? Otherwise I'd have used the shattering revelation that Drake doesn't write his own raps. I digress: my point is that fans longer in tooth will have felt the warm glow of familiarity in seeing Orient fail to trouble an opposition goalkeeper for 90 minutes; give away sloppy goals; huff and puff a bit to no discernible effect; and make all the wrong substitutions at the wrong time. In other words business as usual for the years 1881 to 2012 with only a handful of exceptions. Welcome back Orient, we've missed you.

Moment of magic... A penalty! Rejoice. Oh hang on, Angol's gone off injured. Shit. And some bloke who made it as far as the judges' houses in the 2013 series of The X Factor has wandered onto the pitch to take it. Oh, he's missed...

I mean, to be fair Dale Gorman – sensing the impending catastrophe – did initially try to take the ball off Jordan Maguire-Drew, but the winger stuffed it up his shirt to prevent him doing so. Either that or Maguire-Drew was reprising his hilarious training ground skit – "Look lads I'm pregnant! Did you hear that - pregnant!! Hahahahaha!!" – which at least two of his team mates found mildly diverting the first time, less so the 57th. Whatever – he must never ever take a spot kick again.

Praise be... Hilariously the sponsors – clearly well into their seventh bottle of Echo Falls by this point – gave man of the match to Conor Wilkinson. So let's go along with that for a laugh shall we? Conor Wilkinson has tidy feet, no one can deny that. Equally he worked industriously in the final third of the pitch, winning a few headers and holding on to the ball, all of which amounted to literally nothing. Zilch. Diddly squat. No end product whatsoever. He's the footballing equivalent of a master civil engineer who spends years painstaking designing a bridge to traverse a ravine, only to accidentally leave a gaping hole in the middle, yelling madly "EVERYTHING WORKS FINE APART FROM ALL THE PEOPLE FALLING TO THEIR DEATHS!"

Taxi for... Let's get back to Jordan Maguire-Drew shall we? I mean, there's no denying he has hair and tattoos. I would also back him to casually chip the keeper and score if ever gifted the ball by an opposition defender, as was the case in this game. Unfortunately we can also rely on "The Magpie" (is that his nickname? Let's agree it is) to repeatedly give the ball away in dangerous areas and generally arse around to little effect for much of the game. Let's give him the benefit of doubt and call him an "enigma" for the moment though, ok?

In the dug out... Well, you have to feel for Ross Embleton when he thinks to himself "I need to change things up here" only to turn around and see James Alabi looking up at him with the expectant eyes of yapping cocker spaniel. Mind you, Embleton was probably the idiot who removed him from the transfer list so what goes around comes around. Still, calling for his head is ludicrous. I might be old-fashioned, but I'd rather give a new manager more than nine games to prove his mettle. He can have ten.

Are we going to be relegated? I refer you to my earlier point: we are mildly shit, which means we'll likely spend most of the season mathematically in danger of relegation but probably just keep above the danger zone by virtue of inexplicably against-the-run-of-form victories against northern teams away from home. It is probably also fair to say that a number of our players have yet to fully adjust to League Two, but let's not have them summarily executed just yet, hey? We must restrict ourselves only to the more courageous activity of being sarcastic about them on blogs and social media.

Meanwhile in the Orient programme... 

Editor: Hey Jordan, we need a recipe from you for Tuesday's edition.
Jordan: My recipe is to score lots of goals hahahaha!
Editor: Right. I'm going to need an actual recipe.
Jordan: Sorry.
Editor: What's your favourite meal?
Jordan: I eat defenders for breakfast hahahahaha!
Editor: Yeah, again, I need an actual meal.
Jordan: Sorry. It's steak and eggs.
Editor: Do you know how to cook steak and eggs?
Jordan: Yes! You cook the steak and then cook the eggs.
Editor: But how?
Jordan: ... could you write that bit?

05 August 2019

Leyton Orient 1 Cheltenham Town 0, 3/8/19

A game which... was always going to be a difficult one for players and fans, imbued as it was with the tragedy of Justin Edinburgh's death in the summer. The club is still reeling from the loss of not just a great manager, but a great man.

We can take some solace in the legacy he leaves behind, not least the fact he built a squad that knows how to win football matches – or at least not lose them that often. So despite the high emotions, the opening game pressure and a resolute Cheltenham side, win they did. And the fact we had to endure a nervy final 10 minutes clinging on to a one-goal lead against nine men was evidence that despite everything, Orient will always still be Orient. I mean for fuck's sake...

Moment of magic... The pre-game tribute in which Cheltenham fans revealed the banner they'd created in honour of Justin Edinburgh and donated a collection to the Justin Edinburgh Foundation. Absolute respect for that: Edinburgh had no particular connection with the Robins – this was just a moving example of the football family coming together. That said, I'll still never forgive them for selling us JJ Melligan.

Praise be... There are many things to admire about Josh Wright: for example, his tousled hair, chiselled jaw, strong cheekbones and dreamy eyes. But he's not only in the team for his boy band good looks, he's also there to scrappily put away bobbling loose balls in the area, as he duly did for Orient's winning goal. And as a close friend of the Edinburgh family and Justin's last signing it was only fitting that he did so. Near brought a tear to my eye. Did I mention the boy band good looks?

Are we any good? Let's reserve judgement on that, for it was inevitable that this would be a jittery start to the campaign. Some promising signs, but the Os need a bit more time to gel – not unlike Jordan Maguire-Drew, whose floppy fringe could have done with more attention to its shape and body.

In the dugout... Ross Embleton looked to stamp his authority on the squad early doors by dropping Joe Widdowson on account of him having his hair cut. "I've read chapter 16 of Book of Judges in the Old Testament," the gaffer explained after checking Wikipedia. "Samson was never quite the force at left back once he'd lost his locks." Yes, yes, I know he was injured. Don't write in. Aside from that it was pretty much business as usual, with the Os lining up in the familiar 5-3-2 (or 3-5-2 depending on whether James Brophy is bothering to do any defending).

Meanwhile in the club pressroom: 


Press officer: Right James, as you know we make a gif of every player doing a celebration and post it on Twitter when they score
James Alabi: Great, so you won't need me for a bit then?
PO: We like to cover all eventualities. We've done one for Arthur Janata too.
JA: Then count me in!
PO: Great: one, two, three, four...
PO: James?
JA: Sorry, I meant count me in as in "Let's do this!"
PO: Right. Are you ready now?
JA: LET'S DO THIS! [rips shirt off]
PO: You have to pay for the shirt.
JA: Do I have to pay if I do it in a match too?
PO: Let's not worry about that for the moment James...
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