12 March 2011

Leyton Orient 1 Oldham Athletic 0, 12/3/11

A game which... for Oldham manager Paul Dickov must have felt like spending the whole evening chatting up Cheryl Cole, only to end up having to go home with Nicola Roberts. His team, you see, came with a gameplan: pressing hard, stopping Orient from playing out from the back and wrestling players to the ground at every opportunity. It nearly worked too, for while the Os didn't lack in endeavour they found it hard to achieve the fluency of recent matches and it looked like the game was heading for a goalless draw. Until, that is, Paul-Jose M'Poku swaggered onto the pitch with his loping cowboy gait, unholstered his right foot and fired a long-range shot into the corner of the net that left Oldham stone dead.

Moment to savour... A Barcelona-esque display of Orient possession around the 20-minute mark, in which the team must have strung together over 30 passes. Admittedly all of these were in the Os' own half, but with the Brisbane Road pitch in the shape it's in at the moment, even the Spanish champions would find it hard to move the ball around without it disappearing down a three foot-deep rut.

Head in hands moment... When, in the second half, Matthew Spring drove the ball so hard and low that it hit Dean Cox full in the stomach. Presumably the miniature winger was so surprised that Spring was passing it forwards rather than back to Jamie Jones that he didn't have time to get out of the way.

King for a day... M'Poku will rightly be hailed the hero, but it was Andrew Whing's gutsy performance that caught the eye over the full 90 minutes. Like a Stephen Purches who can actually tackle, pass, intercept, control the ball, read the game and drive forward, the former Brighton man is the right-back we've needed for years.

Boo boy... No one in an Orient shirt (although, whisper it, Alex Revell has become increasingly less effective in recent games and needs a goal). Referee RL Lewis, meanwhile, was the sort of jumped up little pedant who runs 40 yards to ensure a free kick isn't taken two inches out of position, yet bottles out of numerous decisions and nearly allowed Oldham to niggle their way to draw.

In the dugout... More astute managing from Russell Slade, keeping faith with in-form Harry Kane and Tom Carroll, despite having McGleish, Smith and Chambers on the bench. Paul Dickov, meanwhile, spent virtually the entire game berating the fourth official, presumably unaware that the chokeslams, flying neckbreakers, piledrivers and axe handle elbow drops are still outlawed in the game of football.

What would Martin Ling have done? Responded to Paul Dickov's constant yammering by remaining silently impassive on the touchline. "I was going to say something," he'd claim defiantly in the post-match press conference, "but I forgot."

Play-offs? Four wins in four and only one league loss since the beginning of November. And while I'm aware that - like Charlie Sheen's sanity - all good things must come to an end, Orient do seem to have the momentum to make the play-offs. Must be their tiger blood.
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