28 January 2012

Leyton Orient 0 Colchester United 1, 28/1/12

Not Brisbane Road
A game which... demonstrated that Brisbane Road is less a fortress, more a dolls' house made of no-frills tissue paper, glitter and orphans' tears. Four wins in 15 home league games this season tells its own story, and today was yet another occasion in which the Os followed up an impressive away victory with an utterly underwhelming performance. Disorganised in defence, wobbly in midfield and (two debatable penalty shouts aside) toothless up front... Not to mention more inappropriate passes than a night on the pull with George Porter.

Moment of magic... The out-of-character moment in the first half when Orient did actually manage to string together around 40 consecutive passes - albeit 39 of them in their own half and 38 of them backwards. Barcleona's reputation as the masters of possession is probably safe for the moment.

Moment of madness... Though it saddens me to say it, yet again Kevin Lisbie (as against Preston and Chesterfield) failed to put away his big chance - this time when he was clean through near the start of the first half. It seems he's finally succumbed to that east London-specific virus known as Fletcher-Cureton Syndrome that renders previously prolific strikers entirely impotent until they sign for another club.

Knight in shining armour... Well, no Orient player exactly covered themselves in glory today, but Lee Butcher responded well to the fact that he's imminently going to be dropped in favour of the nearly-fit Jamie Jones with a faultless display punctuated by two sharp saves in the second half.

Pantomime horse... Dean Cox celebrated signing a new three-and-a-half year contract with perhaps his least effective performance in an Orient shirt ever. Assigned the responsibility of what Russell Slade likes to call the "just run anywhere you like and try to, you know, do something" position, the former Brighton man frequently lost possession and misplaced passes. Towards the end of the game he apparently tackled himself in front of the Colchester fans - either that or his only other option was to pass to Marc Laird so he cut his losses.

In the dug out... Somewhat bemusing tactics from Russell Slade today, lining up in a formation which apparently required Smith, Spring, Cox and Laird to all play in exactly the same position. Admittedly the manager did finally give substitute George Porter a late run-out, but by then it was like asking Robert De Niro to make a cameo towards the end of an Ashton Kutcher film - it was far too late to salvage anything.

A word on the opposition... Gargantuan defender Tom Eastman will have particularly enjoyed today's game as it will remove the need for him to partake in heading practice for the next three years, such was the regularity with which Orient popped the ball up towards his bonce. Aside from that Colchester were well-organised and effective and but for Gavin Massey's jaw-dropping miss at the start of the second half would have had the game sewn up even earlier.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Nothing out of the ordinary from our usual suspects this week so let's instead dwell on the self-proclaimed "lone wolf trying to find his way", ex-O Loick Pires. The former star of Bambi on Ice boasts a Twitter feed that mixes culinary ruminations - "Am I the only person out there who can eat cereal at any time of the day?" - with deep philosophical posturing, such as "Why do pigeons exist?" Best of all, however, was this: "I'd love to be a comedian. Imagine the buzz you'd get from making people laugh all the time." How quickly you forget the crowd reaction to your appearances at Brisbane Road, Loick.

Lesson for the day... Hey Russell! As the fat girl said to the supermodel, there's nothing wrong with a bit of width.

15 January 2012

Leyton Orient 1 Chesterfield 1, 14/1/12

A game which... turned on Russell Slade's controversial decision to replace Lee Cook with Marc Laird. Taking off the game's principle attacking threat in an apparent attempt to shore up a 1-0 home lead over the division's bottom club with over 20 minutes to go was something akin to a Formula 1 boss hauling Lewis Hamilton out of his car at a pit-stop with the words, "Hey Lewis, since you're three milliseconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel how about you let my eight-year-old son finish the race for you?"

Lo and behold Laird's first action was to get turned inside his penalty box to allow Jimmy Juan to score Chesterfield's equaliser. And while the former Millwall man went some way to making amends with a lively performance, the damage to an already underwhelming Orient display was already done.

Moment of magic... David 'Wayne' Mooney's darting run to the inside post and deft flick into the far corner of the net that gave the Os the lead. The former Colchester man continues to divide fans - some think he's hopeless; others reckon he's useless - but this flash of brilliance shows there's talent lurking there somewhere.

Moment of madness... Conversely, for all Kevin Lisbie's obvious class, he hasn't been hitting the net much of late and today fluffed his big chance when he was clean through in the second half with only the keeper to beat. He and Mooney, meanwhile, continue to display all the empathy you'd expect of a meeting between Jeremy Clarkson and the Dalai Lama.

Knight in shining armour... Also currently known as 'The Scott Cuthbert Award' which, this week, goes to... Scott Cuthbert. Yes, this was another masterclass in the art of defending from the hardy Scot. Russell Slade may have brought in two more central defenders this week, but on this form Cuthbert should be the first name on the team sheet every match.

Pantomime horse... Jonathan Tehoue will always be something of a hero at Brisbane Road, but is it really too much to ask of a player who's now been with us for two years to, you know, get fit occasionally? In today's late cameo he appeared so bemused to be on an actual football pitch it was like watching a Maasai tribesman of east Africa try to outwit a bunch of Croydon teenagers at their local Laser Quest.

In the dug out... Russell Slade has experimented a few times with Dean Cox in the centre of midfield, each time with all the success of Emma Bunton's post-Spice Girl career. With Dawson out injured he had to do something, but surely against the division's bottom club playing Cox and Cook on alternative wings with Smith and Spring in the middle wouldn't have been too much to ask? And, on another matter, there's a logic to treating an emerging talent such as George Porter with kid gloves, but Slade seems to have locked him in a soft play centre and thrown away the key.

A word on the opposition... Another Orient v Chesterfield clash that'll sit alongside the many other classic encounters between the two sides such as... erm... no, it's gone. Still, no disrespect to the Spireites, they fully deserved their point and, worryingly, almost built up enough head of steam to actually win at the end.

Meanwhile on Twitter... You have to hand it to Jimmy Smith, he's not afraid to use Twitter to relate the most mundane details of his life. Even so, surely this - "Who ever invented a dish washer is a ledge coz mine is full now pressing the start button #LEGOOOOOOOO" - represents a new low not just for the former Chelsea man, but also for social networking in general and perhaps, too, of the whole history of human communication. Next week: George Porter on boiling a kettle, Scott Cuthbert on the various cycles of his washing machine and Dean Cox on the joys of opening and shutting his fridge door.

Lesson for the day... It's probably best to play people in the correct positions: Dean Cox = left wing; Jimmy Smith = centre midfield; Marc Laird = bench.

04 January 2012

Top 10 Brisbane Road moments of 2011

Though Robin Van Persie apologists may disagree, football runs in seasons, not calendar years.

Nonetheless, 2011 hasn't been a bad year for Os fans, featuring a 13-match unbeaten run, memorable victories over the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton, an FA Cup odyssey that culminated in a famous draw against Arsenal at Brisbane Road and, of course, the departure of Ryan Jarvis.

Here, then, are my top 10 moments of the year...

10. Ince goes off the boil   
Leyton Orient 2 Notts County 0, 5 March 2011

Orient's dream FA Cup run had come to end three days before this fixture and as such it wouldn't have been a surprise to see the players exhibiting the sort of humdinging hangover that used to regularly accompany Sean Thornton to training sessions. But not so: the Os put in a professional and convincing performance to ease past Notts County, which so incensed their manager Paul Ince that he was moved to throw his half-time tea over Kevin Dearden and offer him out. Presumably if the Os' goalkeeping coach had taken him up on his offer, Ince would have bottled it at the last minute and sent Gareth Southgate to fight him instead.

9. The Beast bites back   
Leyton Orient 3 Exeter 0, 10 December 2011

Jonathan Tehoue spent so much time digging Orient out of holes last season that he could easily forge a new career as a miner if it wasn't for all the actual hard work involved. After a hand injury had kept him out for the opening part of the season the French striker reminded fans why he's such an important player to have on the bench. With the Os 1-0 up but the game far from over, he trundled up the pitch and nodded in Kevin Lisbie's cross with his very first touch of the game.

8. George's greased lightning  
Leyton Orient 3 Bromley 0, 12 November 2011

Not since the days when Martin Ling would sprint towards his phone whenever a striker over the height of 5ft 6in came on the market has Brisbane Road been witness to any true bursts of speed. Enter George Porter, who showed what he's capable of against non-league Bromley by simply knocking the ball his ahead of himself near the halfway line, then continuing his blistering charge all the way to goal to put Orient 2-0 up.

7. Butcher shows his guts!   
Leyton Orient 2 Preston North End 1, 1 October 2011

The fact that Orient - having failed to win a single one of their first 10 league fixtures of the season - were leading Preston 2-1 at half-time was a miracle enough in itself. But when the Lilywhites were awarded a spot kick in the second half fans would have been less surprised to see Lee Butcher part the Red Sea, feed the five thousand and raise Lazarus from the dead than actually save Graham Alexander's penalty. Butch had just let in 14 consecutive spot kicks in a shoot out against Dagenham & Redbridge; Alexander is one of football's most deadly 12-yard bandits. But save it he did, giving Orient the platform to go on and record their first victory of the season.

6. Lis is more!   
Leyton Orient 1 Sheffield United 1, 22 October 2011

Orient have a lot of difficulty winning games with 11 players on the pitch, so when it's 10 against 12 they really have very little chance of getting a result. Yes, referee Oliver Langford certainly didn't make things easy after a series of decisions so nonsensical that they could easily have been mistaken for the plot of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. All hail Kevin Lisbie, then, who tucked a loose ball away in the sixth minute of added time to snatch a point for the Os and send Brisbane Road into delirium.

5. M'Poku rocket rocks Latics   
Leyton Orient 1 Oldham 0, 12 March 2011

By March, Orient were eight points off the play-offs with four games in hand, but were finding it hard to break down a resilient Oldham side. With 10 minutes to go Russell Slade turned to his bench and realised that he'd accidentally left his best player out of the side for the 15th consecutive week. But no matter, for Spurs loanee Paul-Jose M'Poku only needed a few minutes to work his magic, and with a Shazam! and an Abracadabra! unleashed an unstoppable strike with the outside of his boot that gave Orient three invaluable points at the death.

4. Great Scott! Four-star Os overrun Owls  
Leyton Orient 4 Sheffield Wednesday 0, 22 January 2011

When one-time Premier League residents Sheffield Wednesday came-a-calling at Brisbane Road in January they faced an Orient side who'd only just hauled themselves out of the relegation zone. Alan Irvine's team talk probably went something like: "Don't exert yourselves too much lads, we've got some important games coming up. Just knock it around a bit and wait for their right back to spoon the ball into his own net." Unfortunately for the Owls they found themselves on the receiving end of an inspired performance by the home side, capped by veteran Scott McGleish's glancing header that sealed a deserved 4-0 victory.

3. Big Ben chimes time for Charlton  
Leyton Orient 1 Charlton Athletic 0, 31 December 2011

The final day of 2011 and there was something of a party spirit at Brisbane Road. No, the Peter Allen Cafe wasn't offering a free soup of the day (always tomato) with any purchase of a pizza pod, but rather Leyton Orient were giving league leaders Charlton the runaround. The fact that they'd only put away one of their countless chances meant a nervy final few minutes, but when Rhoys Wiggins looked to have equalised for the visitors big brave Ben Chorley was on hand to majestically block the shot on the line, allowing the Os to see in the New Year in style.

2. Jar-Jar sinks Peterborough 
Leyton Orient 2 Peterborough 1, 22 April 2011

Incredibly, with four games left of the 2010/11 season Orient were still in with a shout of reaching the play-offs, though a win against promotion-chasing Peterborough was essential to keep hopes alive. With ten minutes to go the scores were level and Russell Slade must have been ready to throw in the towel. Instead he threw in Ryan Jarvis, which was tantamount to the same thing. But in the sixth minute of injury time the former Norwich man - who'd hardly played a game all season - defied all known laws of the universe to rise majestically above the Peterborough defence to meet Jason Crowe's cross and nod the Os to victory.

1. Tehoue shoots down Gunners
Leyton Orient 1 Arsenal 1, 20 February 2011

Arsene Wenger has an encyclopedic knowledge of French football, but even he was unaware of a fellow countryman by the name of Jonathan Tehoue who once lumbered around the playing fields of Europe like an ailing ocean liner on one last voyage before being put out of commission. Tehoue found his home in east London and, for all his shortcomings over 90 minutes, there is no striker in the country deadlier from the bench - as Arsenal discovered to their cost when he scored in the 90th minute of the FA Cup fifth round tie. A packed Brisbane Road was rocked to its rafters.

Was 2011 as good as 2010? Take a look at the Top Ten Brisbane Road Moments of 2010 and decide...

02 January 2012

Stevenage 0 Leyton Orient 1, 2/1/12

Michael Bostwick tackles Marc Laird
A game in which... Orient mistakenly turned up expecting to play a football match, only to discover that in fact they were tasked with taking part in an ancient Hertfordshire ritual in which seven-foot locals kick 11 out-of-towners up in the air for 90 minutes to celebrate the New Year.

Yes, in some ways this was an even more satisfying victory than against Charlton, given that for the majority of the second half Orient had only 10 men to counter the 11 Stevenage players who'd been recently chiselled out of local granite in preparation for the day's game. Battle-hardened in defence, savvy in midfield and staying true to their ball-playing principles, this was a heroic win for the Os. Respect.

Moment of magic... Lee Cook's first goal for Orient. The on-loan winger has been improving every game he plays and today showed his class with a deftly-taken goal.

Moment of madness... You can see what Marc Laird, with his back to goal in the Stevenage penalty area, was thinking as the ball arrowed towards him: "This is my big moment. I've struggled to win over the fans so far, but remember Chris Tate? He was equally unconvincing until an overhead kick at Barnet ignited his Orient career. If only I could do the same. Here goes..." Unfortunately Laird's bicycle effort went straight at the keeper so it'll be a while before he's accorded cult hero status at Brisbane Road. Don't hold your breath though...

King for a day... Forbes, Spring, Dawson, McSweeney and Cook were all superb, but the man of match has to be Scott Cuthbert, whose performance was so full of grit that they could use him to de-ice all the roads in Essex for the entire winter. Not many central defenders get their own terrace chant, as Cuthbert did today, but the former Swindon man has been absolutely immense of late. One particular last-ditch tackle on Chuks Aneke - a Stevenage substitute rather than a new range of Japanese confectionery - was sumptuously timed.

Pantomime horse... Jimmy Smith put in yet another anonymous performance today, having... Oh, what, hang on, he wasn't playing? In which case, the only pantomime horse was man-in-the-middle Darren Sheldrake, who was to refereeing what Russell Brand is to fidelity. This blog details his car crash of a performance superbly.

In the dug out... There was a fair amount of head-scratching among Orient fans when the team was announced - Mooney on his own up front, Laird in the middle - but fair play to big Russ, he got it bang on today. Presumably in preparation for Stevenage's tactics his training sessions involved dropping boulders down on the team from great height while Kevin Nugent tried to tackle them with a combine harvester.

A word on the opposition... When Stevenage came to Brisbane Road they looked tough, physical and well-organised. Today they looked tough, physical and psychopathic. Until, that is, Ben Chorley had the temerity to retaliate, upon which Chris Beardsley went down screaming like an attention-seeking schoolgirl who'd slightly grazed her knee after stumbling during a game of kiss chase. Fair play to Stevenage, though, their brand of football has taken them higher up the league than Orient, but today was surely an off day for them, given that they managed not a single shot on target despite their numerical advantage.

Meanwhile on Twitter... A hilarious and revealing insight into the tomfoolery that goes on in the Orient dressing room, courtesy of George Porter who tweeted "Best banter to date!!!!" and uploaded this picture in which some wags have covered half of Stephen Dawson's name so that his shirt simply reads 'Son'. (In witty reference to his supposed relationship with Russell Slade.) You don't have to be mad to work at Orient... (wait for it)... But it helps!

Lesson for the day... Charlton came to out-football Orient and lost. Stevenage set out to rearrange Orient's internal organs and lost. Is there any way to beat the Os these days? Here's hoping no one figures it out for some time to come...

01 January 2012

Leyton Orient 1 Charlton Athletic 0, 31/12/11

A game in which... Charlton spent 90 minutes resembling a Mars bar in a Scottish chip shop - that is, they were absolutely battered. Yes, of course the visitors spent almost the entire game with only 10 men, but the spectacle of a numerically-advantaged team failing to break down their opponents is a common one in football, and the Os deserve huge credit for creating chance upon chance upon chance. The fact that they only put away one of them with the help of a huge deflection is something of a concern (though replays show Jimmy Smith's disallowed goal should also have stood), but nothing should take away from what was a rousing end-of-year performance by an inspired Orient.

Moment of magic... The moment towards the end of the match when Ben Chorley blocked Rhoys Wiggins' goalbound shot to preserve Orient's lead. The fact that the Os had failed to get a second goal meant a heart-in-mouth final ten minutes for fans, and Charlton had a number of chance to snatch what would have been an unjust draw. But the backline held firm to record a memorable victory.

Moment of madness... Though David Mooney put in a hard-working shift and helped create a number of chances, when his big moment came in the second half - clean through on goal with only the keeper to beat - he failed to even hit the target. Not so much a rabbit in the headlights, more a nervously-disposed hamster under the full glare of the world's most powerful laser beam.

King for a day... Tough one this. Butcher, McSweeney, Cuthbert, Lisbie, Forbes and Dawson all put in towering performances... even Jimmy Smith managed to temporarily put aside thoughts of which pair of sunglasses he was going to wear to Nu Bar, Loughton, later that evening to put in a shift fizzing with energy. But if one player stood out above everyone it was former Charlton man Matthew Spring who, with the extra space afforded to him in midfield, showed what a class act he is.

Pantomime horse... No bad performances from any Os' players on the pitch, but there was a chilling reminder of darker times at Brisbane Road in the form of Paul Terry, sitting in the gallery like the ghost of Orient past, come back to haunt the unsuspecting WAGs also occupying the VIP seats.

In the dug out... Big Russ must have felt like all his Christmases had come at once to be able to name Dean Cox, Jonathan Tehoue, George Porter and Jamie Cureton on his bench. Though, of course, there's always one stale, mouldy mince pie that no one wants left over at the end of any festive season - ours is called Marc Laird.

A word on the opposition... "Refs ad a panic up for me" tweeted red-carded Charlton goalkeeper Ben Hamer as he watched his teammates try to cope for 84 minutes with only 10 men. Presumably that means he didn't agree with the admittedly marginal decision. No word from him on Jimmy Smith's incorrectly disallowed goal or the penalty that should have been awarded for the foul on Kevin Lisbie, mind. Still, Charlton are a class side and will no doubt be promoted, making Orient's performance - even against 10 men - even more impressive.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Worrying times for Jimmy Smith this week as his account was presumably hacked into by a mischief maker who swapped his profile pic for a still from Wham's Club Tropicana video from 1983. "is tht ment to be banter?" tweeted the irate ladies man when it was pointed out to him.

Lesson for the day... It's easier to win when we've got more players than the other team. To this end Slade needs to concoct a plan to field 12 men against Stevenage. Dean Cox could certainly play the entire game beneath the referee's eyeline, for example, and Jimmy Smith has previously gone for entire 90-minute stretches on the pitch without a single person in the stadium noticing he was there. Should be simple - bring on 2012!
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