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...
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