29 September 2012

Leyton Orient 0 Doncaster Rovers 2, 29/9/12

A game in which... Orient looked about as comfortable as John Terry at an Afro-Caribbean poetry night. Yes, the away team were physical and niggly but fair play to them - they took their chances and restricted Orient to vague attempts at defying the laws of physics by expecting Kevin Lisbie to out-jump their gargantuan centre backs.

And while one loss in the last five isn't a major cause for alarm, it's certainly true Orient didn't have any answers to Doncaster's approach. Unless you count bringing on Marc Laird, and if that's the answer then the question must be held under lock and key at Fort Knox in case anyone ever tries to ask it again.

Moment of magic... The moment when Lee Cook - whose meticulous preparation for the game had presumably involved repeatedly running full pelt into an 8ft brick wall - decided to change tack. His novel approach involved sitting on the floor and pirouetting with the ball sandwiched between his feet as if he was involved in some sort of student ice-breaking game in Freshers' Week. Next up: Ryan Brunt tries to bamboozle the Walsall defence by wearing a traffic cone on his head and initiating a round of Spin The Bottle.  

Moment of madness... David Cotterill's ridiculous attempt to try to get Dean Cox sent off at the end of the game, falling to the floor clutching his face like an attention-seeking teenage schoolgirl upset that her eight-year-old sister had just upstaged her at a talent show.

Knight in shining armour.... It was hard for any Orient player to shine when standing within 300 yards of Dean Saunders' suit, but Nathan Clarke didn't have a bad game and Kevin Lisbie did about as much as could be expected of someone being repeatedly attacked by a vicious herd of giraffes.

Pantomime horse... Leyton Orient and referee Nigel Miller have history, for it was the Durham-born official who was in charge for the club's notorious 1-1 draw with Leeds in 2007. Miller's performance that day was so inept that manager Martin Ling nearly blew a gasket. ("I was so furious that I looked at him a little bit disapprovingly at the end of the game," he said at the time.) Today the referee wasn't much better and hindered Orient's cause with a series of decisions that caused so much head-scratching it was like a plague of lice had descended upon Brisbane Road.

In the dug out... "We weren't bright," said Russell Slade after the game, though if you field a team containing Jimmy Smith you're hardly likely to secure a discounted group membership to Mensa. Fair play to the manager, in recent weeks he has hit upon a Plan A ("Try and get a throw in so Clarkey can launch it into the mixer") but Plan B ("Bring on Odubajo, then try and get a throw in so Clarkey can launch it into the mixer") probably needs a bit of work.

Word from the opposition... "We played very well today, one of our best performances of the season," says Donny fan Kieran O'Malley. "Orient had a poor first half but a slightly better second half, with a small spell of chances - but didn't make anything of them. Not great really, though I thought the referee was a bit dodgy at times."

Meanwhile on Twitter... Never let it be said that Orient players aren’t multi-talented - today, for example, David Mooney was spotted reading the match programme and breathing at the same time. But few could match the skills of Lee Cook who can run for 60 minutes of a game and put away culinary delights like the one he tweeted here. “I no your jealous! :)” he wrote before tucking into his meal. Or throwing up over it – it’s hard to tell the difference.

Statto corner... The last time the average height of an Orient team exceeded that of their opponents was in April 1955 when Pat Welton and Les Blizzard came up with the cunning wheeze of nailing three inches of MDF to the bottom of their boots in a bid to gain advantage over Newport County.

18 September 2012

Leyton Orient 4 Yeovil Town 1, 18/9/12

A game in which... Russell Slade proved this joker wrong: "It's antiquated to think football is simply a 4-4-2 system. The game has changed. It's not like that now." (Russell Slade, Leyton Orientear, August 2012) Yes, what a joy it was to see an Orient side bristling with energy, purpose and attacking intent - and playing two up front at home. Sure, the approach was direct, but the intensity repeatedly left the Yeovil defence as exposed as a topless princess in a private French chateau.

Moment of magic... An incredible five-minute spell of showboating towards the end of the game which featured a Jimmy Smith backheel, a couple of Moses Odubajo stepovers and no less than three - yes, three - attempts on goal by substitute David Mooney, only one of which ballooned towards the corner flag. Less the Harlem Globetrotters, though, more the Leyton Cheap Day Return To Canvey Islanders.

Moment of madness... Ryan Brunt's over-exuberant celebration of Kevin Lisbie's goal, resulting in a need for medical assistance. What's he going to do if David Mooney scores - lop his own leg off with a chainsaw?

Knight in shining armour... So impressive was the Orient performance tonight that pretty much the whole team could stake a claim to the man of the match award. Allsop, Chorley, Griffith, Lisbie, Brunt and Smith were all particularly good, but let's focus on Dean Cox. Playing on the left in the second half he repeatedly got on the ball and created opportunities by cutting inside - much as he did throughout the 2010/11 season. Which begs the question as to why Slade persisted with playing him in the middle for so long, a decision akin to convincing Al Pacino to star in an amateur dramatic production of The Mousetrap, only to assign him the role of the corpse.

Pantomime horse... No bad performances from any of the Orient team tonight, but one-time Premier League referee Keith Stroud made up for it with a series of increasingly bizarre decisions, not least his denial of an Orient penalty when Nathan Ralph brought Ryan Brunt to the ground with all the finesse of an inebriated Somerset farm hand attacking a love rival with an oversized scythe.

In the dug out... When Yeovil pulled the score back to 2-1 just after half-time it looked for a moment as if we might be heading for a repeat of last season's soul-destroying capitulation to the Somerset side. But, fair play to Russell, he had a smile on his face tonight, so either everything was going to plan or Kevin Dearden was reworking his much-loved comedy routine of repeatedly breaking wind and then pointing at Marc Laird accusingly.

View from the opposition... "Orient passed the ball well and really capitalised on some poor Yeovil defending," says Glovers fan Sheridan Robins. "Your number nine always looked a threat and we failed to deal with him. Orient looked a better side than last season but if Yeovil had scored when on top at 2-1 I think it would have been a different story as your heads would have dropped."

Meanwhile on Twitter... Os fans could do far worse than following Lee Cook. The diminutive winger mixes incisive analysis of celebrity women - "Kelly Brook #withoutthembangersyouwouldworkindixons" and "Mila kunis looks as ropey as shit in the papers today!", for example -  with horrifying tales of mowing down innocent animals in Essex: "Bare road kill in woodford! So far 2 squirrels and a rabbit in a pickle!" It's like George Porter meets Ray Mears.

Statto corner... Tonight Orient amassed more shots on goal in a single game than they managed throughout the entire 2011/12 season.

14 September 2012

Leyton Orient 1 Brentford 0, 13/9/12

A game in which... Orient ground out a win so ugly that even if it were the only girl in Faces nightclub, Gants Hill, Jimmy Smith would still be reluctant to crack on to it. By Christ it's going to be a long season if this is the only way we're going to pick up points, and there are some serious questions about our ability to actually string any meaningful attacks together.

But let's focus on the positives: the defence held firm for a second consecutive clean sheet; the midfield wasn't totally overrun and the goalkeeper didn't get injured. Rejoice.

Moment of magic... A goal born on the practice pitches of Stoke City Football Club, in which Potters loanee Ryan Brunt got on the end of a scramble after a long throw into the mixer from Rory Delap... sorry, Nathan Clarke. But, hey, Orient aren't going to score from many exquisite lobs, bicycle kicks or 28-pass moves this season so lap it up while you can.

Moment of madness... When Premier League referee Phil Dowd prevented what would have been a certain failed attempt at goal when he stumbled into Gary Sawyer like an embarrassingly drunk uncle at a wedding staggering onto his feet to dance to Rihanna's Umbrella while shouting "I've still fucking got it!" Thanks Phil.

Knight in shining armour... Anthony Griffith put in something of a performance today and proved that he could well combine the skills of a slightly less good Stephen Dawson, a slightly less good Matthew Spring and a slightly less good six-foot garden fence. A slightly better Solomon Taiwo, in other words.

Just beat Michael Symes to the ball
Pantomime horse... Michael Symes. Now, [adopts Bernard Manning voice] I'm not saying that the 28-stone beefcake is immobile, [clears throat] but I'm sure I saw him overtaken by a glacier at one point. [taps microphone] Joking aside, the striker was repeatedly outjumped, outrun, out-thought and out to lunch. Ryan Brunt to start against Yeovil.

In the dug out... It's taken over 50 games, but for the first time in about 18 months Orient actually played better after Russell Slade's half-time team talk rather than worse. Not so much a rocket up their arse, but at least a small, barely flickering indoor firework. This is progress.

Word from the opposition... "I thought that we dominated the game," says Ryan Donovan of Life On The Bee Roads blog, not unreasonably. "The team showed that they are comfortable with the ball and have the ability to pass teams to death. Unfortunately the finishing just wasn't up to much has been apparent all season. Douglas, Forshaw and Forrester best players for us tonight. Unfortunate to come away without anything to show. Orient were a bit scrappy but Cox looked handy as did your number 8."

Meanwhile on Twitter... Welcome to Twitter ex-Orient skipper John Mackie! The big defender-turned-greengrocer uses the social network for an entertaining mix of football banter - "Come on the Os! Fucking liven up" - market-related pleas for help - "Looking for any unique mens or ladies clothing to sell on busy camden st stall" - and outright abuse: "The FA should also ban steve Evans from eating anymore food aswell!the fat horrible c*nt". Most touchingly, however, John provides restaurant advice to former celebrity females, as shown in this reply to Lisa Snowdon. Sadly Lisa is yet to visit the fruit stall. Or reply.

Statto corner... So far 100% of Orient's goals this season have come from set pieces. But this team have a long way to go to beat the squad of 1994/95, who maintained this record for 46 games, albeit through scoring only three goals the entire season, all of which came from the head of Colin West.

09 September 2012

Book review: Orientation by Adam Michie

Some of us are forced to support Orient by sadistic relatives. Some of us accidentally ended up with a season ticket through geographical convenience before we were old enough to know better. Some of us are presumably saddled with the Os as some sort of karmic retribution for hideous crimes committed in a past life. 

But few Orient fans actually chose to be so of their own volition - especially if they already support a decent Premier League team. But Adam Michie, author of the new book Orientation did exactly that.

Spurs fan Adam had become disillusioned with the Premier League and frustrated that his support of the club wasn't shared by his friends. Seeking a more collective experience, he and a handful of mates agreed over what presumably must have been enough alcohol to kill a herd of mammoths that they would buy a Brisbane Road season ticket.

Fortuitously for them that season was 2010/11, and the book follows the Os through the highlights of that wonderful nine months: the FA Cup run; Jonathan Tehoue's goal against Arsenal; Ryan Jarvis's last-gasp winner against Peterborough; Paul-Jose M'poku's goal against Oldham and many more.

For reliving those great moments, the book is worth a read. But over and above that it's a warm, witty and entertaining tale that will resonate with any football fan - the highs, the lows, the loved one that doesn't understand why you absolutely have to be at a Johnstone Paint Trophy replay on a freezing Tuesday night. (One mid-argument line in particular will resonate with many fans: "The dates of football fixtures were not my fault.")

Incredibly, even after last season Adam remains an Orient fan. The club has put him through a lot. At least do him the favour of buying his excellent book.

Orientation by Adam Michie is available from Chequered Flag Publishing

Follow Adam on Twitter

02 September 2012

Crawley Town 1 Leyton Orient 0, 1/9/12

A game in which... Russell Slade's starting line up didn't just throw caution to the wind, it recklessly cast it into the eye of a hurricane. Three wingers. Yep, three wingers - count 'em: Cook, Cox, Obudajo - took to the field and helped Orient create a bit of bustle in the first half, to the point that we actually had a single shot on target. In the context of the last six months, this is something to be celebrated.

Unfortunately by the second half the manager had reverted to type, deploying what looked like a narrow 4-1-1-1-1-1 formation located entirely in our own penalty area, inviting Crawley to repeatedly attack until eventually - and inevitably - they scored.

Moment of magic... One sumptuous run from Moses Obudajo in the first half caused a momentary stir among the Orient fans, but only in the same sense as someone forced to endure all 28 Jennifer Lopez films back to back may get a mild kick when Bob Hoskins briefly turns up in Maid In Manhattan.

Moment of madness... The point in the second half when keeper Ryan Allsop - who'd played reasonably well until then - mistimed his run to the edge of the box to allow Nicky Ajose a shot at an open goal (which he somehow missed). Now, I'm sure there must be more to coach Kevin Dearden's job than collecting the cones at the end of training and eating jam doughnuts, but of the 38 goalkeepers who have turned out for Orient in the last season or two, he appears to have actually made 37 of them worse.

Knight in shining armour... Ben Chorley did a fine job of keeping ex-O Gary Alexander quiet - if only he could silence him on Twitter - throughout the match. Indeed, the former Tranmere man reminded fans that when he's not scouring the pitch looking to scapegoat someone for stealing a squeeze from his shampoo bottle he's actually a pretty solid defender.

Pantomime horse... Unequivocally the manager himself. God only knows what Russell says to his teams at half-time - I'm guessing: "Do exactly what you're already doing, lads, only slightly less badly" - but he seems to have an amazing ability to turn an average performance into an abysmal one in the space of 15 minutes.

In the dug out... Like Stone Roses fans who stayed loyal to the band despite the shambles that was sophomore album The Second Coming, Orient supporters were extremely patient with Russell Slade throughout the disaster of 2011/12 because of what the manager achieved the previous season. But now, with three wins and three draws from the last 20 league matches, that patience has worn as thin as the non-financial reasons behind the reunion of Ian, John, Mani and Reni.

Word from the opposition... Crawley fan Warren Lucy of The Goalmouth Scramble blog says: "Scrappy game, draw was probably the right result but you did feel there would be a goal from somewhere. Orient huffed and puffed but didn't really have a lot of chances. Felt we just edged it. Both teams played poorly."

Meanwhile on Twitter... "Don't listen to the haterz" tweeted Gary Alexander last time he faced Orient, before spending the next 48 hours meticulously trawling through his mentions column, retweeting anything mildly critical then crying non-stop for two solid weeks. This time round the former Brisbane Road striker displayed a bit more maturity - bringing him up to the mental age of 13 - and diplomatically tweeted "Sometimes it wasn't pretty but 3 points #buzzing play bad and win were take that."

Statto corner... Russell Slade has now employed the phrase "we just need a bit more belief" in post-match interviews over 7000 times, setting a new Guinness world record for delusion.
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