30 January 2013

Leyton Orient 0 Swindon Town 0, 29/1/13

Paolo Di Canio
A game in which... Orient did well to draw against a classy side whose principle weapon of attack appeared to be taking throw-ins 10 yards further up the pitch than they should have been. Yes, under the direction of a wildly gesticulating and apparently deranged Italian traffic cop who'd presumably ended up in the opposition dug out after a 48-hour ketamine binge, Swindon dominated possession in swirling conditions. But, the Os defence held firm to come away with an important point. 

Moment of magic... Mathieu Baudry calmly and elegantly dribbling his way out of his own penalty area in the first half with such Gallic flair it was a wonder he didn't then light up a Gitane, don a beret and disdainfully pick at a plate of Brie. 

Moment of madness... When Andy D'Urso - a referee unencumbered by traditional notions of consistency - refused to award a penalty for a trip on Moses Odubajo in the second half, thus denying David Mooney the opportunity to shoot tamely into the goalkeeper's arms from 12 yards.       

Knight in shining armour... All the back four were in fine form today, but Scott Cuthbert should get a special mention for some scything tackles, last-ditch defending and a cheeky little handball right before Swindon hit the post in the second half. 

Pantomime villain... Paolo Di Canio, whose relentless stream-of-consciousness ranting and pantomime preening really was something to behold. Most of it was directed at assistant manager Fabrizio Piccareta, who during matches must feel like a babysitter charged with trying to control an attention-deficient toddler who's just mainlined three litres of Sunny Delight and decided to single-handedly re-enact every scene from Annie the Musical.  

In the dug out... Faced with the sophisticated tactics of a sharply-dressed Italian in the opposition dug out, Big Russ did what any self-respecting League One manager would do and instructed his team to: "FUCKING LUMP IT UP TO MOONS AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS." To be honest, given the condition of the pitch it was probably the best thing to do, and were it not for a classy save from Swindon keeper Wes Foderingham from Jimmy Smith's shot at the death, Orient could have snatched a slightly undeserved but battling victory. 

View from the opposition... "First half we dominated and deserved a goal," says Swindon fan Dan Johnson. "Richie ran the show. But in the second half Orient started to play and we were poor. Good point for the Os but a poor result for Town. Odubajo was very good and caused us problems. Foderingham once again spared our blushes."

Orient defend a corner
Statto corner... Today's pitch was the muddiest since a game against Hull City in January 1976. "I was up to my knees in it so could hardly move," recalled striker Micky Bullock. "Which was lucky really as I'd had 37 pints the night before with Bill Roffey and Gerry Queen."

26 January 2013

Leyton Orient 2 Notts County 1, 26/1/13

Today's match officials
A game in which... Orient recorded an impressive victory despite facing significant obstacles: Notts County's 22-game unbeaten away record; officiating apparently inspired by popular clown routines of the early 19th-century; and the fact the defence had to tame an opposition No.9 playing with all the elegance of an irate rhinoceros rampaging through a dolls' house.

Initially Orient looked like they might succumb to their old party trick of failing to convert pressure into goals - indeed, so many chances went begging that even substitute Michael Symes was moved to put down his bag of doughnuts, lick his lips and proclaim: "Reckon I could have put one of them away." But no matter, when it came to it, Mooney and Baudry put the ball in the net to send the Os soaring to exactly the same place in the table as they were before the game kicked off.

Moment of magic... The point at which official Lee Collins gave credence to the chant "You're not fit to referee" by, well, not being fit to referee and leaving the pitch midway through the second half. Apparently he'd inadvertently swallowed his one remaining brain cell, hence explaining some of his decisions earlier in the match.

Bartosz Bialkowski: time waster
Moment of madness... The South Stand's decision to boo County's Bartosz Bialkowski for having the temerity to require treatment after being kicked in the head by Charlie MacDonald. Next week: Orient fans rage at Swindon's goalkeeper for time-wasting after his arm is lopped off in a bizarre clash with David Mooney.

Knight in shining armour... Tough one this. Baudry, Cook, Chorley and Odubajo all class, but perhaps Martin Rowlands edges it as the architect of Orient's attacking play. One 50-yard pass to Lee Cook in the first half was particularly sumptuous, and the only blot on his copybook was a missed free kick - presumably he can only score when opposition fans are calling him a cunt.

Pantomime horse... Incredibly Charlie MacDonald managed to go through the entire match without touching the ball a single time - some feat given the game lasted about four hours. Yes, for a self-proclaimed goal-poacher the former Brentford man was conspicuous by his absence on the numerous occasions that the ball bobbled inviting around the County six-yard box. Less a fox in the box, more a dozy gerbil wandering aimlessly through a field.

In the dug out... Never let it be said that all Kevin Dearden does in a match is sit there idly doodling on an A4 pad while repeatedly breaking wind and wondering whether to have Findus crispy pancakes or a bumper pack of Hula Hoops for dinner. Never let that be said. Today Orient's goalkeeping coach was so incensed by the performance of the referee that he left his seat - no mean feat - and confronted the official. "Kev made his views pretty clear to me," said the referee after the match. "Apparently he reckons KFC is better than Nandos."

Meanwhile on Twitter... "Piss bored today so experimenting by launching a blog" revealed resident Brisbane Road brainbox Leon McSweeney this week, breaking all traditions of player tweeting by failing to make any spelling mistakes. The blog is good too. "Will hopefully stay inspired to write one regularly," he wrote later - although he won't be able to count on the readership of Lloyd James, who replied simply, "Please don't." Charming.

Statto corner... In the days before fourth officials, should a referee get injured during a game clubs had to be more creative around how they replaced them. In a game against Bradford City in 1994, for example, striker Colin West was required to both play up front and run the line for the last 35 minutes of the match after the referee pulled his hamstring. He would have scored a last-minute winner but for the fact he incorrectly flagged himself offside.

16 January 2013

FA Cup: Leyton Orient 1 Hull City 2 (aet), 15/1/13

Steve Bruce
A game which... proved there's no justice in the world. Why, for example, should poor Steve Bruce have to go through life with a face like a boiled cauliflower that's been repeatedly hurled into a concrete wall? And more pertinently, how can Orient be out of the FA Cup despite out-playing opponents whose expensively-assembled squad is worth the equivalent of about 248 Ben Chorleys - or 32 billion Marc Lairds.

Yes, Orient did their fans proud with a committed display of intelligent, passing football and but for a number of 'what ifs?' - what if Lee Cook's legitimate goal hadn't been disallowed? What if Michael Symes didn't exist? - could have ended the game victorious.

Moment of magic... Dean Cox's goal just minutes before the final whistle, in which Hull's catastrophe of a goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic (think Marek Stech with no hands - or eyes) helpfully let a relatively innocuous cross float into the far corner of the net.

Moment of madness... Steve Bruce's unprovoked and inexplicable decision to taunt home fans in the West Stand after Hull's winning goal, an action that had all the class of a millionaire playboy goading an impoverished blind orphan for losing a game of I Spy.

Knight in shining armour... When Orient left the pitch they did so as ten heroes and Michael Symes, so it's difficult to single out one man of the match. Cox, Cook and Odubajo were all superb, but let's take a moment to hail the contribution of Lloyd James, whose performances in midfield are becoming more and more tidy and effective.

Michael Symes
Pantomime horse... To put it charitably, substitute Michael Symes lacked a bit of sharpness - much as a knife would were you to construct it entirely out of blancmange. Still, within another car crash of a performance there was one positive: the big striker is now managing to time his leaps to within just a few seconds of the ball arriving somewhere near his head and in a few months' time may have refined his technique to the point where he actually wins a knock on. Just kidding, he won't.

Russell Slade
In the dug out... Russell's got a new hat. Either that or a local granny has knitted a tea cosy and placed it on top of a giant egg. Still, with the players he had at his disposal the manager got it spot on tactically and ensured that his team were dominant throughout the 120 minutes.

Meanwhile on Twitter... More Anglo-French madness from Mathieu Baudry who this week related a harrowing tale of woe that really exposes the difficulties and hardships a modern footballer has to face: "put the water for a cold bath> nealry forgot it> bath too full > decide to take off water for a bit> forgot it > bath empty." Come back Jimmy Smith, all is forgiven. (Well, it would be if you hadn't missed that point blank header in the first half.)

Statto corner... At -5 degrees the temperature at Brisbane Road was the lowest since a match in January 1953 against Southend. "There were 19ft of snow on the pitch that day, but we played on, not like the namby pamby footballers of today," remembered burly centre back Stan Aldous. "I had a broken neck and bubonic plague too - just ran them both off."
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