23 February 2013

Leyton Orient 0 Crawley Town 1, 23/2/13

A game in which... Orient had the chance to put Wednesday's heartbreak behind them and come out all guns blazing. Instead they meekly took to the pitch waving white flags. Or maybe they were bedsheets, for this was a performance so soporific it could have been bottled up and sold as a miracle cure for insomnia.

Given that in the 13 remaining games the team will probably amass the four or five points that'll keep them in the division (best not bet your mortgage on it though) our season is effectively over in February. On the one hand it makes a refreshing change not to be fighting relegation. On the other, expect the next two months to feel like watching an ageing runner with a torn hamstring slowly and tortuously complete the last three miles of the London Marathon in just under seven hours.

Moment of magic... Moment of magic? Tricky one that. Imagine Paul Daniels turning up to a show without his wand, playing cards, white dove or Debbie McGee. Yes, Orient's performance was far from spellbinding, although Leon McSweeney did hoof one from 40 yards or so that only missed the goal by a few metres.

Moment of madness... Russell Slade's decision to bench Moses Odubajo, presumably for disobeying instructions on Wednesday by trying to dribble round people and create chances. Sure, the youngster's probably a bit knackered, but so is Kevin Dearden after walking from the dressing room to the dug out and you don't see him sitting on the bench all game. Oh, hang on...

Mathieu Baudry
Knight in shining armour... Yet again Mathieu Baudry put in a performance with all the class of a French aristocrat gliding majestically through an ambassador's ball as the wives of foreign dignitaries swoon at his feet. But let's instead hail the return of Leon McSweeney BA (Hons), whose earthier Irish qualities and lively running gave us a bit of impetus down the left today. The emphasis being on "a bit". 

Pantomime horse... A while ago I hailed the qualities of Lloyd James. Yeah, sorry about that. For though he is a tidy and sometimes effective player (and is tasked with a relatively unglamorous role), today he put in a shift that even Paul Terry might have been embarrassed about. Time for a spell on the bench? 

In the dug out... To be fair to our management team, there was a flurry of activity in the dug out during the match. Kevin Nugent was scribbling furiously on his notepad trying to work out if it would be cheaper for him, Russell and Kevin Dearden to share a villa in Marbella or an apartment in Corfu for their summer holiday. Slade was questioning physio Nick Dawes on the most reliable brand of diarrhoea tablets to take with them, while Dearden was mentally calculating how much it is physically possible to eat per day on an all-inclusive deal. 

View from the opposition... "Deserved victory," says Crawley fan Warren Lucy. "Always nerve-wracking when it's only 1-0 though. Should have killed Leyton Orient off. Poor atmosphere at Brisbane Road."

Meanwhile on Twitter... Tweet of the week has to go to Val Jacobs for summing up the plight of Os fans thus: "Supporting Orient is a long line of little disappointments with the odd massive disappointment here and there." Meanwhile, exciting news as Orient's number one celebrity fan and all round top fella Julian Lloyd Webber joins Twitter, tweeting football and cello-related banter from @JLloydWebber.  

Statto corner... Today David Mooney broke the Orient record for being caught offside, clocking up an impressive 427 offences. The previous record was held by Steve Watts in a 2001 game against Chesterfield, albeit due to the mitigating circumstances that he spent 38 minutes in the opposition penalty area trying to figure out how to re-tie his shoelaces. 

Johnstone's Paint Trophy: Southend 2 Leyton Orient 2, 20/2/13

A game which... left Orient fans sicker than Sean Thornton and JJ Melligan the morning after a particularly debauched St Patrick's Day. God knows it's heartbreaking to lose in the dying minutes of what's effectively a pre-Wembley semi-final, but to do so to your arch nemeses hurts really bad.

Still, despite their very best efforts, over the two legs Orient only have themselves to blame for not capitalising on the long spells of pressure they did have and for somehow allowing all three of Southend's only shots on goal in 180 minutes to actually go in.

Moment of magic... David Mooney's headed goal, demonstrating that if you need an ice-cool striker who'll reliably put away one in every 46 chances, he's your man.

Moment of madness... That time-bending moment in the second half when - at 2-1 up - the ball spooned up off Shaun Batt's shin, over the Southend keeper and towards the goal. It seemed to hang for hours - suspending the hopes and dreams of Os fans in mid-air - before finally, inevitably and predictably plopping on to the crossbar like Kevin Dearden collapsing onto an armchair after polishing off a Pizza Hut Jumbo Dinner Box and three bumper packs of Doritos.

Knight in shining armour... Lee Cook caused the opposition many problems, presumably confusing them by being the only Orient player not to repeatedly hoof the ball up the pitch as soon as it came near him. Shaun Batt too was a constant nuisance, often to himself, and continues to be Orient's best 'big man' since the imaginary ones Martin Ling talked up every summer.

Pantomime horse... This is no time to blame individuals - that time comes after league games - because it was clear quite how much this mattered to the team. The players gave their all and were crestfallen at the final whistle - a situation not helped by the fact they were surrounded by pitch-invading Southend fans celebrating like they'd just heard Essex's own Jodie Marsh had been given an OBE.

In the dug out... Clearly Russell had issued some very specific instructions about the way Orient should be playing. He calls it 'direct'; others know it as 'LUMP IT'. Either way it was a surprise to see just how quickly the players were releasing the ball upfield rather than letting the likes of Cox, Cook and Odubajo get on it. Particularly as this seemed to be playing to Southend's strengths rather than our own, a ploy that makes about as much sense as challenging Andy Murray to game of tennis after he's just offered to play you at Monopoly.

Meanwhile on Twitter... This week saw a smart innovation from the official @leytonorientfc Twitter feed. Just send a tweet explaining why you should follow Orient and you could win a pre-match meal of minced horse at the club restaurant. Simple. There were plenty of entries, although unfortunately for the club almost all of them went something like this: "You thought Chris Huhme was good at getting someone to take his points? You've seen nothing yet. #ff @leytonorientfc for car crash endings." Or this: "#ff @leytonorientfc so you can brag to friends about supporting 'real football' before going home to cry alone." It even made the news in Sweden.

Statto corner... Contrary to popular opinion Orient have actually secured some silverware in their history - and not just the cutlery set Kevin Nugent won in the tombola at the annual Leyton Women's Institute fete. In 1973 the club won the now defunct London Challenge Cup, a competition in which teams from the capital competed against local primary schools. "It was a proud moment," recalled captain Peter Allen. "Enfield Girls High School are a tough side to break down, but we stuck at it and got the result."

12 February 2013

"I bet Eddie Baily I could walk on water" - Stan Charlton on Orient's promotion to Division One

In December last year Stan Charlton sadly passed away at the age of 83. The full-back had captained the Orient side that won promotion to the first division in 1962 and was an ever-present in the club's subsequent - and so far solitary - season in the top flight. 

Here Stan recalls some memories from those two magical seasons... 

“In the summer of 1961 Johnny Carey came in as manager of the club. I was sorry to see Les Gore go, but Johnny had quite a reputation. He was very quiet, but a nice bloke. He always had a pipe in his mouth, whether it was lit or not. He’d say, just keep playing football lads, push it around.

The season before we’d almost been relegated, but this time round, once we started to win games the whole attitude changed. We started to think, we can win this, we can win that. Confidence was high.

Towards the end of the season we were in second place, and we’d just beaten Luton on Easter Monday. The next day Sunderland – who were right behind us – were playing away at Rotherham. [Sunderland were two points behind Orient going into their penultimate game.]

Les Grade [an Orient director at the time] asked me how well I knew the Rotherham skipper Roy Lambert. I said I know him well. He said, I’ll give you £100 expenses to go up and see him before the game and offer him £1000 to win the game. It wasn’t a bribe to lose the game - just like an extra bonus among the Rotherham players to win.

I went up to Millmoor with Dave Dunmore and we met Roy outside the ground and told him the offer, and he said great. Then Dave and I stood on the embankment to watch the game and we had our caps and ear mufflers on, but still two kids came up and asked for our autographs. I couldn’t believe they could recognise us from Orient! Anyway, it didn’t matter because Sunderland won 3-0. We had to take the money back again.

[That meant Orient needed to beat Bury at Brisbane Road in their final game of the season and hope that Swansea could take a point or two off Sunderland at Vetch Field.] We knew we had to win to give ourselves any chance, but I don’t think anyone would have given Swansea that result.

It was very tense in the dressing room. The most tense I’ve ever been before a game. Johnny Carey said, ‘Come on lads you’ve got to do it today. This is the day. Don’t worry about Sunderland and Swansea. If you win today you’ve done your best.’

[Orient went 1-0 up at in the first half, but Sunderland were also winning 1-0 against Swansea. Then, in the second half, Swansea equalised – and a roar went up at Brisbane Road] It was tremendous. The buzz coming from the crowd was fantastic. I don’t think Bury would have scored that day – it would have been over dead bodies. The spirit that was in that side!

When the final whistle went it was the most wonderful feeling. You couldn’t feel any better. I remember being chaired off the pitch, then we all stood up on the steps. It was fantastic.

We all got a bit drunk that evening. We went to the local fish and chip shop in Leyton and carried on from there.

A few days later we went on a club trip to Majorca. It was fantastic – there was some drinking there! I remember betting the coach Eddie Baily 100 pesetas that I could walk across the swimming pool – that I could walk on water. I was fully dressed and went to walk across the water. Obviously I went straight in. I had to hang all the pesetas on the line to dry them.

That summer I also had a lucky escape. I’d been down to Eastbourne to pick my mother up from a holiday, and I dropped her off at the pub then I had a couple of drinks. As I was driving home across Clapham Common at about 1:30 in the morning I fell asleep at the wheel as I was coming up to a bend. The next thing I knew I’d hit a bollard.

I was with a lady – she was alright, but I’d gashed my eye open and cut my chest and my knee. An ambulance arrived to take me to hospital, and just before it left a policeman jumped in. Obviously I was worried because I’d been drinking. The copper said to me, ‘Here’s the contents from your van. There’s a picture of Orient here.’

I told him that I was the skipper, and he said that he played for the Metropolitan Police. He asked me what had happened and I told him that I’d fallen asleep at the wheel. He said, ‘Are you sure you want to say that?’ I said, ‘Well, that’s the truth.’ But I never heard another thing about it. There was no breathalyser in those days, but you couldn’t drive after drinking. I could have been in trouble were he not a football fan.

Before we started our first ever season in Division One, Johnny Carey had said we didn’t need to buy any new players. I didn’t agree. We needed more goals. We needed to sign someone to give Dave Dunmore a bit of assistance up there. There was an inside-forward at Southampton at the time called George O’Brien, who eventually did come to Orient in March 1966, and I badly wanted Johnny to sign him. I think he would have made the difference.

Our first game was against Arsenal and I knew most of their team having played there a few years earlier. It was a proud moment. But it was tough in that division. A few players had played in Division One before – myself, Dave Dunmore, Eddie Lewis – but we weren’t that experienced a side. I did think we might be able to hang on – we lost a lot of games by the odd goal – but we weren’t good enough for sure.

I remember when we played Everton at Goodison Park the Liverpool manager Bill Shankly asked Johnny Carey if he could give us a pep talk. He came into our dressing room and said that there are only two teams in Liverpool – Liverpool and Liverpool reserves. He was a terrific character. He told us that we could run the socks off Everton that day. We got beaten 3-0!

But back at Brisbane Road he was proved right. They weren’t the side we played at Everton. They weren’t up for it, and we were. As a unit we were good. This time we won 3-0.

Stan in 2008
In the last game of the season Manchester United needed to beat us to avoid relegation. It was at Old Trafford and I scored an own goal. I kept them in the first division! Bobby Charlton took a corner, I went to head it off the near post and I didn’t quite catch it right and it went straight in the back of the net. I laugh about it now but I was sick at the time.

But all through that season the team spirit was good. Even though we got relegated we never ever got downhearted. We enjoyed being in the division, the grounds, the crowds. Some of the lads had never played at places like that. It was a wonderful experience.”

You can read the full story of Stan's time at Orient in the book Leyton Orient Greats

09 February 2013

Leyton Orient 2 Tranmere Rovers 1, 9/2/13

Slade sells Laird to Southend
A game in which... Orient could afford to miss a penalty, two point-blank headers, a one-on-one and a hatful of other chances yet still overcome high-flying Tranmere. They say the table doesn't lie but on the evidence of this match it was telling the biggest porkie since Russell Slade phoned up Paul Sturrock and said, "Yeah, Lairdy can do a job for you."

Make no mistake, this was a hugely impressive victory - perhaps the performance of the season so far - and Orient dominated the league leaders throughout the match. Dangerous going forward, resolute at the back... If we keep playing like this every week we're going to be at Wembley twice this season.

Moment of magic... A real life Charlie MacDonald goal, something previously thought only to exist in the imagination of Kevin Nugent and as a doctored entry on the striker's Wikipedia page. Yes, this was a much-improved performance by the former Brentford man - a nuisance to the Tranmere defence throughout - and with his first-half header he's already equalled the heady heights of Jamie Cureton's Orient scoring record. Next on his hit list: Adrien Patulea (2 goals). 

Moment of madness... Another missed penalty - the second in a row - by Orient. Today Martin Rowlands was the guilty party (albeit denied by a great save) meaning that the next time we have a spot kick it's anyone's guess who'll be taking the honours. Perhaps we could re-sign reliable spot-kicker Adam Boyd purely for the purposes of taking penalties and doing fancy but ultimately pointless flicks that none of the rest of the team can read? Given he's currently playing in the Northern League - the ninth tier of English football - he'd probably jump at the chance. If he could jump, that is. 

Knight in shining armour... What a joy it is to watch Mathieu Baudry in action, elegantly commanding the defence and casually picking out passes with the sort of effortless cool he no doubt employs when selecting which of the opposition players' wives he'll deign to sleep with after the match. If this is what happens when you grow up eating horse meat, as Baudry did in his native France, then the whole squad should stock up on Findus Beef Lasagnes immediately. 

Pantomime horse... No bad performances from anyone in an Orient shirt today, although Lloyd James will no doubt be flagellating himself with a leek while listening to Stereophonics B-sides to atone for somehow failing to connect with a point-blank header in front of goal in the first few minutes of the game.  

In the dug out... Today Russell Slade was as animated as one of the Disney cartoons Kevin Dearden enjoys of a Saturday evening. Indeed, when Charlie MacDonald had the ball in the net in the second half the manager set off on one of his famed celebratory jigs, bounding along the touchline with all the enthusiasm of a simpleminded farm hand attempting an egg-and-spoon race after 12 pints of scrumpy. Unfortunately the goal was called offside and Russell had to sheepishly slink back to the dug out again. 

Meanwhile on Twitter... With the launch of the Leyton Orient sticker album today, there's already been some frenetic trading across Twitter among fans. One punter was in despair at his inability to swap his surplus Michael Symes sticker until, surprisingly, he was contacted by Burton Albion manager Gary Rowett who offered to exchange it for the actual Michael Symes. Obviously the fan turned him down. 

Dean Morgan playing for Orient
Statto corner... The last time Orient beat a team residing at the top of the League One table was when Martin Ling's side beat MK Dons back in January 2009. That day Dean Morgan confounded the entire MK Dons team by lying on the ground screaming and crying for a full 38 minutes after almost being lightly brushed on the arm during a tussle for the ball, allowing Stephen Purches to ghost through and score the winner unnoticed. 

06 February 2013

Johnstone's Paint Trophy: Leyton Orient 0 Southend United 1, 5/2/13

Paul Sturrock... or is it Christopher Biggins?
A game which... demonstrated that while losing football matches is always painful, defeat to Southend is like being strapped to a bed of spikes, set on fire and made to watch Paul Sturrock slowly disrobe. But Orient have only themselves to blame, really: they created enough chances to be 47-0 up at half-time but failed to convert any of them and then did a passable impression of an average League Two side - Southend, for example - for the final 45 minutes. Still, if we win at Roots Hall it will have been worth losing just to have temporarily got the Shrimpers fans' hopes up.

Moment of magic... One driving run from Shaun Batt in the first half that teed up David Mooney perfectly to slot in from the six-yard box. Or at least it would have done had Mooney's first touch not taken the ball to somewhere just outside of Epping. Yes, while both strikers did plenty of good work in creating opportunities, unfortunately neither had the wherewithal to actually put the ball in the net when it mattered.

Moment of madness... Mathieu Baudry's inexplicably weak header in the lead-up to the Southend goal, which hung invitingly in the air for so long that Ben Chorley, watching at home on Sky, had time to send a fax to the club office berating the Frenchman for his ineptitude.

Knight in shining armour... No one particularly covered themselves in glory tonight so let's instead focus on the fact that Jamie Jones - after an uncharacteristically nervous performance against Stevenage - was commanding his area with much more authority. At one point in the first half he charged off his line with all the speed of a Scouse autograph hunter who's just spotted Cilla Black having a ciggy with Atomic Kitten and the entire cast of Brookside.

Pantomime villains... The Southend fans, of course, who did themselves proud by ripping up the seats in the East Stand. I guess they still haven't forgiven us for selling them Marc Laird.

In the dug out... "Don't worry, it's only half-time," said Russell at the end of the game, confusing poor Jimmy Smith who was still to be seen running round the pitch at 10:30pm wondering why he was being afforded so much time and space on the ball. Still didn't score, mind.

Statto corner... Back in the early 90s manager Peter Eustace didn't pay the Football League Trophy - or the Beaphar Care-plus Hamster Food Trophy as it was known then - as much respect as Russell Slade does now. In a first round game against Brentford in 1993, for example, the Orient team contained three ball boys, two tea ladies and five members of the local Women's Institute. "We would have won if I hadn't also given Colin West a run out," said Eustace.

04 February 2013

Stevenage 0 Leyton Orient 1, 2/2/13

A game which... was a momentous one for Leyton Orient fans, for after years of enduring the woeful likes of Sam Parkin, James Scowcroft, Calvin Andrew and Michael Symes, we finally got to witness a 'big striker' doing things like 'winning headers', 'using his strength' and 'causing problems'. Yes, Shaun Batt is the sort of imposing target man that Martin Ling has lurid, lascivious dreams about at night, only to wake up the next morning to the horrific reality that he's actually signed Ryan Jarvis.

In his 65 minutes on the pitch the Millwall loanee helped create chance after chance for Charlie MacDonald to fluff, allowing Orient to record an impressive away win to which the 1-0 scoreline doesn't do justice - it could have been many more.

David Mooney
Moment of magic... An outrageous bit of skill by David Mooney who, with no one near him, somehow managed to nutmeg himself and tread on the ball, thus ending up spreadeagled on the ground like a baby giraffe that's just tried - and failed - to take its first tentative steps. Altogether now: "There's only one David Mooney / One David Mooney / He used to be shite, now he's still mostly shite but sometimes alright / Walking in a Mooney wonderland..."`

Moment of madness... You can see why Russell Slade wanted to keep Jimmy Smith fresh ahead of Tuesday's big game against Southend, but resting him actually on the pitch in midfield was a bit bizarre.

Knight in shining armour... With Ben Chorley lining up for the opposition ("I didn't want to leave, but when Sweens borrowed a bit of my shower gel without asking in 2010 I knew there was no way back") it allowed Scott Cuthbert to prove that he's the best central defender at the club apart from Mathieu Baudry. Yes, the craggy Scot was immense - just as he was against Stevenage last season - and whenever a stray ball spooned up off of Anthony Griffith's shin, Cuthbert was there to mop it up.

Not Jamie Jones
Pantomime horse... What has happened to Jamie Jones? Where once he used to command his penalty area with all the confidence of a youthful Warren Beatty strutting into a cheerleaders' convention, now he quivers under crosses like a late-developing teenager fumbling with his very first bra strap. He's still a great shot-stopper, mind (and pulled off two classy saves in this match), but is all over the place when coming off his line.

In the dug out... What a joy it must have been for Russell Slade to rest players in advance of an important cup game and still field a team capable of winning away from home. Had Geraint Williams tried a similar thing his second string would have had to include Adrien Patulea, Loick Pires and a 6ft blow-up doll on wheels. Or worse, Mike Cestor.

Meanwhile on Twitter... "Cox almost messed up that simple goal" tweeted fan Daniel Boyce after the game, a sentiment echoed by fellow tweeter Simon Weston who chimed "Well said mate". But little did they expect the man himself to be meticulously trawling Twitter for any mention of his name: "Well said mate?" replied Tiny, in what's known in the social media world as "Doing a Jimmy Smith".

Statto corner... In Ben Chorley's 131 appearances for the club, Orient conceded 197 goals. Responsibility for the mistakes that led to those goals were as follows:

179 Leon McSweeney
8 Jamie Jones
6 Scott Cuthbert
4 Stephen Purches
0 Ben Chorley

(Statistics © Ben Chorley)
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