23 February 2013

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."

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