30 December 2013

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Leyton Orient 1, 29/12/13

Wolves' pre-match meal
A game in which... the paupers of Leyton just about scraped together enough cash to afford the bus fare to the Midlands to face the fat cats of Wolverhampton, a team so flushed with riches that they eat Alba truffles, beluga caviar and raw hard cash for their pre-match meal and receive payments from the Premier League specifically to buy parachutes. (That's right, isn't it?)

And yet in the second half - despite the fact the entire Orient squad now contains only 13 fit senior pros - it was the away side who were dominating and who looked more likely to win the game. An incredible achievement and yet again a testament to the sheer gutsy resolve of this brilliant team.

What's that? Oh, the first half. Well, Wolves could have been 28-0 up. But if you can't get the ball in the net with a strike force that costs more than the GDP of a medium-sized central European country, you've only got yourself to blame.

Moment of magic... The moment Mathieu Baudry inexplicably found himself in the opposition penalty area experiencing a typically French existential crisis. Just as the defender asked himself 'Why am I here?' the ball arrived at his feet via a sublime Moses Odubajo cross and he was able to tap the ball into the net. C'est pourquoi vous y etiez, Mathieu.

Moment of madness... The moment in the second half when an exposed Jake Larkins found the entire Wolverhampton team charging towards him, £50 notes fluttering from their pockets, after a botched Orient corner. His double save - first from Kevin MacDonald, then from the rebound at the feet of James Henry - was brilliant and epitomised what was for the most part a highly impressive performance by the youngster. 

Top gun... Sawyer, Omozusi, Cox, Simpson and Odubajo all impressed - and Lisbie worked tirelessly - but once again the man of the match was Nathan Clarke. In the first half his performance was that of the captain of a sinking ocean liner single-handedly trying to plug every leak while his terror-stricken crew mates throw themselves into lifeboats and get the hell out of there. He was immense. 

Mathieu Baudry
Little donkey... Putting aside his goal and a much-improved second-half performance, Mathieu Baudry was all over the place in the first half. Whereas once the Frenchman was a gallant musketeer picking off opponents with little more than an inquisitively-raised eyebrow, over the last few games he's been more of an inexperienced Parisian mime artist desperately failing to impress drunken tourists outside the Eiffel Tower. 

In the dug out... To be fair to Russell Slade, like a brothel owner in the midst of clap epidemic, he hasn't exactly got much to work with in terms of fit professionals. But interestingly Orient performed much better after Vincelot's injury forced a reshuffle. What's clear is that Omozusi and Odubajo is the most compelling combination on the right, and given that Sawyer is in good form Slade may have to bite the bullet and leave either Baudry or Cuthbert on the bench. Tough decision, probably made easier by the fact it's unlikely both of them will actually be fit at the same time anyway. 

View from the opposition... "You're just a bus stop in West Ham" chanted the 26,000 home fans in one of the more inventive taunts of Orient. Tweeter @wolves_gossip put it less wittily: "Awww poor Orient fans, they've never won anything and now they've drawn to us they think they've the best team in Europe." Well, no, but forgive us our pleasure for matching a club who pay substitute Kevin Doyle more to get his eyelashes waxed than we can afford to pay our entire squad put together. 

Tweet of the week.... I hate to do this to you, Os fans, but with good comes bad, with yin comes yang, and it is my solemn duty to report that ranting taxi driver, social commentator and one-time football manager John Sitton has, for reasons known only to him and the Devil, tweeted a photo of himself naked. If you're of a nervous disposition, look away now... 

27 December 2013

Gillingham 1 Leyton Orient 2, 26/12/13

Orient defend a corner
A game in which... due to suspensions, injuries, loss of form and excessive mince pies, Orient were forced to put out a team patched up with sticky tape, Blu-Tac and - worse - Marvin Bartley. No surprise, then, that they were 1-0 down after 0.4 seconds.

It went downhill from there - a missed penalty, more injuries, Marvin Bartley - and despite the fact that Gillingham were showing all the ambition of an X-Factor auditionee who hasn't even bothered to invent a tear-jerking back story, it looked like Orient would be going home pointless.

The fact that they ended up victorious is massive. Yes, champions win games even when they play badly, and it's a huge testament to the spirit and resolve in the camp at the moment that Orient were able to drag out three points from the very depths of footballing hell. (Ok, I'm exaggerating a little...) 

Moment of magic... A no-look, defence-splitting reverse pass by the immense Dean Cox which, had this been a Premier League match, would have been read perfectly by the likes of Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero and resulted in a certain goal. As it was, it left a stunned Moses Odubajo standing stock still on the touchline looking back at Cox with an expression of bemused wonderment, almost as if he'd never seen a human man under 4ft 7in before.

Adebayo Akinfenwa
Moment of madness... Every single moment (there were lots of them, including Gillingham's goal) when Mathieu Baudry was outjumped by Adebayo Akinfenwa. Which is really quite a feat on Baudry's part given that the journeyman striker has all the spring in his step of a concrete tower block. Next week: Orient's bemused Frenchman loses a game of paper, scissors, stone to an oak tree.

Top gun... Larkins looked solid, Omozusi was good in the second half and Clarke had another decent game, but standing head and shoulders above everyone (figuratively speaking, obviously) was Dean Cox. Moved to the tip of a diamond in the second half, Tiny was everywhere and pretty much won the game for Orient through sheer force of will.

Marvin Bartley
Little donkey... Does Marvin Bartley's goal excuse all the skewed passes, poor positioning and mistimed tackles that populated the rest of his 90 minutes on the pitch? You might as well ask should we forgive Vlad the Impaler all the systematic torture on account of his luxuriant moustache? The answer is probably no.  

In the dug out... Credit to Russell for the tactical change in the second half (moving Cox into the middle), but what the hell was the manager doing giving Elliot Omozusi the responsibility of taking Orient's crucial penalty? True, the defender has converted a couple in shoot outs, but surely as a striker and senior pro Kevin Lisbie (who's only missed the one this season, against Crewe) shouldn't be hiding behind Adebayo Akinfenwa pretending to tie his shoelaces when so much is at stake. Our penalty record this season is appalling (we've missed four out of six in the league). Where's Matt Lockwood when you need him? 

View from the opposition... "Orient didn't deserve that! Shit team cheating diving tossers #robbed" wrote potty-mouthed Gillingham fan Shelley Brown. It's worth noting, however, that the Gills take to the pitch to the sound of Robbie Williams's Let Me Entertain You, a signature tune that on today's performance is about as appropriate as George Osbourne entering the next Conservative Party Conference to NWA's Straight Outta Compton.

Tweet of the week... Well done to eagle-eyed Dean Cox, who noticed that Romain Vincelot appears to have had his shirt number emblazoned onto his £7.99 Primark high-tops, Cristiano Ronaldo-style. Expect the French midfielder to launch his own range of underwear and open a museum to himself in the coming weeks. 

24 December 2013

"I knew that I was always going to score" - Matt Lockwood on taking penalties

Matt scores against Carlisle on 19 August 2000.
Once upon a time Orient fans could rest easy in the knowledge that should their team ever be awarded a penalty, nine times out of ten it would result in a goal. 

That’s thanks to Matt Lockwood, the most ruthlessly clinical spot-kicker in the club’s history. The left back scored 36 out of the 40 penalties he took during his nine-year spell at Brisbane Road from 1998-2007.

Here he explains how he did it…

“The first penalty I took for Orient was in the shoot out at the end of the play-off semi-final against Rotherham in 1999. As a kid I used to take them, but I’d never taken one as a pro. But I knew I was going to nominate myself.

We hadn’t practised penalties before the game – Tommy Taylor used to say there’s no point because you can’t recreate the pressure. He’d say, ‘Just go up and pick a spot.’ I was set to take the fourth penalty, but when it got to me Scott Barrett had already saved two. So I knew I had to score mine to win. The pressure was off because even if I’d have missed we had one more where we could have scored to go through.

I knew what I was going to do, I knew what corner I was going in before I’d even run up to take it. I knew I was going to score.

After that, Tommy said to me, ‘I like the way you took that, you were very cool. Do you want to be on them?’ And I said definitely. So I was on them for the play-off final and I’ve been on them ever since.

Cat and mouse

I never practise taking penalties. Tommy just said to me ‘You don’t miss, so don’t practice.’ I just go and take it. Pick your spot and stick it in. But I don’t like taking penalties. Well, maybe that’s not the right wording, but it’s not a nice feeling because the pressure is on the player to score not on the goalkeeper to save it.

Scoring against Lincoln on 16 October 1999
And you’re playing cat and mouse against the keepers because after a while everyone knew who I was, so I always had to mix it up and change it. That season we went up we had some big, high pressure penalties – Peterborough at home, Mansfield away. But I was never going to let anyone else take them because I wouldn’t have trusted them.

Carl Griffiths actually nicked two penalties off me when he came back to the club in 1999. It was the home game against Chester City and we got awarded one in the first half. He sprinted up to the ball, so I said to him, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ And he said, ‘Oh go on, let me take it, I haven’t scored since I’ve been back.’ And I thought, oh God, you’ve got to handle forwards with care to get their confidence up so I told him he could have that one.

He scored it and got another goal, then we were awarded another penalty in the second half when he was on a hat-trick. So I had to let him have that one too. But after the game I said to him, ‘That’s it, you’re not having any more.’ And he agreed. He said he’d take his hat-trick and run.

Gary Alexander always used to say to me that if I missed one more he was on them. I said, ‘Gal, you’re never going to be on them.’ He’d say, ‘Imagine how many goals I’d score if I took all the penalties as well. I’d be right at the top of the scoring charts every year.’ But I just said ‘You wouldn’t score them.’ And he wouldn’t. He just would not have scored every one.

Missing hurts

I ended up scoring 36 out of 40 penalties for Orient. And I remember all the ones I missed. The first one was in the first game of the 2001/02 season, against Cheltenham away. As I placed the ball I didn’t know which way to go and I knew I was going to miss. I hit a lame effort down the middle, quite slow and the keeper got a foot to it. He hadn’t dived far enough out of the way, and it came straight back to me and I scored the rebound.

The second was away at Carlisle on a Tuesday night in the 2002/03 season. We were 3-0 down in the last minute and the keeper saved it.

Then the next season I missed one against Cambridge at home on the last day. I took a penalty and scored it then the referee made me take it again because their players were in the box. I knew the keeper was going to dive the same way that I’d gone the first time, so I should have dinked it down the middle. But I thought I’m going to put it in exactly the same place and prove that he can’t get it, prove that the first one wasn’t a fluke. And I just miskicked it slightly and gave him a chance to save it. I was more gutted that I bottled dinking it down the middle.

The last one was in the promotion season against Darlington at home. I slipped. Just as I went to take it my standing foot just went and I scuffed it into the ground. I don’t think the keeper even needed to catch it. He just controlled it with his feet.

Taking penalties has been a massive part of my career. I expect to score every time I take one. I knew that I was always gone to score.”

Read the full story of Matt's time at Orient in my book Leyton Orient Greats

Also read:  Matt Lockwood on Orient's promotion season 2005/06 and that game at Oxford... 
Tommy Taylor on his time as manager of Orient 

22 December 2013

Leyton Orient 2 Crawley Town 3, 21/12/13

A game in which... Crawley proved they are so much more than Orient's bogey team - more like a huge, festering globule of mucus stuck up the nasal cavity of League One. No offence, hey, because in fact the West Sussex side were worth the three points.

So Orient aren't hitting the heights of their early season form of late - no victories in the last four league games - but then again we'll be top of the league on 25 December. And back in August, even if the news emerged that Santa had developed a debilitating addiction to crystal meth, no one would have expected the bearded fella to deliver a gift like that to Brisbane Road on Christmas Day. 

Moment of magic... Nathan Clarke's goal-line clearance from Nicky Adams' lob in the second half, a physics-defying block that prevented Crawley from going 4-1 up - a scoreline that would have been as hideously embarrassing as losing a pub quiz to a team comprising Jimmy Smith and three jellyfish.

Trevor Kettle
Moment of madness... The moment the young Trevor Kettle thought to himself: "Traffic warden? Nope. Ticket inspector? Nope. Debt collector? Nope. Supreme leader of North Korea? Nope. What I really need is a career where I can wield disproportionate amounts of power and ruin thousands of people's day at the same time. I know: referee!" And while he's not the reason Orient lost, Kettle's bookings of both Batt and Alexander, plus a bizarre drop ball after Lisbie was flattened, upheld his reputation as one of the worst officials in the whole history of the entire universe.  

Top gun... Excellent effort by the aforementioned Nathan Clarke today, and Scott Cuthbert was pretty impressive too, but let's take the time to hail an unsung hero: Gary Sawyer. Yes, the left back took the opportunity of Elliot Omozusi's suspension to remind fans that while he's no Matt Lockwood or Charlie Daniels, he's worth about four Billy Joneses, or 48 billion Danny Granvilles. 

Little donkey... "Worst I played for a long time" wrote Mathieu Baudry on Twitter shortly after the game, and it's true that by his own very high standards he had something of a shocker. He was directly responsible for Crawley's third goal after giving the ball away, missed three presentable headers from corners and his distribution was uncharacteristically sloppy. Still, we can't blame the Frenchman for everything: I'm pretty sure he wasn't involved in the Gallic invasion of Britain in 1797, and he's in no way culpable for the poor quality of the latest Daft Punk album. 

In the dug out... With both Mooney and Omozusi suspended, Russell Slade hardly needed any more bad news. But when Dean Cox was also ruled out for "toothache" - apparently sulking because the tooth fairy had forgotten to leave 50 pence under his pillow - the manager really had his work cut out. Still, we were always going to have a blip at some point and despite that we're still top of the league. And, remember: Slade's teams tend to improve after Christmas, which means promotion is still a realistic ambition.

View from the opposition... "What a result against top of the league. lads worked there socks off" wrote Nicky Adams after the game, scurrying around the conventions of grammar like the tricky winger he is. The one-time Orient loanee is right though: Crawley were better than the home side across the park. Given they have a 100 per cent record against us (beating Orient home and away in 2012/13) it may be easier if we just give them the six points at the start of each season and take the opportunity to rest key players.

Tweet of the week... "Are you sure it's my 30th? Can't be," wrote ex-Orient goalkeeper Glenn Morris to his own wife on Twitter this week, suggesting that for him birthdays are just as confusing as trying to kick a football vaguely in the direction of his team mates. 

Fact of the day... It's actually scientifically impossible for Orient to beat a team containing Gary Alexander. It's known in physics as "The Law of Fat-Ass". In fact the one-time Brisbane Road striker did everything you'd expect of him today: led the line brilliantly, caused a nuisance to the defence, missed a penalty, fluffed a sitter and fell to the ground screaming like an eight-year-old girl watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre every time he went up for a header.  

07 December 2013

FA Cup: Leyton Orient 1 Walsall 0, 7/12/13

A game in which... David Mooney undid what was a perfectly respectable afternoon of FA Cup football by getting himself sent off in the 93rd minute - the most pointless and stupid thing he's done since he passed the ball to Michael Symes during a game early last season.

That aside, the virus-stricken Orient side should be pretty pleased with themselves for prevailing over Walsall. Lemsips all round.

Moment of magic... Shaun Batt's incredible dummy in the lead-up to Dean Cox's goal, in which he managed to convince the Walsall defence, his own team mates, the entire crowd and a worldwide TV audience of 38 that he'd just done a hugely embarrassing air kick at a simple chance.

Moment of madness... Oh Moons. Why? WHY? Now banned for three games for a petulant kick at Paul Downing, the Irish striker hasn't so much as shot himself in the foot, but blown off his whole leg with a thermo-nuclear warhead. Genuinely, his rush of blood to the head could be season-defining. Let's hope he at least puts his time off to good use by learning the offside rule, hey?

Top gun... With half the team sidelined by man flu, we got see a bit more of Yohann Lasimant, Johnny Gorman and Harry Lee, all of whom made decent accounts of themselves. On the bench we had Martin Ling's son Sam, who's 13, and a bloke that works behind the bar in the Coach & Horses who once had a trial at Hastings United in 1993. Best player on the pitch, though, was Mathieu Baudry, who in his spare time inexplicably sellotapes an iPhone to his head and re-enacts scenes from the 1979 video nasty Driller Killer, as this photograph demonstrates.

Little donkey... Actually no one played particularly badly and, indeed, the victory was based on a very disciplined performance in defence and midfield. Let's instead focus, then, on the final seven seconds of the match in which Walsall managed to miss 47 clear chances to score, prompting one Saddlers fan to tweet "Please can you have one of your strikers? Any one. We aren't fussy." Yeah, have David Mooney, he's free for the next three games.

In the dug out... Given that Russell Slade's matchday duties mostly involve standing up for 90 minutes and shouting "watch the ball!" at Moses Odubajo a couple of times, he must have been pretty ill to have missed the game - especially as he only lives 45 seconds away. Perhaps he just looked at his own team sheet and thought, fuck this. Bizarrely he could be spotted on the balcony of his flat celebrating Cox's goal - surely a first in football?

View from the opposition... Walsall can probably consider themselves a bit unlucky - not least for Craig Westcarr's free kick which left Jamie Jones frozen to the spot for a full 45 seconds while the ball pinballed between him and the posts. But they didn't seem to have quite the spark they had when they drew with us in September. "We'd still be trying to score if we were playing at midnight," tweeted fan Rob Rowley.

Tweets of the week... Respect to loanee Robbie Simpson who, when he's not missing a last-minute sitter against Preston, appears to be something of a rap star, as shown in this video tweeted from the team's curry night earlier this week.

Even more impressive was fan David Plane's ode to Dean Cox, as tweeted by Paul Graves. But it was Rob Noble, Orient's marketing and partnerships manager, who caught the moment of the night on camera, however, and tweeted this: "Kev Dearden eating the mic. Obviously the curry wasn't enough."

01 December 2013

Leyton Orient 1 Sheffield United 1, 31/11/13

A game in which... David Mooney Mk II reverted back to David Mooney Mk I (2011/12 model) and spooned two big chances to put Orient 2-0 up in the first half. Still, the top scorer in League One is allowed the occasional blip - after all, you don't write off the whole Beatles back catalogue just because Paul McCartney subsequently made a song with frogs

In fact Orient were pretty impressive in the first half, though lost fluidity in the second and needed Dean Cox to dig them out of a hole. Luckily the toddler-sized winger had brought his toy bucket and spade and helped the home side rescue a point with a late wonder strike. 

Moment of magic... Yes, Cox's goal was pretty special, but it was eclipsed by Elliot Omozusi's scorpion kick in the first half. The defender was forced into emulating Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita's infamous save after slipping as a ball dropped towards him - though in his case it was less scorpion, more fatally-wounded bluebottle. 

Moment of madness... The defending that led to Sheffield United's goal, where Elliot Omozusi and Scott Cuthbert appeared to hold a month-long judicial enquiry between themselves as to what should be done with a loose ball in the penalty area, thus allowing Sheffield United to take control of proceedings and stick the ball in the net. 

Shaun Batt on the rampage
Top gun... What a joy it is to see Shaun Batt on the rampage, and two consecutive 50-yard charges in the first half left each and every Sheffield United defender looking like a terror-stricken matador who's accidentally brought a feather duster into the bullring instead of a sword. The striker faded after the break, but once again showed what a huge asset he is to Orient this season. 

In the dug out... Unusually Russell Slade did not celebrate Orient's goal by dad-dancing up the touchline, throwing his cap in the air and signalling up to Barry Hearn that he wants a pay rise. Today he chose to unleash a torrent of abuse at a fan behind the away dugout who'd apparently been giving him some gip. It was reminiscent of the time Martin Ling let fly in similar circumstances back in 2009. "The guy behind me had been harping on all season that he could do a better job than me," recalled the one-time Orient manager. "Funny thing was, it turned out it was Dean Smith."

View from the opposition... "Wouldn't have said this last year, but that's a good point away at Orient," said Blades fan Calum Higgingbottom, echoing the post-match sentiments of many of his fellow supporters. Did you hear that? Sheffield United are celebrating getting a point against Orient. In next week's news Usain Bolt holds a victory parade after recording a dead heat in a 100m race against a pot of yoghurt.

Tweet of the week... What does any self-respecting Orient footballer do of a Saturday evening? Whack on some hair gel, a dash of Intimately Beckham aftershave and head straight for Faces, Gants Hill, if they know what's good for them. Not Mathieu Baudry though, who tweeted: "Girls out... house for myself, sofa, chocolates #soundjob" Sofa?? Chocolates?? Don't tell me you were watching Bridget Jones's Diary on DVD, drinking Echo Falls and painting your toenails too Mathieu? Where's Jimmy Smith when you need him? 
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