28 February 2014

Supporting Orient in exile

When I was young I had two dreams: one was to meet Siobahn from Bananarama, the other was to one day appear in a Leyton Orient programme. Annoying I'm yet to achieve the first, but last week I wrote about my experience of supporting a team from afar for the Bible of Brisbane Road. This is it... 

I would do anything for Orient, but I won't do that... 
When I first met the girl who is now my wife, I had to reveal a terrible, dark secret to her: that I was a Leyton Orient season ticket holder. I explained that the one thing she could never, ever ask me to do was to miss a match. Specifically I said: "I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that." (Most of my chat-up lines in those days came from Meat Loaf songs.)

Yes, there’s nothing I hate more than missing Orient games, so when I made the decision to spend 2014 living in Berlin for work reasons (well, that and the sausages and techno), it was with something of a heavy heart.

Now, in some of Orient’s less successful seasons, the only thing more painful than having to follow the games from abroad was having to follow the games from inside Brisbane Road. (Believe me, I was living in Hong Kong for the ill-fated 1994/95 season and 6,000 miles wasn’t nearly far enough.)

This season, of course, it’s all different and supporting a promotion-challenging team from afar can be very frustrating. But there are a number of things that make it bearable. For me, Twitter is a great source of comfort. Following the tweets of hundreds of Orient fans throughout each game is a wonderful way to ride the ebb and flow of the action. Each Tweeter has their own personality, from the doom-mongers to the naysayers to the defeatists. (There are probably some positive, upbeat people on there somewhere too, I just haven't found them yet.)  

Dave Victor: Ten seconds
behind the times
Through some quirk of technology, Twitter is always about 10 seconds ahead of the commentary on Orient Player, so you’ll always see a tweet reading "GOAL TO ORIENT!!!" some moments before the man with microphone Dave Victor actually reports it. It’s like being able to see into the future.

Post-game the Orient messageboard is a great way to discover in detail who played well, who played badly and who should be sent before a firing squad. Curiously, the most detail and the strongest opinions often come from fans who – like me – weren’t actually in attendence. 

Then of course there is the army of Orient bloggers (I say army, there’s about four). I love reading these as they give a real personal flavour to the experience of each game. And lastly there are the long post-match reports via telephone I demand from my Dad. It’s probably a bit of hassle for him, but, it’s his fault I support Orient in the first place so it’s the least he can do.

So, while all of this is of course no substitute for actually being at Brisbane Road, I’m still able to feel something of a connection. And besides, Germany is an hour ahead of the UK so I actually know the result of each game 60 minutes before you lot do. But don’t worry, I won’t be tweeting any spoilers.

16 February 2014

GUEST POST! Preston North End 1 Leyton Orient 1, 15/2/14

So last weekend I did a 1,000-mile round trip to watch Orient lose to Peterborough in the dying moments of the game. Won't be doing that again. But don't worry, because once again Andy Brown - Orient blogger for WAGU and The Two Unfortunates - is here to give us his view on the Os' trip to Preston...

Preston's Craigggggg Davies
A game in which… the match (and the officials) were overshadowed (and overwhelmed) by the passing away of Sir Tom Finney, a football legend and Preston hero. And, naturally, like all big occasions, it played out like two terriers squabbling over a squeaky toy for 90 minutes. 

The game also saw the much-heralded return of Eldin Jakupovic, Lloyd James back in the midfield, Shaun “Battman” Batt on the bench and Romain Vincelot sporting a shorter haircut, as he'd figured out something drastic was needed after three less “Samson-like” performances. 

The game itself was largely forgettable. Preston had marginally more chances, and with the help of the officials ended up with a draw from a suspect penalty. Orient looked far better organised but failed to string much together in the way of passing, though they were only denied three points by “Bambi-on-Ice” star Craig Davies.

Moment of magic... Kevin Lisbie defied gravity to majestically soar 10 feet above two giant Preston defenders to knock down a long ball perfectly into the path of Baudry to drill home for 1-0, suggesting that he could easily have picked basketball instead of football, with a calculated hang time of at least five seconds.   
Moment of madness... Preston keeper Declan Rudd’s superb star jump save from three metres outside his box that stopped a drilled goal-bound shot from going in, that was “missed” by referee Whitestone. Meanwhile Os fans are hoping to get some Preston “invisibility dust” in time for two important home games coming up against Stevenage and Swindon.

Nathan Clarke
Top gun... A tough one. It was either Matthieu Baudry (unfortunate penalty notwithstanding), who was Orient’s best attacking threat all game, had a great volley saved and scored a cracking drilled shot; or freshly signed contract-man, Captain (Nathan) Clarke. Peerless at the back, he played with all the stature of a jolly green giant, heading away anything and everything that Preston could throw at him.

Little donkey(s)... goes to referee Mr Whitestone and his linesmen, who decided that given the magnitude of the occasion the normal rules of football should not apply. This includes fouls, goalkeepers handballing a long way outside the area and Craig Davies’ impression of a ragdoll every time he got close to, or inside, Orient’s 18-yard box. 

In the dugout... Russell Slade made the changes needed to shore things up after some unconvincing recent performances and unwise comments about fans “staying away” after sarcastic applause directed at Shwan “butter fingers” Jalal against Bristol City. He wasn’t happy with the result though, claiming a dive from Davies and a blatant handball from the keeper. Good to see Russell was watching, even if the officials were not.

View from the opposition... Naturally the game was secondary for Simon Grayson as all media questions were about Tom Finney. Grayson said: “It was absolutely fantastic here today. It was very sad news last night but as a mark of the man, people have shown their respects all across different football clubs."

Craig Delew keeps his word
Tweet of the week.... A cracker this week, as Orient fan Craig Delew said he would personally clean the dust off the East Stand seats if Eldin Jakupovic came back to the club. He was true to his word! 

I also promised to give top Os fan Darwin Dan a shout. If he hadn’t got us that taxi, we might never have made the game for kickoff-top man, Dan.

09 February 2014

Leyton Orient 1 Peterborough United 2, 8/2/14

Photo: Adam Sampson
A game which… began with a rainbow, a tornado and the ongoing hope that Orient will soon be transported to the magical land of the Championship. Yes, that’s right, this report is going to be peppered with laboured references to the Wizard of Oz, and until the 88th minute it did look like there was no place like home.

Up until that point, though Orient were far from their fluid best, they appeared to be on course to grind out a 1-0 win through sheer bloody-mindedness. That they were undone by a late double-sucker punch hurts for sure, but it wasn’t down to any lack of heart, courage or intelligence (WIZARD OF OZ REFERENCE. Keep up!) on the part of this marvellous Orient team. It’s football, these things happen once in a lullaby. We’re way up high in the table. We’ve only lost five games. Keep wishing upon a star. 

Moment of magic… Just the one, really, the moment David Mooney rose majestically above the Peterborough defence like a coked-up Dublin teenager trying to scale the walls of the local Guinness factory and headed Orient in front. 

Dean Cox and Danny Swanson
Moment of madness… The moment in the first half when Dean Cox finally tried to pick on someone his own size - Peterborough’s 4ft 7in midfielder Danny Swanson. The subsequent altercation had all the aggression of two munchkins throwing cotton wool at each other.

Top gun… Mooney played sort of ok given he’d been out for a while; the defence were resolute and solid for 88 minutes; and some bloke who’d rocked up from Hackney Marshes to play in goal had a pretty good game until the Peterborough winner, which he probably should have saved. Hard to pick a man of the match. Probably Omozusi until he went off injured.  

Little donkey… Were Romain Vincelot playing for Peterborough, he would have been their man of the match, given that he was the one who was stringing most of their passes together and was behind all their best attacking moves. Now, I’m not questioning Vincelot’s ongoing value to the team - he’s been massive this season - but what fresh level of hell did this performance spring from? Did the Wicked Witch of the West steal the Frenchman’s ability to control a football? It was Vincelot’s mistake that led directly to Peterborough’s winner and he was wasteful throughout. He still probably got the star man award in the Supporters’ Club, mind.

In the dug out… Our very own Wizard of Orient seemed to have got his wands crossed a bit today. Slade bemoaned the players’ failure to close out last week’s game against Rotherham, yet when 1-0 up today with minutes to go didn’t see the need to bring on Bartley or Ness to shore things up. Instead he swapped Mooney for Simpson, which made about as much sense as replacing Judy Garland with a bag of rotting crab apples for the final scenes of the great 1939 film.

View from the opposition… Given Peterborough’s rich and impressive footballing heritage (a total of five seasons in the second tier plus one FA Cup quarter-final in 1965), it’s understandable why many of their fans seem to feel that League One is beneath them. Here’s the delightful Mark Carter, for example: "I wonder what Leyton fans thought of playing a decent team this week." But it’s ironic given that they’ve spent most of the season patronising “little” Orient that they are celebrating their late and lucky victory (helped by a goal from their million-pound striker) like they’ve just won the Champions League, the Euromillions Lottery, the National Disco Dancing Championships and the Ladies Downhill Alpine Skiing at the Winter Olympics all on the same day. 

Tweet of the week… Let’s take our minds off this painful defeat for a moment and instead turn our attentions to Joe Dolan - once a cowardly lion at Millwall before joining Orient and showing all the mobility of a tin man. The ex-defender is finding life the fast-lane of an ex-footballer a little bit troubling, as this tweet demonstrates: "Left my wash bag at the gym last week, no one handed it in." Next week Joe is livid when his local Tesco runs out of dishwasher tablets. 

02 February 2014

GUEST POST! Rotherham 2 Leyton Orient 1, 1/2/14

Until yesterday Orient's league record during my stay in Berlin was played four, won four. A coincidence? Yes. But never mind, for once again Andy Brown - Orient blogger for WAGU and The Two Unfortunates - has stepped in to give his take on events...

A game in which... Orient played with all the conviction of mice up against a Panzer division…while stuck in a wind tunnel. And a game in which the back story wrote itself as ex-O Alex Revell popped up to score the winner for the hosts deep into injury time after Orient forgot that the final minutes are meant to be spent standing in a corner of the opposition half while defenders kick you repeatedly in the back of the legs. 

Orient had started on the backfoot as Rotherham mixed up a combination of howitzer long balls and nice inter-play that completely overran the Orient midfield. Despite being kicked up in the air on a regular basis, the Os showed resilience to stay in the game and scored a cracker when Dagnall’s cross was taken down by Odubajo who angled a shot into the top corner. Nevertheless, a bizarre inability to hold onto the ball in the 94th minute resulted in Revell's winner. 

Still, it was only Orient’s second defeat on the road and it is nice to see Brentford will need to go to Rotherham on a Tuesday night in March! Meanwhile Orient have a game in hand to rectify things...

Moment of magic... Not too many to choose from today, but Moses Odubajo’s composure and sublime finish typified his class. But it was a rare moment of quality in tough conditions. 

Ben Alnwick straps on his boots
Moment of madness... Toblerone-footed deadline day signing Ben Alnwick slicing a kick some way short of the halfway line deep into injury time. Following that, Dean Cox was outmuscled and Alex Revell proceeded to slam in as Vincelot and others decided to watch rather than tackle, robbing Orient of what would have been a hard-fought point. 

Top gun... A tough call, as nobody looked especially convincing for Orient today. Pringle and Thomas were the best players on the pitch, while Orient’s stand out player was probably Odubajo, who continued to battle - and scored a cracking goal - despite being kicked up in the air repeatedly.

Little donkey... With a thousand forwards to choose from - including young, hungry loan signings - it is somewhat baffling that Russell Slade continues with his Robbie Simpson love-in. It took 56 minutes of doing nothing for Slade to figure out that Mooney was blatantly a better option.  

In the dug out... Russell Slade realised that Lloyd James was being outmuscled and replaced him with new permanent signing Marvin Bartley, which helped Orient get a foothold back in the game. Why he persisted with Simpson for 56 minutes is anyone’s guess, but otherwise there was little more the gaffer could have done to ensure a more positive outcome. Afterwards Russell bemoaned Orient’s utter nativity in injury time. “If you want promotions and to be successful, you’ve got to manage the game at all times”, he rightly observed.

View from the opposition... Pantomime baddie Steve Evans was bizarrely all sweetness and light in the programme notes and continued this after the game. “I think it was a good performance from two good teams… the match was really end-to-end and it took something special to win it." Maybe he’s been on an anger management course? 

Facebook post of the week... Os fan Lee Swallow offered some valuable advice on how to kick a football for new keeper Ben Alnwick. Maybe he can brush-up before Orient's massive game against Peterborough next Saturday? 
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