29 April 2019

Leyton Orient 0 Braintree Town 0, 27/4/19

A game in which... Orient won the league. Read that again and weep actual tears, for this is only the third time that's happened in our 138-year history and comes just two years after an Italian psychopath nearly poisoned the club out of existence through a deadly mix of megalomania, spite and Valpolicella.

Sink down to your knees and praise the Lord, then, for this gutsy, determined and talented group of players, who have taken us back to the holy land of League Two and the sunny uplands of Morecombe, Crawley and Stevenage (pictured below).

Greater glories would surely await a team of this calibre were it to stay together, though other better-resourced clubs are already coveting our jewels. For now then let's just enjoy the heady glow of success in a season with so many magical moments.

That said, failing to beat an already-relegated bunch of part-timers from Essex at Brisbane Road in the final game – absolute disgrace.

Moment of magic... The moment, of course, that the referee's final whistle signalled that the title was ours – although the South Stand had recklessly thrown caution to the wind 15 minutes earlier by singing "campeones" even though it was still possible for Salford to come from behind to win and Orient to concede five goals.

That didn't happen, despite many of the most weathered fans believing that it would be "typical Orient" to somehow blow our chance of taking the honours right at the death. What utter nonsense from these doomsayers. It would actually be far more "typical Orient" to get relegated again the next season then spend the next 15 years in the National League.

Praise be... It looked very much like Joe Widdowson might score the first goal of his entire career in this match – or at least it would have looked like that to anyone who hasn't previously seen Joe Widdowson play. (Which, given the 8,000+ attendance was presumably quite a lot of fucking part-time glory hunters who weren't even there when we won the Third Division South in 1956.)

Anyway, when Macauley Bonne ill-advisedly slipped Widdowson clean through on goal the left back ran and ran and ran like a frizzy-haired Forrest Gump before hitting an immovable object many, many hours before he presumably intended to finally get a shot off. Joe will never, ever score a goal, but boy what a great season he's had.

Taxi for... The Orient fans, who according to Josh Koroma have been "a joke all season". Today even the euphoria of winning a league title wasn't enough to prevent supporters dividing into two warring factions. On one side were those who remained on the pitch for the trophy presentation, on the other those who were furious at the turf-dwellers for blocking their view, starting up a chant of "OFF THE PITCH" to the tune of Napalm Death's From Enslavement to Obliteration.

The warring factions were then divided into further sub-warring factions: those who believed Bonne should've been dropped in February and those who didn't; those who have meltdowns and those who complain about people having meltdowns; those who embrace the idea of part-time fans coming to Wembley, and those who think they should be summarily executed; those who'd like Dean Cox back, and those who wouldn't; and finally, those who actually quite rated Dean Morgan and those who didn't, which to be fair was just me versus everyone else. God I love you guys.

In the dug out... But not this week the actual dugout, but the "third dugout", a madcap innovation from the commercial team that allows select fans to watch the game from a bus shelter on the corner of the pitch and to take over responsibility for the tactics for a 15-minute period of their choosing in the second half.

This Saturday that presumably coincided with the time during which James Brophy was unshackled from any notional responsibility he previously had to maintaining team shape and buzzed about spraying the ball around randomly as if he'd set off a fire hose in his own brain. Still, the lucky fans got a pizza delivered to their bus shelter at half-time for their troubles, something that Kevin Dearden tried and failed to do on many occasions during his stint at the club.

And finally... Big up to CEO Danny Macklin who, by 11pm on Saturday, was so intoxicated on success and serotonin that he launched into a lengthly, loved up exaltation to Orient on Twitter that had all the hallmarks of an 18-year-old at their first warehouse rave when suddenly everyone is their new best friend for life. Fair play to Danny, he had a hard act to follow in Alessandro Angelieri but his passion, commitment and good sense shine through. So thanks Danny, thanks Kent, thanks Nigel, thanks Martin, thanks Matt, thanks Justin, thanks Ross and thanks everyone connected with the club. I'm still in the queue for fucking Solihull tickets though, guys...

23 April 2019

Solihull Moors 0 Leyton Orient 0, 22/4/19

A game in which... Orient showed nerves of steel, fists of iron, balls of fire and guts of glory – which was just as well given that Solihull's tactics largely consisted of propelling 11 human-shaped blocks of concrete in their direction for 90 minutes.

And I don't mean this disrespectfully, as the Moor Men (is that their nickname? I shan't bother to look it up) are very, very good at this and in the first half made it impossible for the Os to find any rhythm at all – much like the time Josh Coulson ill-advisedly attempted to body-pop at Faces nightclub, Gants Hill, after downing two expresso martinis and a WKD Mango Crush in quick succession.

The second half saw more chances – for both sides, to be fair – but this gritty, resolute Orient team held firm. And with Salford – still reeling from Man Utd's 4-0 defeat to Everton – losing to Fylde, promotion is now within Orient's grasp. It's in touching distance. The fat lady's about to sing. It's ours to lose. Or to put it another way: it's the equivalent of us being 2-0 up at Wembley at half-time in a play-off final. What could possibly go wrong?

Moment of magic... Two, actually so let's worship at the altar of Dean Brill and probably bring him some hot cross buns or something as he gets hungry a lot. On 75 minutes he somehow managed to claw the ball off his line and smother it to prevent the Moor Men (?) taking a late lead. Earlier he pushed a goal-bound header round the post with an acrobatism that belied his hefty frame to such an extent that any watching quantum physicist must have scratched their head and thought "Right, I think we may need to look at the laws of the universe again."

Praise be... It says something about the brilliance of this squad that in any other campaign any of Craig Clay, Jobi McAnuff, Macauley Bonne, Joe Widdowson, Josh Coulson, Dan Happe, Josh Koroma, Marvin Ekpiteta or Dean Brill would be a shoo-in for player of the season. Everyone else has played a vital part too. I mean, consider this: if we lose on Saturday but still go up on goal difference then we'll be parading James Alabi around the streets of Leyton for his late leveller against Halifax in September that will have made the difference. How's that for impact?

In the dug out... Justin Edinburgh described watching this game as "hell", an overstatement that demonstrates he probably never saw Orient play in the 40-odd years before he became manager. Sit through 90 minutes of an Alberto Cavasin-era performance, mate, I'll show you hell. Anyhoos, as he's done pretty much all season the manager got the selection, tactics and substitutions spot on – all the while sporting a chinos/trainers/open-necked shirt combo which suggests that post-match he'll be heading to a mid-market seafood restaurant on the Marbella beach-front.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Orient celebrity fan Julian Lloyd-Webber set the tone for the day with this: "Setting off this morning for @SolihullMoors V @leytonorientfc Can't remember feeling this nervous since the first time I performed @BrittenOfficial's Cello Symphony!" – something I think all fans can relate to.

"Some gloriously non-League row ordering" tweeted Dave Fawbert in response to the quirky seating arrangements at Damson Park (his picture below). Mid-game the home supporters lobbed a flare at us, which is apparently a traditional greeting in some parts of the West Midlands. "Solihull fans using their team tactics in the stands. Fair play. That flare went straight up in the air as high as they could get it," observed Matty.

But the final word has to go to Keith Goldhanger, who perfectly captured the mindset of an Orient fan with this prediction for Saturday: "Salford will lose, Orient will lose 1-0 and Solihull will win 9-0 at Dagenham." Hold tight all...

19 April 2019

Leyton Orient 2 Harrogate Town 0, 19/4/19

A game which... was the footballing equivalent of joyously stuffing yourself with a massive chocolate cake shortly after entering a restaurant, then nervously picking at the cheese plate over the next 90 minutes, before finishing with a glorious single McVitie's Ginger Nut. Yes, that's right readers, the laboured metaphors are going to be OFF THE SCALE this evening, so hold tight.

So, while Orient certainly weren't at their flowing best for much of the game, they did restrict fellow promotion-contenders to a handful of chances and played with such grit that Waltham Forest Council have asked if they can spread the team across icy roads come winter.

Anyway, this was a victory of huge significance, especially given Salford's late winner at Boreham Wood which was no doubt celebrated wildly by whichever of their 38 fans in attendance didn't miss the goal because they were sneakily watching a YouTube compilation of Nicky Butt's best Man Utd goals on their iPhones.

Moment of magic... Another late goal from the "Ginger Alabi" Matt Harrold, who joins that special pantheon of Orient players who can consistently change games from the bench but are largely ineffective should some freak set of injuries ever require them to play 90 minutes. Efe Echanomi, Jonathan Tehoué and Shaun Batt to name but three (because I can only name three) all have a place in fans' hearts, as will Harrold if he can do the same against Solihull or Braintree...

Praise be... Let's all take a moment to appreciate the full glory of the walking-forehead-with-a-few-other-smaller-body-parts-attached-to-it that goes by the name of Josh Coulson. This guy has been immense this season and today bookended the game with a goal – expertly spammed from bonce to back of the net – and a flying interception that prevented a last-ditch Harrogate equaliser.

Taxi for... Now, referees in the National League have a very tough job, so we shouldn't criticise them lightly. We should criticise them very, very heavily because God knows we have been on the receiving end of some howling decisions of late. Last week James Dayton was sent off for having his ankle dislocated, and today Craig Clay was yellow-carded for the little known football offence of "having the same surname as the material used in pottery".

In the dug out... An interesting revelation about the art of the manager from Dean Cox this week in E10 Mess's superlative four-part podcast on the 2013/14 season. Apparently Russell Slade would send the diminutive winger into the Supporters Bar after games to find out what fans thought about the tactics and formation, and then would GENUINELY TRY TO IMPLEMENT THEIR SUGGESTIONS IN TRAINING! Seriously. Fans are notoriously idiots! We know nothing. Obviously Justin Edinburgh isn't resorting to such lunacy otherwise he'd have listened to the "drop Bonne" Brigade and we'd have been relegated. And just imagine if Ian Hendon had paid attention to fans' calls to never ever allow Connor Essam, Sean Clohessy or Armand Gnanduillet near a football pitch again. Where would we be now? Oh, hang on...

Meanwhile... "We have received reports that fraudulent tickets for Solihull Moors on Monday are being sold on Leyton High Street" tweeted the official club account today without any apparent irony or being hacked or anything. First up, lads, it's Leyton High Road not Leyton High Street you flaming idiots. Secondly, I took it upon myself to check the authenticity of said tickets – pictured below – and found them to be flawless copies of the originals, which does me a favour as I can now finally leave the queue after two weeks. See you in Solihull...

06 April 2019

Leyton Orient 2 Halifax Town 2, 6/4/19

A game which... began with only three points being good enough, yet ended with Orient fans wildly celebrating a draw thanks to a last-gasp bundle into the net by the illegitimate son of Princess Diana and a gingerbread man.

Some stuff happened in between – mostly our defence looking uncharacteristically baffled at the sight of a little circus fella with a top knot running at them with the ball. But fair play to Orient, coming back from 2-0 down takes character and the late goal will be psychologically significant if nothing else. That said, failing to beat a building society team – what the fuck?

Praise be... Josh Koroma, a player whose selfishness has such force it is sucking all the world's limelight inexorably towards him. A player whose stats today read: attempts at goal: 467; passes: 0. And a player who'll shoot from any angle, including from within the home dressing room or the team coach. But by God if he keeps scoring the type of screamer he did today, keep being selfish mate.

Taxi for... Come on, you think I'm going to single out a player for criticism when we're pushing for promotion? Well you're right, I am. Jay Simpson: terrible performance. Almost as if he came to us having played virtually no football in a country more renowned for sports such as baseball, beer pong and cheerleading. Don't worry, though, he'll come good.

In the dug out... I'll say one thing about Justin, he's not afraid to throw everything at a victory, and by the time the game ended today there were only two defenders left on the pitch, one of whom is the club's most prolific goal-scorer of 2019. Meanwhile four strikers, three wingers, Craig Clay and a kitchen sink all piled into Halifax's box, and I'm pretty sure every single one of them – and perhaps even James Alabi who wasn't even playing – got a touch in the scramble that led to the equaliser. In Just we Trust – unless we don't get promoted then sack the fucker immediately.

Are we going to get promoted? Well, we ain't gonna do it the easy way, but God bless this spirited group of players for getting us in the position where it's still in our own hands with five games to go. They are knackered, clearly. Macauley Bonne has played so much football this season he no longer bothers taking his kit off between matches and just jogs around the dressing room from Saturdays to Tuesdays to keep warm. Dean Brill rarely has time to have more than 6 or 7 meals a day. James Brophy's left foot is so tired that today he kicked the ball with his right for the first time in his career, with predictably catastrophic consequences. Keep the faith though, readers.

Meanwhile... The club's attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records for slowest moving queue in history is proving highly successful, with some fans waiting up to three or four hours before being able to shuffle forward another six inches today. Yes, in a time when we can land craft on Mars, grow human organs in a laboratory and build robots to perform complex tasks, Leyton Orient Football Club cannot get its shit together to issue tickets to more than four people at any one time. There are still some unfortunate fans queueing for tickets to the promotion decider against Bury in 1962, while those waiting for a chance to see our FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal in 1978 still have many years before they're going to be near the front...

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