21 May 2019

FA Trophy Final: Leyton Orient 0 AFC Fylde 1, 19/5/19

A game in which... the Orient players staggered onto the pitch ravaged physically, mentally and emotionally by the demands of a three-week post-promotion bender. Just hours before kick off Dean Brill was wearing nothing but body paint and glitter as he danced at a Full Moon party on Koh Pha-ngan beach; Craig Clay was in the 56th hour of a psychotropic experience with local shamans in the jungles of Bolivia; Matt Harrold was lying face-down in a pool of his own bodily fluids in a Berlin crack den; and James Brophy was stumbling up and down Leyton High Road with a bottle of blue WKD and a half-eaten kebab wondering where everyone else had gone.

AFC Fylde, predictably, took advantage and created almost a million chances in the first half, though curiously failed to convert any of them. Their second-half goal was enough to clinch it for them, however, despite the Orient team somehow finding hitherto unknown reserves of strength to mount some sort of fight back. Hey ho.

Moment of magic... Do you remember that time Joe Widdowson nearly scored a goal? That's right, it was against Braintree just a matter of weeks ago. I mean, when I say "nearly" obviously I mean "was on a football pitch during a game in which it was not theoretically impossible that he could be the last object a ball connected with before crossing the goal line". Funny thing is, Joe actually nearly scored a goal at Wembley. Read that again and question every facet of your entire existence. He even hit the post. Somewhere in an alternate universe Joe Widdowson is banging in 25 a season, surely?

Praise be... So when I mentioned that Orient mounted some sort of fight back in the second half, what I should have said was simply "Jordan Maguire-Drew came on" for the winger single-handedly took on all team responsibilities – including defending, attacking, goal-keeping, tactics, hydration and physiotherapy – for the entire 45 minutes. He hit the post too, goddammit, with a cheeky free kick.

Taxi for... Wembley. And Orient's "Wembley curse". We've now played there probably 30 or 40 times (*checks*: ok, it's three) and lost on every occasion. With that and the stadium's outrageous policy of charging the same price for beer as a London pub and refusing to allow anyone other than origami experts to bring bags in, it all amounted to a terrible day out for Os fans. And when I say fans I actually mean only the "magnificent" seven people who were sent a text message by Alan Bowers during his failed takeover bid of the club. The rest of us 24,000 part-timers who haven't been to every single game since 1881 deserved everything we got.

And so what does this result tell us about next season? Well, fan opinion seems to be divided between "WE'RE DEFINITELY GOING TO BE RELEGATED" and "WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE'RE GOING TO BE RELEGATED I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU" so it's good to see that promotion and a day out at Wembley haven't stifled healthy debate. Personally I'm torn between the result telling us either nothing, nada or fuck all.

And a word for those departing... Shame about Alex Lawless since I never got to describe an unblemished performance of his as "flawless", but in all seriousness he never let us down and had a beard. Good vibes to Jay Simpson and Charlie Grainger too, and let's not forget that Orient were unbeaten in 23 of the 26 games in which James Alabi featured. Hashtag impact.

But let's leave the last word for Charlie Lee. Whatever happens next season, we now won't be singing "We all love Charlie" except in the event we sign another player called Charlie who we love, which could happen. If not any popular player named Blow, Dust, Line, Rail, Snow, Stash, Pearl, Bump, Flake, Toot, Yeyo, Prince Charles or Colombian Marching Powder would allow us to keep the double entendre going. Over to you Martin Ling...
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