Date: 20th January 2006 at 7:17pm
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Orient head to Wales, and I guess the closest they’re going to get to European football, when they take on Wrexham this weekend in search of three crucial points. It could be too early to say it is make or break time for Orient, but a defeat this weekend is not even worth contemplating. With Carlisle’s 5-0 hammering of Boston in midweek, the O’s are now 4 points off the top three despite having a game in hand. Luckily for Martin Ling’s men, the next three games in League Two are away from Brisbane Road.

Orient will be seeking their eighth league victory away from Brisbane Road tomorrow, to add to their three cup victories including that famous win at Craven Cottage. For a team that once went two years without a single away win, it really has been a remarkable season for the O’s away from East London. Though Orient haven’t the best of records at the Racecourse Ground, their last win came in 1989, they should have little fear seeing as they have been so successful on the road this season.

Wrexham sit on the edge of the play-off zone and have lost just twice at home all season, a record that Martin Ling is no doubt envious of. Wrexham are a hard and physical side and will provide a tough test for the O’s as they seek to get their promotion push back on track.

Vital Quotes:

Ahead of the trip to Wrexham,Martin Ling looked at the challenge facing his side. ‘Wrexham is a difficult game and I don’t like to use the word but ‘bouncebackability’ has been our biggest asset this year – every time we’ve been asked a question this season we’ve come up with the answers’.

Wrexham Team News:

Wrexham have injury doubts over Trindad & Tobago international defender Dennis Lawrence and Danny Williams. Both are thought to be suffering with hamstring strains. Levi Mackin could return to the squad though striker Lee McEvilly is still sidelined. Denis Smith will also hope to have Sam Williams available after the forward signed on loan from Aston Villa earlier in the week.

Player to watch: Mark Jones

The only real surprise about Mark Jones is the fact that he is still playing for Wrexham. He is far too good for League Two and will be a major threat to Orient’s chances of success. His partnership with Jim Whitley and Darren Ferguson in the midfield allows him the freedom to get forward and score goals at will. Jones has scored 11 times in the league this season so far, including a fantastic brace at Rushden last week. However, there is a theory that if you can stifle Jones, then you can pretty much stop Wrexham.

Another man to watch is striker Jon Walters who has notched up 5 goals so far this campaign. He holds the ball up well and creates the openings for Jones to score.

Leyton Orient Team News:

Orient will give a late fitness test to Craig Easton ahead of the game tomorrow. There’s no doubt that Orient miss him when he isn’t playing, in fact, they’re not really the same side without him. You only realise how good a player is when he isn’t there. Shane Tudor looks set to play on through the pain barrier, while Orient’s only certain absentee is Efe Echanomi. Glenn Morris could deputise for Glyn Garner after the O’s number one went off last week after a clash with Gaby Zakuani. However, it is thought that the Welshman should be fit to play.

New signing Adam Tann will be included in the 16 tomorrow, though it is not expected that he will start with Martin Ling showing reluctance to change his line up unless forced.

Player to watch: Michael Simpson

The key to winning this game is in the central midfield area with Wrexham boasting a rather strong triumvirate of Ferguson, Whitley and Jones. Michael Simpson will have to be at his terrier like best to gain possession and make sure Orient keep ticking over. I’ve said it so many times, but if Simmo plays well, then Orient play well. There’s a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, but he rarely lets anyone down.

Match Facts & Stats

This is the 26th league meeting between the two sides with Wrexham having won 11 to Orient’s 6. The O’s have won just 3 times at the Racecourse ground with the last victory coming in 1989.

The two sides met earlier in the season where they fought out a 1-1 draw. That day Darren Ferguson’s shot somehow squirmed under Glyn Garner and into the net (fancy that eh?)before Gary Alexander levelled with ten minutes to go.

Match Prediction:

This really is a massive game after the disappointment of defeat last weekend. With Orient under pressure to gain a result each time they leave Brisbane Road, the players will be fully aware that we’re getting down to the serious part of the season.

Orient have shown a lot of character so far this season, and that’s why I think that they will gain the victory that will see them stay in contention for those automatic promotion spots. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be tight, but it’s time for the O’s to start doing the business.

A defeat tomorrow in North Wales is just not worth contemplating.