Date: 14th January 2006 at 7:31pm
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There are some things in life that just don’t change, and Orient’s inability to win at home came back to haunt them after they failed to get over their cup hangover and in six days have found themselves transformed from heroes to, well, zeros. Still, unlike the London Underground, at Brisbane Road at least, normal service has been resumed.

Orient suffered their SIXTH home defeat of the season at the hands of Northampton Town as the O’s continued to struggle at Brisbane Road. An insipid performance from Martin Ling’s men gave little encouragement for the home faithful who once again were forced to endure another home defeat.

With last week’s goal hero Craig Easton failing a fitness test on his calf, Daryl McMahon came into the side to play in central midfield alongside Michael Simpson. Greeted by the PA announcer as F.A. Cup Kings, Orient went on to offer anything but a ‘Royal’ performance. The Brisbane Road turf once again served to hamper Orient’s passing game, but yet again the O’s failed to really fly out of the traps and take the game to their opponents.

Northampton lined up with a 4-3-3 formation, and despite having a fearsome strike duo in McGleish and Kirk, it was the third striker, Jason Lee (without the pineapple on his head), that gave Orient all sorts of problems. Northampton constantly hit the ball long and high to Lee to head down to his fellow players and from those positions, it was Northampton that posed the largest threat.

On just 10 minutes Lee should have put the Cobblers ahead when he somehow contrived to head wide when well placed in the penalty area. It really should have been 1-0, and Orient were grateful for the striker’s prolifigacy in front of goal. The Cobblers might have regretted that miss more had Jabo Ibehre’s 14th minute effort been allowed to stand. Having held off his man Ibehre managed to strike the ball past Lee Harper who could only take some of the power off the shot, and then had to turn and watch as the ball squeezed over the line. Unfortunately for Orient, the referee deemed that Ibehre had fouled his man, although it would seem that he was the only man inside Brisbane Road that recognised the foul.

Having wrongly been denied the lead, Orient missed another golden opportunity through Gary Alexander. Alexander fired wide from 14 yards after superb play on the left hand side from Matt Lockwood. However, just minutes later it was Northampton’s turn to have a goal disallowed as McGleish was adjudged to have fouled Garner when chasing in on goal.

Northampton were starting to control the game as Orient lacked any influence in the midfield areas. Even though Northampton had a player less in the middle, there seemed to be more Cobblers players on the pitch as their passing and movement continued to give Orient all sorts of headaches. When Orient did get the ball they were too often guilty of choosing the wrong option or worse still, giving the ball straight back to the opposition.

Northampton eventually made their pressure count with possibly one of the easiest goals they will ever score. A long range shot which should have been comfortably gathered by Garner was somehow spilt, and Scott McGleish could scarcely believe his luck as the ball dropped at his feet. The Cobblers striker could not miss from a matter of yards, and he duly obliged striking home his 16th goal of the season.

Having gone from hero last Sunday to zero after his error today, Garner’s afternoon was to get worse later on. Despite going behind Orient tried to get back in the game and John Mackie managed to miss from 2 yards following a Lockwood corner. That miss summed up Orient’s first half performance as they were dominated by their visitors who looked very impressive.

Orient came out for the second half looking to turn the game around and forced an early corner which came to no avail, though you sensed that they had upped the tempo somewhat. Unfortunately, the game was slowed down by an injury to Glyn Garner who was knocked unconscious temporarily following a clash with Gaby Zakuani. The Welshman left the pitch to raptuous applause, however just four minutes later his substitute Glenn Morris found himself picking the ball out of the net.

On 54 minutes former Orient man David Hunt swung in a corner from the right hand side, and Chris Doig rose unchallenged to head high past Morris. That looked like game, set and match as Northampton started passing the ball around Orient and the Cobblers fans started the chants of ‘Ole’.

Martin Ling threw on Lee Steele in place of Joe Keith on 67, but Orient failed to make Lee Harper take any sort of evasive action. Orient continued to pile forward but lacked the creativity, inspiration and penetration to make their possession count. In fact, Orient were made to look quite ordinary as Northampton broke from their half on numerous occassions and threatened to add to their lead.

Orient did finally get the goal that they had been searching for as Daryl McMahon slammed home from twenty yards. Lee Harper, the Cobblers ‘keeper could only get a hand to the ball, and had to watch as the ball crept in underneath the bar. Orient found themselves 2-1 down with a full seven minutes of injury time to play. Indeed, Orient should have snatched a point when Gary Alexander inexplicably missed a golden opportunity to give the O’s an undeserved share of the spoils.

With Alexander’s effort going wide to the disbelief of the crowd, Orient’s hopes seemed to evaporate into thin air. In fact, Northampton possibly should have added a third when McGleish found himself clear on goal after lovely interplay, yet Glenn Morris was alert enough to deny the former Orient man. There was still time for David Hunt to try his luck with a curling free kick from 25 yards which Morris did well to parry before somehow saving the follow-up effort from McGleish.

Another poor home performance was finally brought to an end by Referee Booth after a lengthy seven minutes of injury time. Orient suffered their SIXTH home defeat of the season, and deserved little from a game in which they were outfought, outmuscled and outplayed.
Any Positives?
Another Home Defeat
With over 5,000 at Brisbane Road today Barry Hearn was probably hoping for a much better performance than Orient produced. That sort of performance is unlikely to encourage the fair weather fans that experienced the glory of last week to give up their afternoons on the armchair, and instead take up a seat at the Matchroom.

Orient’s home form has been poor at best and this defeat today hammers home the message that their is still much work to be done. You cannot expect Orient to go away from home every week and get three points, yet such is the mediocrity of their home form that they are under pressure to gain victory every time they set foot outside Brisbane Road. The home form has to improve or you can say goodbye to promotion and hello to mid-table obscurity.

Credit Where Credit’s Due
Although it is always hard to give credit to the opposition, Northampton looked a class above Orient for much of the game today. Jason Lee gave Mackie a tortuous afternoon and Ian Taylor marshalled the midfield with great effect. Though the Cobblers got nervy towards the end, not even the most hard-hearted O’s fan could begrudge Colin Calderwood’s side all three points.

Any Positives?
It is hard to take too many positives from this game, a game in which Orient were outplayed by one of their promotion rivals. If it is any consolation, Orient now have four consecutive away games which must come as some relief to fans and players alike. As good as the away form has been this season, Martin Ling needs to turn it around at Brisbane Road, or it might just start to turn sour for the O’s.