Orient finally buried their hoodoo and defeated Wycombe Wanderers in the league for the first time in this, their sixth attempt. Having endured a nightmare succession of results against the Buckinghamshire side, Paul Connor?s eighth minute strike was enough to hand Martin Ling?s men victory and enable them to leapfrog their opponents in the table. Having taken an early lead, the O?s defended valiantly with the defence in fine form. The O?s then protected their early lead, and were roared home by the majority of the 6,720 crowd, the largest seen at Brisbane Road in the league for five years.
Orient welcomed back skipper John Mackie to the side in place of Adam Tann who dropped to the bench. Glenn Morris continued in goal whilst new loan signing Wayne Corden was given his first start on the right hand side of midfield. Having entered the field to rapturous applause both sides looked to gain the upper hand in the early stages but it was the visitors that made the more assured start. As has been the custom in recent weeks, the O?s were once again slow out of the blocks and Wycombe could have taken the lead within the first thirty seconds. Danny Senda made terrific headway on the right hand side before finding Matt Bloomfield in the box. Bloomfield crossed first time but the effort from the rather unimpressive Ian Stonebridge was high and wide. That served as a warning to Orient as the visitors seemed to retain possession with ease and spray the ball around the field with confidence. In fact, it was with great surprise that after eight minutes the home side found themselves ahead. Having endured a rather tortuous start to his Orient career, Wayne Corden was heavily involved in creating the opportunity for Paul Connor that eventually won the game. Having received the ball, Corden found himself rampaging down the right hand side before crossing for Gary Alexander to have an effort on goal. Alexander opted to hit the ball first time, and when his effort was blocked it fell for Paul Connor to slam through Frank Talia?s legs to give Orient the lead.
Brisbane Road was bouncing as the O?s made the most of their chance and although there was still some 84 minutes remaining, it provided hope and something to cling on to for the O?s fans. To their credit Wycombe continued to play some quite intricate and impressive football with a fantastic sense of movement. Yet, despite dominating possession, especially in midfield where former England player Rob Lee orchestrated the attacks, it was not until the 22nd minute that Glenn Morris was tested when Bloomfield rifled in a shot from 25 yards that the O?s ?keeper managed to tip over the bar. With a vociferous backing, the Chairboys continued to boss the midfield where Michael Simpson and Craig Easton were finding it particularly hard to repel the Wycombe attacks. Ian Stonebridge should have done better with a free header on 32 after Stefan Oakes had swung in a left footed cross, whilst Orient almost gave Wycombe an opportunity following Glenn Morris?s mis-kick.
Having played some lovely football, Wycombe went in 1-0 down at the break but for all their possession, the visitors rarely posed a threat. Orient defended magnificently and when called upon, Glenn Morris was professional and assured throughout. Having been somewhat outplayed in the first half, the O?s were not about to let Wycombe dictate the second half and seemed to have the measure of their opponents after the break. In fact, if anything it was Orient that should have increased their lead having created some fantastic opportunities. On 58 minutes Craig Easton shot straight at Talia having played a delightful give and go with Paul Connor and then Easton once again shot straight at the Wycombe ?keeper with a rasping volley. Orient were dangerous on the break as Wycombe threw caution to the wind introducing both Jermaine Easter and Charlie Griffin as the visitors went to a 4-3-3 formation.
Despite the changes, Wycombe still flattered to deceive in front of goal though Tommy Mooney?s header needed a save from Morris. The anticipated onslaught from the visitors never really materialised and it was Orient that should have added to their tally. First, Joe Keith managed to lift his effort over the bar when well placed after Talia had only parried Connor?s left wing cross, whilst Gary Alexander was just millimetres away from connecting with Matt Lockwood?s left footed centre. However, those misses in the end proved inconsequential as the O?s continued to defend magnificently and saw out the three minutes of stoppage time without any major panics.
Although it wasn?t the tidiest or prettiest of Orient performances, it was an occasion where the matter of the result outweighed the importance of the quality of performance. The work rate and desire of the players was evident in abundance as each and every man in an Orient shirt gave his heart and soul for the cause. Gary Alexander and Paul Connor harried and closed down Wycombe?s defenders as the O?s defended from the front with great success. As Martin Ling has said on many occasions, one thing this Orient team has is resilience and that was clear for all to see at Brisbane Road today. Wycombe had plenty of possession but failed to make it count and in all honesty, Glenn Morris will have busier afternoons than he had against the Chairboys.
It was a game that Orient had to win if they were to keep up their ambition of automatic promotion, now they must make sure that this victory is not wasted because defeat away at Notts County next weekend will only serve to undermine all the hard work that has gone before. Orient?s destiny is in their own hands now, and with just seven games to go it?s unlikely that they?ll ever have a better chance of promotion.
Now For Nottingham
It’s The Result That Counts
You can be pretty sure that Wycombe will feel hard done by having enjoyed so much possession, but Orient did what they had to and that was to score more goals than the opposition. Sometimes people can be guilty of overcomplicating football with statistics, but the only statistic that really matters is that Orient scored one more goal than Wycombe.
Wycombe played some lovely football, but Orient dug in deep and managed to grind out another victory and ensure that the Chairboys were the 5th consecutive side to leave Brisbane Road without scoring. Glenn Morris once again looked assured in goal, though Wycombe rarely tested him, particularly in the second half.
That win now puts Orient a fantastic position just two points behind second placed Grimsby who suffered a 5-0 thrashing at local rivals Lincoln City. With Grimsby still to come to Brisbane Road, Martin Ling will be hoping his side can hit form at just the right time.
Having come in for a serious amount of stick in the past, the Brisbane Road faithful were in fantastic voice today to inspire their players to victory. Despite the tempramental microphone which the PA announcer used to gee up the crowd, the players responded admirably and helped by the home fans went on to clinch a most crucial victory.
With only seven games to go, the Orient fans can play a massive part in cheering their side on to League One starting with a trip to Meadow Lane next Saturday.
Now For Nottingham
Orient’s victory against an impressive Wycombe side will count for nothing if the O’s fail to take maximum points from their trip to Notts County next Saturday. Having won 2-1 at Meadow Lane last season, everyone concerned with Leyton Orient will be hoping for some sort of repeat showing.
It’s all very tight at the top, but after today’s result there has to be a genuine belief that despite not playing as well as they can, the O’s could yet clinch an automatic promotion place. It’s going to be close, it’s going to be tense, but at last Orient have shown that they have the stomach for a battle.
Seven games to go…..