Date: 10th March 2006 at 2:17pm
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If ever there was a definition of the term ‘Bogey Team’, then it is Cheltenham Town that would surely fit the bill. Orient possess an absolutely dreadful record against the Robins and with the O’s failing to produce their best form at the present, Martin Ling must have been having sleepless nights ahead of this promotion clash.

The fixture list in March has hardly been kind to Orient with the O’s facing teams that seem to have the Indian sign over them. Having managed a 3-3 draw at Gay Meadow last weekend, the scene of all too many dismal Orient displays, the O’s now face Cheltenham who have only ever lost once at Brisbane Road. The Robins have won on each of their last 3 visits to Brisbane Road and managed a 2-1 win over Wycombe last Saturday.

The O’s have been anything but impressive in recent weeks despite clocking up wins against Darlington and Chester whilst taking a point against Barnet and Shrewsbury. The home form that has dogged Orient’s promotion push all season could take another knock against John Ward’s Robins who are in terrific form and boast four strikers with proven pedigree at this level.

It should be a fabulous game of football, but ultimately it is one that Orient have to win to have any chance of staking a claim for automatic promotion. With only ten games to go, it would be a cliche to say that each game is a cup final, but Martin Ling will need instil that into his players if the O’s are to show any sign of urgency. Given Orient’s success in cup competitions this season, it may not be a bad idea at all.

Leyton Orient Team News:

Orient will once again be without their experienced captain John Mackie as the defender serves the final game of his two match suspension. Adam Tann will deputise in place of Mackie whilst Shane Tudor could return to the right hand side of the O’s midfield having recovered from an ankle injury.

Tudor’s return could see Daryl McMahon drop to the bench and Joe Keith restored to the left flank. Paul Connor is expected to start after his goal last weekend at Shrewsbury, but Martin Ling could be tempted to replace Gary Alexander with Jabo Ibehre.

Player to watch: Paul Connor

Although Connor has yet to open his account at Brisbane Road, his performances at Chester and Shrewsbury which have yielded two goals, have been highly impressive. His first touch is immaculate and his ability to turn defenders has already won the O’s two penalties.

Orient will need Connor to be at his best and convert any chances that come his way as the other O’s strikers have not looked convincing in front of goal in recent weeks. Martin Ling will also need to decide who partners Connor up front as Gary Alexander failed to impress at Gay Meadow last weekend.

Cheltenham Town Team News:

Top scorer Kayode Odejayi is available for selection having been missing through injury. John Ward has a selection headache as he has all four strikers available, although he will probably keep the side that defeated Wycombe 2-1 at Whaddon Road last Saturday.

With Guinan, Gillespie, Odejayi and Spencer all available, Cheltenham boast considerable firepower and don’t be surprised to see John Ward employ a 4-3-3 formation come 3pm on Saturday afternoon.

Cheltenham have a couple of injury doubts, though JJ Melligan is ready for selection having played the final 30 minutes of the game with Wycombe. Shane Duff and Jamie Victory are on their way back to fitness but this game will come too soon for the pair to return to action.

Player to watch: Brian Wilson

A lot of attention has been paid to the striking power that Cheltenham boast, but in Brian Wilson the Robins have one of the most underrated players in League Two. The midfielder has nine goals for the Robins this season and has been an integral part of this particular Town side.

The Cheltenham midfield also boasts Northern Ireland’s Grant McCann who seems to love scoring against Orient. McCann and Wilson will look to supply the front men with the ammuntion to fire Town to victory.

Match Facts & Stats

This is the 11th league meeting between the two sides with Cheltenham winning 5 times compared to Orient’s paltry return of just two victories. The Robins have won the last three meetings at Brisbane Road including last year’s 3-2 victory.

The two sides met earlier in the season where the Robins salvaged a 1-1 draw thanks to a 94th minute equaliser from captain John Finnigan. Orient had taken an early lead through defender John Mackie and were cruelly denied a deserved victory in injury time via Finnigan’s deflected effort.

Cheltenham are currently 7th in League Two with 54 points from 35 games. The Robins have won 6 times away from Whaddon Road, whilst they have managed 8 draws and 3 defeats. Town have won once in their last six away games, however they have drawn four and lost just once.

Kayode Odejayi is the top scorer at Whaddon Road this season with 10 goals, whilst Brian Wilson has 9. JJ Melligan and Grant McCann both have 7 whilst the front pairing of Stephen Guinan and Steven Gillespie both have 6.

Ref Watch:

Mr K Wright will be in charge of the game at The Matchroom on Saturday afternoon. Mr Wright was promoted to the Referee’s list in 2003.

Match Prediction:

Orient’s recent performances have been anything but first rate, but as Martin Ling has said on many occasions this season, his side always answers the question when they need to. This time Orient need to answer the question against a side that is bang in form and has confidence flowing through its veins. Having beaten Wycombe last weekend, Town will be confident of winning for the fourth consecutive time in E10.

Orient are due a good performance and if they play to their potential then there will only be one winner. However, should Orient fail to show up and start as slowly as they have done in recent weeks then the Brisbane Road faithful could be in for a rude awakening.

With the pitch continuing to deteoriate, the O’s will have to perservere with their football and look to get the ball wide to Joe Keith and Shane Tudor as much as possible. Cheltenham’s strength lies in their aerial prowess, set pieces and their pace up front. The O’s will have to defend a lot better than they did during those five minutes of madness at Gay Meadow last weekend.

It promises to be a fantastic advert for League Two football, but in all honesty, nobody ever won promotion for sheer entertainment. If you ask Martin Ling, I’m sure he’ll settle for a 1-0 win with an own goal in the last minute. What is for certain however, is that Orient certainly owe Cheltenham one having endured a series of miserable results against the Robins. With Orient looking to close in on the league leaders, there hasn’t been a better time to give John Ward’s boys a good thrashing.

Score Prediction:

Orient 2-1 Cheltenham Town