Date: 1st August 2013 at 12:15pm
Written by:

In his latest blog, Steven Roast details his thoughts on the O’s final pre-season friendly against an Arsenal XI.

After nearly three months away from Brisbane Road I ventured back for the second time in a week for our final friendly against an Arsenal XI. Hopes of seeing a few of our opponents first team players were dashed when it was confirmed an Arsenal XI was indeed their U21`s, or to give them their official term, Youth Development Side. Personally I felt a bit mislead by the club on this count. Sure an Arsenal XI suggests you won`t be seeing Vermaelen, Cazorla, Walcott and Giroud lining up but a team full of unknown youngsters? Surely it should have been advertised appropriately as this.

Anyway on to the Supporters Club for a few per match beers via the ticket office to collect my pre ordered tickets. Here I experienced the usual confusion that comes with collecting tickets as I ended up with twice as many Coventry tickets that I`d actually paid for along with my tickets for tonight! I really do fear for our ticket office should we miraculously reach the promise land of the Premier League!

With the taste of Kronenburg still fresh in my mouth my group and I took our seats at the back of the West Stand as the teams came out. As the game began any of my pre match disappointment soon disappeared as we were treated to a thoroughly entertaining game of football.

Barely comfortable in our seats the O`s raced into a two goal lead which belittled their illustrious opponents (if only in name!). Only five minutes were on the clock and two Lloyd James corners had been headed home by first Scott Cuthbert and then Kevin Lisbie. With a mixture of delight and disbelief among the Orient fans even the new gold and black away kit on show for the first time was looking impressive.

Lining up with a strong eleven as they had done so against Cosmos the previous week (almost certainly the one which will start against Carlisle) the O`s were in the mood. A mood that was dampened as Wellington Silva pulled a goal back for the visitors after a few close shaves on 11 minutes.

Pleasingly the O`s players didn`t allow their heads to drop and the normally ever reliable Lisbie missed a one on one with the Arsenal keeper when he seemed certain to score. It was the referee who came to the rescue for Arsenal next as he managed to block a long range effort from James which looked destined for the net with the keeper stranded. Another effort from Lisbie, this time a header, was saved and the score remained 2-1.

Moses Odubajo was giving his marker a torrid time and was the real star in the first half. Demonstrating his unquestionable ability by beating the full back on a number of occasions he fired over a number of useful crosses into the box. He really showed what an asset he could be this season and how vital it is he signed that contract extension. Despite this Arsenal drew level when a defensive mix up allowed in Silva again for the equaliser three minutes before the break. Less than 60 seconds later though David Mooney struck a sublime volley from 20 yards to restore the lead for the O`s. It was a goal befitting any Premier League striker and sent the home fans into the interval in high spirits once again.

As the teams came out for the second half Russell Slade had obviously decided to even things up and field a Leyton Orient XI. All ten outfield players were replaced with only Eliott Omozusi of the new crop having any substantial first team experience. Disappointing as the original line up had played so well and more than competed with a slick and effective Arsenal side, yet sensible with the big kick off less than four days away.

Some familiar names in Jack Sherratt, Harry Lee and De`Reece Vanderhyde took to the field along with a smattering of trialists. Any doubts they would be unable to repeat the heroics of the first half were soon dashed when one of the said trialists Johnny Gorman restored the two goal cushion. Sadly it was a luxury they only enjoyed for 6 minutes as Chuba Akpom continued the remarkable scoring to make it 4-3.

Rather bizarrely but completely deservedly Moses was then announced as man of the match. Obviously whoever chose him thought his first half performance was so good they didn`t think anyone would better it so announced it so early! To be honest it was hard to disagree and even if Ronaldo had come on he`d have been hard pushed to steal the award from our number eleven.

Seeming to settle down the game was still on a knife edge and the O`s youngsters, sorry XI, were playing extremely well against their Premier League alternatives. Sherratt had a great chance to wrap up the game and we then almost grabbed a goal from a counter attack, but despite Georgiou`s determination and industry the Arsenal rear guard stood firm.

With time up and the referee inexplicably playing on for some non-existent injury time in true Orient style we let the Gooners out of jail. What can only be described as a horrific slip-cum back pass from trialist Ben Sampayo let in Danny Boateng to complete the scoring and tie the game at 4-4. One can only assume Sampayo is an Arsenal fan or simply didn`t fancy the 6 hour coach trip to Carlisle on Saturday!

As the players made their way back to the centre circle and kicked off the referee finally blew the full time whistle. Yeah cheers ref! After blocking James shot in the first half and playing the mystery injury time in the second any rumours that he was in fact Arsene Wenger were quickly denied despite the Frenchmen`s absence from the dugout throughout the game!

So a thoroughly enjoyable game which ultimately we felt disappointed not to have won. Both the first team and youngsters in the second half more than matched their opponents and have given Russ some thinking to do ahead of the first league game at the weekend. However with Cox and Lasimant injured the squad looks a little light on numbers if not quality as far as replacements go. With Russ confident of bringing in one or two new faces before the big kick off things could look better come 3pm on Saturday. After this evening though I wouldn`t be too worried if he named a Leyton Orient XI!

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