This traditional Wednesday-before-Easter clash with Leyton Orient sits right on the precipice between gloom and glory. A victory would set up a rather kind looking month of fixtures with us only needing a couple more victories to secure survival. Another embarrassing home defeat would send us right back into the mire with a potentially toxic atmosphere at home games for the players to endure.
Saturday’s win over Peterborough has taken some of the pressure off this game with a draw still being a decent result for us. However if we replicate that performance against the Posh, we will struggle to create chances and are then only one mistake on this terrible Ricoh Arena pitch from defeat. The nature of that performance against Peterborough could only have been fostered at an away game where a point was deemed a decent result, under the pressure of greater expectations and against a side scrapping for their lives, it will not be good enough.
The main positive to take from that performance last weekend was the solid manner of our defending. The back four made zero mistakes, which was a welcome tonic after the slap-stick defending against Doncaster. To what degree though Peterborough played right into our hands by sending aimless balls towards their 5 foot 10 strikers is hard to tell, reproducing that assuredness at the Ricoh Arena will be a true test of any new found defensive confidence.
That solidity in defence means that Tony Mowbray can be more cautious in restoring Reda Johnson back into the team. Aaron Martin and Chris Stokes, whose positions are most at threat from Johnson, responded brilliantly to poor performances against Doncaster and were arguably the best players in Sky Blue. My main worry with Stokes is a lack of fitness, given the way his performances have seemed to deteriorate as games have worn on. The Forest Green loanee seemed to have benefited more than most from a week off and is steadily rising to the challenge of the step up.
With Marcus Tudgay limping off in the first-half against Peterborough, there could be a temptation to hand the impressive Blair Turgott his first start after Saturday’s match-winning performance. It seems unlikely though given that Mowbray seems reluctant to give Turgott too much, too soon and that the ex-West Ham youth-teamer started Monday night’s under-21 fixture against Ipswich. A reshuffle looks more likely with O’Brien moving into his more effective central position and Barton possibly getting the nod over Odelusi, with the latter a more effective impact sub than starter.
Possible Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) Burge; Willis, Pennington, Martin, Stokes; Ward, Fleck; Barton, O’Brien, Nouble; Samuel
Last Time We Met
It’s nice to have played Leyton Orient just the once this season, last season we met them in every possible competition except for the FA Cup. Our last game against the O’s was a real missed opportunity to build on that big comeback win against Peterborough United. Having strengthened the team with the loan signings of Gary Madine and Aaron Martin, Steven Pressley’s Sky Blues should really have walked away from Brisbane Road with all three points given Leyton Orient’s struggles on home turf at that point in the season.
After taking the lead through Jim O’Brien, some poor goalkeeping from Lee Burge allowed Orient to surge into the lead with the home fans wondering if their luck had finally changed. Fortunately for us, O’Brien scored a second to level the scores and give us fans some hope that maybe our season still could be turned around.
Then came Worcester City…
How Are They Doing?
Leyton Orient were in an excellent position to build on last season’s near misses in both the race for promotion and in the play-off final. New chairman Francesco Becchetti wanted to take Orient into the Championship and had backed the popular Russell Slade in the transfer market. Minus Moses Odubajo, the core of a successful team had been kept and, in the form of Jobi McAnuff and Darius Henderson, had been improved.
What has ensued at Brisbane Road has been nothing short of a disaster, Russell Slade departed to take the Cardiff City job after being hounded out by the new chairman. Current manager Fabio Liverani is the club’s fourth manager of the season and his only previous managerial experience has been six games in charge of Genoa in Serie A. There are rumours, emphatically denied by the club, that Liverani is unable to communicate to his squad and that key players are effectively managing the team themselves.
On Saturday, Darius Henderson failed to show up to the ground on time due to traffic and the team were 1-0 down to Port Vale at half-time. Things took a bizarre turn after the chairman Francesco Becchetti issued a statement castigating Henderson through the proxy of the club’s tannoy announcer. Yet somehow Orient turned it around, in part down to a shocking second-half performance from Port Vale with their keeper getting sent off, winning 3-1.
Regardless of the chaos surrounding Leyton Orient, they are still a dangerous team who can raise their game when their backs are against the wall. Dean Cox is their most dangerous player, providing a goal threat from out wide. David Mooney was deadly last season, even if he has struggled to replicate that form this time around. A defence featuring Scott Cuthbert, Nathan Clarke, Mathieu Baudry and potentially ex-Liverpool left-back Andrea Dossena, possesses quality, experience and robustness.
We should not make the mistake of taking the wounded animal Leyton Orient lightly.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Cisak; Cuthbert, Baudry, Clarke, Sawyer; Cox, Wright, Bartley, Taylor; Mooney, Dagnall
Whilst we can get away with a draw, or even a defeat, in this game, the target has to be all three points. This home form needs to be sorted out soon or it will eventually drag us down. The term ‘six-pointer’ can be a bit of a cliche, but the points tally required for survival could get really out of hand and we have the opportunity to make it more manageable for us. Both teams are also right on the verge of building some momentum, a win for us lifts us further away from the relegation scrap, a win for Orient takes them out of the bottom four and gives them the belief they can keep going.
I would be more confident going into this game were our home form anywhere near being acceptable. I can really see Leyton Orient being fired up for this and my worry is that this group of players lacks the character to respond to that. That being said, I am going for a 1-1 draw which wouldn’t be the end of the world.