Leyton Orient and Walsall had to share the spoils in a game which lacked quality throughout. In a game of few clear cut chances, neither side could break down one another leaving Orient 15th on 5 points whilst Walsall are still looking for their first win in the league after three draws and a defeat.
O’s boss Russell Slade called for his side to be more ruthless in the final third after their draw with Bristol City on Tuesday but failed to produce the goods against a organised Walsall side. Orient had to make one change from Tuesday’s draw with Darius Henderson replacing Kevin Lisbie who missed out due to a shoulder injury. The early signs were good for Orient, Henderson and Mooney were linking up well giving Cox and McAnuff opportunities to cross for the two front men. However Walsall were coping with this quite well and began to grow into the game, starting to play their own style of play.
The away side adapted a 4-1-4-1 system with Billy Clifford sitting just in front of the back four whilst the 4 further forward were playing a diamond with Tom Bradshaw leading the line. Walsall were playing neat football but nothing to frighten the O’s backline; both teams were struggling with quality in the final third. After Orient’s better start in the game compared to Chesterfield at home, with Walsall starting to play football, Orient resorted to long ball to Darius Henderson who was doing what he could to hold the ball up. The problem for Orient was with Mooney sitting deeper, any ball Henderson won or held up was being lost due the support not being quick enough. There seemed to be no rhythm to Orient’s play after the first 15-20 minutes with their best opening coming when McAnuff received a Henderson flick on but instead of crossing, blasted the ball into the side netting. Cifford saw a free kick easily saved by Legizins in the Orient goal.
Orient started the same way in the second half but Walsall started to look more dangerous with Orient pushing for a goal. Grimes saw his shot deflected wide before the guilt edge chance of the game. A back pass to Legizins who’s first touch was terrible let in Forde, the ricochet fell to Forde who seemed destined to score but the Walsall forward back heeled the ball past the post. A massive let off for Orient who tested O’Donnell after Cox was free on the left, the winger cut inside on to his right foot but his curling shot was palmed around the post. The home side were having a bit more joy and James’s fizzing 25 yard shot went narrowly over after good work from Cox.
Orient known last season for free flowing football including one of the goals of the season: Cox vs Gillingham at home were finding it hard to play this style of football. Walsall would have taken note of Chesterfield’s pressing game in the opener and started to press the Orient back line causing Orient to play the ball long. After Henderson and Mooney were replaced for Simpson and Dagnall, the ball had no chance to stick up front which was not going down well with the fans. Grimes went close again after good play on the left, a quick one two let in the former Lincoln striker but he curled his shot wide. Walsall could have snatched the game late on but Sawyers saw his goal bound shot blocked by Scott Cuthbert.
A point and a clean sheet for Orient which Slade described again as “work in progress, we are still improving”, 2 clean sheets in a week is progress but Orient will come up against teams with more quality than Walsall. Orient rarely troubled the Walsall keeper with the real worry the lack of cutting edge in the final third, “it was frustrating we couldn’t get the goal, we had a good 15-20 minute spell in the first half but Walsall made it difficult for us”. Teams would have learnt how to play at Brisbane Road after last years success which means Orient have to work out how to break down teams but will struggle if they are continuing with the long ball game. If Henderson is playing, Simpson and Dagnall have to play to latch onto the flick on’s, Mooney plays deeper in the team meaning he doesn’t support quick enough to keep the ball forward.
Two tough games for the O’s with trips to Villa in the league cup and League Leaders Fleetwood next Saturday. Orient will need to improve if they are to get a result at either ground.