“The game showed that our ambitions need to be to fight until May and avoid relegation. Last season is the past and is forgotten, this season is a battle” were the words of Orient boss Fabio Liverani after his sides 2-0 defeat in the A12 derby with Colchester last weekend.
The O’s sit 22nd, 3 points from safety at the bottom of League 1 and host fellow strugglers Scunthorpe United to Brisbane Road on Saturday. The Iron lie 17th with 30 points from 24 games but unlike all the teams around them they have three games in hand due to progression in Cup competitions. Another week in E10 saw another departure of Mauro Milanese as sporting director with rumours rife that Liverani and himself had a disagreement about the potential loan move of Mathieu Baudry to Peterborough. Milanese appeared to agree to the deal but Liverani wasn’t on the same page which could have resulted in Milanese leaving.
Scunthorpe arrive in E10 in relative good form with only 2 defeats in their last 14 both away defeats to Bristol City and Chesterfield. The Iron have improved since the start of November picking up 18 of their 30 points and have similar home and away records picking up 14 at home whilst 16 away. Their away form has been good after losing 4 of their first 5 matches while being unbeaten in the next 7: winning 4 and drawing 3. Scunthorpe will be looking to exploit Orient poor home record which sees the East London club with the joint worst home record in the top 4 leagues in England with just 9 points from 12 matches.
The O’s are well and truly in a relegation scrap with home truths set out from Liverani after last week’s defeat to Colchester. With games running, realistically with Swindon, Sheffield United and MK Dons as the last three games, Orient will want their safety confirmed before these. If 50 points is enough for safety, the O’s need to pick up 24 points from 17 matches which could be a tall ask for a team that only has 2 wins in 9 matches against Crawley and Yeovil. Over the last 5 seasons the average points to survive is 48 with the highest points to stay up in 2009/2010 with Hartlepool on 50 points while lowest would have been 44 in 2011/2012.
Liverani needs to address problem areas which have been present throughout the season: defending from set pieces, concentration and creativity. Concentration at key points in matches has been a consistent problem throughout with 18 out of 39 goals conceded in either first 10, last 10 or 10 minutes around half time with 25 of those goals conceded in the second half. Orient have struggled with set pieces all season not helped by a unsettled back 4 but in a game of small margins defending of set pieces can result in winning games.
The O’s back line will need to be aware of Iron front man Paddy Madden who was rumored to be joining the O’s last January but chose Scunny ahead of the E10 club. Madden has hit 10 of the Iron’s 33 goals this term and with a shaky defence he could net at Brisbane Road. Orient will look to continue with new signings Neil Eardley and Ryan Hedges but Orient need results quickly if they are to climb out of their current situation.
The O’s beat the Iron 2-1 away in September with Scott Cuthbert and Jobi McAnuff grabbing the goals for Orient. But Orient have only won 2 out of their last 15 meetings with Scunthorpe losing their last home games against the Iron.
Prediction: Orient to concede first to a Paddy Madden strike but will battle back to snatch a 2-1 victory with Plasmati grabbing the winner.