Well, well, well, if ever there was a game which summed up Leyton Orient’s season then today was it. Second best for the opening 20 minutes after falling behind to Lauri Dalla Valle’s two yard tap in on 10 minutes. Fight and passion seemed to missing from recent performances with the O’s once again beginning dominated in the middle of midfield. I do wonder whether Fabio Liverani and his team scout teams pre match. Once again Crewe had a 3 vs 2 in the middle of the park with Bartley and Wright struggling to deal with the extra man. Despite a win and 2 draws, the past three teams have exploited Orient’s central midfield with all 3 playing 3 in the middle (Coventry, Gillingham and Crewe). It didn’t matter today, but in the coming games away at MK Dons and Swindon he may want to consider adding an extra man in there.
There were windy conditions at Gresty Road with the O’s struggling to get to grip but Ryan Hedges was having an impact with him providing the spark to draw the away side leve through Darius Henderson’s near post finish. Then the story of the East London’s club plight followed with chances squandered left, right and center. Dagnall, Henderson, McAnuff, Baudry all wasted openings with wastefulness in front of goal costing Orient the win.
Crewe made 1 change with Ryan Colclough coming in for Uche Ikpeazu who dropped to the bench. Orient recalled Nathan Clarke, Marvin Bartley, Jobi McAnuff and Darius Henderson from their 3-3 draw at home to Gillingham on Easter Monday.
Both sides went into the game knowing that a win could pull them away from the bottom 4 however both sides struggled in the opening period with Henderson seeing an effort blocked while Colclough tested Alex Ciask in the Orient goal. The away side hadn’t got going and fell behind on 10 minutes, a quick free kick saw Greg Leigh pick up a through ball behind the O’s backline. The left back crossed with Lauri Dalla Valle tapping in from 2 yards giving the Alex a perfect start to a side with only 2 wins in their last 11 games.
Crewe boss Steve Davis asked for “attacking football” prior to the game and with their 4-3-3 formation causing Orient problems. With Jamie Ness pushing forward as the furthest of the midfield trio it was almost a 4 vs 4 at times. Ness was picking up the ball in little pockets of space in the hole behind the front three. For all Crewe’s attacking intent they failed to create much going forward.
The O’s seemed to get more of a hold on proceedings with Hedges going close with 2 efforts while Henderson providing a focal point in attack. Jobi McAnuff shot wide but Hedges, the on loan Swansea winger remained the brightest Orient player. It was the 19 year old who helped draw Orient level, his link up with Scott Cuthbert and Marvin Bartley allowed the latter to break down the right. Bartley crossed low to Henderson who had got across Oliver Turton to volley beyond Rachukba.
The equalizer had awoken Liverani’s men with the away side fighting for possession all over the pitch. Hedges’s impact continued to grow with the winger given freedom to drift inside to the pick the ball up. Colclough had a pop shot for the hosts but Crewe’s attacking threat was decreasing by the minute. McAnuff could have given Orient the lead just before the break, a period of possession saw Josh Wright play Shane Lowry down the left. Lowry’s low cross found McAnuff, who’s goal bound shot was tipped round his post by Rachukba.
It was clear that this game for was their for the taking for an Orient side who had picked up 11 points from the last 18 available.
Liverani’s men started the second half brightly and had almost an instant reward. With the wind in their favour, high pressure allowed Wright to play Henderson in but a vital interception prevented him getting a shot off. Minutes later Dagnall created space on the right for a shot but it was blocked. The home side were forced into their second change with Uche Ikpeazu replacing Chris Atkinson after Liam Nolan came on for Jamie Ness at half time. Dalla Valle dropped deeper with Ikpeazu leading the line for Crewe.
Liverani’s message appeared clear, get the win but in true Orient fashion, the 571 travelling fans were put through the mill once more. Baudry had a weak shot at Rachukba after a loose ball fell to him in the box. Orient’s dominance intensified with McAnuff and Hedges creating opportunities for the away side. After good work down the left, Lowry crossed to the center, but after everybody missed it, the loose ball fell to McAnuff who had the goal to hit but couldn’t convert.
McAnuff then blazed over after a corner was worked to the edge of the area. Crewe dropped deeper showing little or no ambition going forward with this encouraging the away side more. Then the guilt edge chance of the game came on 68 minutes, Hedges cute through ball found Dagnall who had avoided the offside trap to leave a 1 on 1. However Dagnall could not repeat last year’s heroics with his shot tipped over by Rachukba and Orient fans wondered if it wasn’t going to be their day. The issued again was raised of “how many chances does Dagnall need before he scores”.
Colclough forced Ciask into a save down to his left after creating a pocket of space on the edge of the area. But then the East London side squandered 3 great chances to go ahead, first Henderson slipped after a Lowry cross was nodded through to the frontman. Then the pivotal Hedges popped up in the center but his fierce shot was blocked by Rachukba with the follow up blocked by Crewe’s defense. In a frantic three minute period, Henderson then curled wide of the mark as Orient fans feared the worse with missed chances costing them dear this season.
Several clear cut chances created for the away side but they failed to have the killer instinct to the put the game to bed. Andrea Dossena replaced Shane Lowry at left back providing a nervous feeling in the away end after his performance or lack of it on Easter Monday. The O’s struggled to create in the latter stages with McAnuff having a shot palmed down by Rachukba with former O’s keeper diving on the ball before Dagnall could convert.
Conversations in the away end erupted of Lloyd James anyone? After his return from his injury he calmed Orient down in their last away trip at Coventry to pick up a vital 3 points. However what came was a shocker to nearly every member of the away contingent baffled by the decision to replace Hedges with Gianvito Plasmati. A man who divides opinion but with Hedges playing an integral part to Orient’s attacking play it seemed bizarre. The less said about the “glove wearing” Italian the better.
With the away side failing to create a chance to seal the game in the remaining minutes, they had to settle for a draw. Most of the O’s players looked disappointed at the final whistle and so they should be. They created enough chances to wrap all 3 points to bring back south to London. Wayward finishing cost Orient dear and with 2 points dropped it may come back to haunt them come 2:15 on May 3rd. One thing which will not increase Plasmati’s appeal to Orient fans was his non appearance of appreciation of the 571 travelling fans.
With teams below not winning it was no way a bad result but based on the chances created 3 points should have been wrapped up. Orient still remain outside the bottom 4 on goal difference on 47 points but a tough run will see Orient needing to pick results up against Doncaster, MK Dons, Rochdale, Sheffield United and Swindon. All these sides appear to have something to play for; the main objective is to get the points, performance comes second.
Nathan Clarke stated post match “that it was 2 points dropped” but the O’s will have to put this at the back of their mind and put things right on Tuesday against Doncaster. A similar team will surely be played and fair to say that Nathan Clarke has assured his place in the heart of the defense for the rest of the season.
Anyway, every O’s fan knows that we never do it the easy way just look at the emotions we went through in the added time at Oxford in 2006. It looks set to be an end of the season showdown at Swindon, we all hope that safety is assured before them but at the moment it looks likely at the County Ground. Would Orient fans want it any different? Well yes, but if Dean Cox pops up with an injury time winner to keep us up, I know it will be remember in years. All I can say is make sure you get your ticket for Swindon away.