Win and Just Hope were the words uttered by O’s fans as they left Brisbane Road yesterday afternoon. After a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United, the Orient faithful know that fate is out of their hands and the inaugural words of “We need a miracle”. With Orient seemingly hanging on to their League 1 safety for the majority of the afternoon and were saying goodbye to their 9 year stay until Mathieu Baudry popped up to head home with just 20 minutes left.
A lifeline had be thrown to Fabio Liverani’s men who at this stage needed to win with Crewe winning at Coventry and Crawley winning at Peterborough. But the Blades went straight on the attack for the equalizer and achieved it just 6 minutes later. Bob Harrisfiring home with no end of deflections sending it beyond Alex Ciask.
The trapdoor had opened with Orient free falling back to League 2 up until the 87 minute. News had filtered through to the fans of Crawley’s capitalization at Peterborough and were losing 4-3. Liverani urged his men forward for the winner but as soon as the news reached they were pushed back. The final whistle went with everyone around the ground checking results and whether Orient still had a chance of survival. Only a win is needed next weekend with 4 results needing to go in Orient’s favour despite this we all know that we will be at the County Ground a week today, wondering what outcome will be achieved.
Liverani made 4 changes from his sides 1-0 defeat at Rochdale in midweek with Shaun Batt, Lloyd James, Jay Simpson and Scott Cuthbert welcomed back whilst Shane Lowry, Josh Wright, David Mooney and Ryan Hedges dropping out. Nigel Clough made 2 changes with his side still needing a result to ensure of a play off place: Bob Harris and Che Adams returned whilst Terry Kennedy and Michael Doyle dropped out.
Both teams started brightly knowing that a result was key but for different reasons. The home side had early possession but were unable to create any opportunities with United looking relatively comfortable. United were playing a 4-1-4-1 formation with Jason Holt allowed freedom to drift between midfield and attack.
The Blades should have taken the lead after just 8 minutes, Holt playing in the hole, completed a 1-2 with Steven Davis. The return found Holt unmarked in the penalty area but he shot straight at keeper Alex Ciask. United continued pushing forward with Davies volleying over at the back post before Jamie Murphy low drive was pushed around the post.
Orient were well on the back foot with United passing the ball around nicely looking to create chances. The O’s were leaving the away side to break into with some appearing to be frightened to make a challenge. Just like the start of the season, Orient looked vulnerable from corners with United’s pace dangerous on the attack. Che Adams went close for the visitors but his goal bound shot was deflected wide.
Orient began to grow into the game more with increased possession, Dagnall shot straight at Howard after being played in down the left channel. The home side were slowly breaking through United’s defense, Batt, Simpson, Dagnall and Cox were beginning to link together with a few last ditch challenges.
Howard had to tip over a Shaun Batt effort 5 minutes before the break, Cox took the ball across the edge of the box finding Batt who’s rising effort was tipped over from a corner. Marvin Bartley headed over the resulting corner. Despite Orient’s ascendancy their vulnerability for a counter attack was clear to see. It was here where more composure from United would have seen the opener. Jamie Murphy broke down the right, finding Adams his shot was blocked by Ciask before Murphy had a shot also saved. Coutts fired over the loose ball as the danger decreased.
The second half started with a higher tempo with the fans knowing at this stage only a win was enough. Shaun Batt was replaced by McAnuff after 5 minutes of the second half but United were on top. Adams had a shot blocked after Orient failed to clear the ball under pressure from the away side. Dean Cox shot straight at Howard after linking up with Simpson down the left but the game had opened up with space appearing all over the pitch.
Josh Wright replaced Lloyd James for the home side whilst Stephen Scougall and Dominic Calvert-Lewin replaced Che Adams and Steve Davies for United. Both sides had settled down somewhat with chances few and far between but Cox had a header flicked around the post for a corner. Baudry headed home Cox’s corner to put the O’s in front handing them a lifeline to survival. Their first goal from a corner since Coventry at home in November.
But all home fans knew that there was a long way to go. Immediately after the goal, United were straight on the front foot with Scougall having a shot brilliantly blocked by Clarke after he looked set to draw United level. Wave after wave of pressure flooded towards the home goal with John Brayford having a shot deflected wide with Orient allowing the center half to carry the ball. His center half partner, Chris Basham fired over from the resulting corner.
The warning signs were there for the O’s and just 7 minutes after the opener, the Blades drew level. Murphy worked the ball from the right to Bob Harris who had space on the edge of the area, his shot deflected beyond Ciask to make the level the scores. Orient knew they needed a win with a draw not enough to keep their survival hopes going but it was Jose Baxter who went inches away from a second with his free kick striking the post with Ciask beaten.
Liverani threw on David Mooney for Marvin Bartley as the home side pushed for a second, Jay Simpson had a free kick tipped over as Orient’s league 1 position was rapidly vanishing. That was, until news filtered through of Crawley who had led twice at Peterborough conceding two goals in three minutes to lose. The message was given to the bench with both Liverani and Nugent telling the players to drop back and keep the point.
The final whistle blew with everyone knowing only a win and a mountain of luck will see the O’s play in League 1 next season. The O’s need to win and hope Notts C, Crawley and Colchester all fail to win. A tall ask but it is football and anything can happen. But I think it is safe to say that we all go to Swindon knowing that relegation is calling with Southend appearing to swap positions, can’t think of anything much worse.
But only Orient have themselves to blame for the position they are in, the draw at Crewe appears to every fan who went, the game where relegation was achieved. Dominating the second half but the inability to grab the winner, a problem in a host of games this year of grabbing a goal. We travel to Swindon in hope of a miracle but even the most optimistic fan must see what has been coming for the majority of the season, Relegation.