Leyton Orient’s 100% league start came crashing to a halt as Exeter put four past the league 2 leaders. After 5 wins from 5, Orient were the team to beat and the Grecians wasted no time, opening the scoring after just 5 minutes with Tom Nichols slotting home from the spot after being brought down by Charlie Grainger. The O’s started to play but found Tisdale’s City side resolute in front of them with Alex Nicholls doublin the home sides lead 8 minutes before half time
Ian Hendon’s men searched for an early response in the second half but City hit them with a killer third goal. Tom Nichols slotted home his second from the spot after Alan Dunne brought down David Wheeler. The O’s continued to press for a consolation goal but City wrapped up a fine day at St James Park as David Wheeler slotted home with 13 minutes remaining.
City picked up a morale boosting 2-0 victory against Porstmouth in the JPT on Tuesday, setting up a local derby with Plymouth in the next round. Paul Tisdale made 7 changes to his side, with only Bobby Olejnik, Ryan Harley, David Wheeler and Alex Nicholls the only ones to retain their place in the side.
Orient suffered late heartbreak at Luton suffering a 2-1 defeat and manager Ian Hendon made 5 changes from his side. Alan Dunne, Jay Simpson, Mathieu Baudry, Dean Cox and Paul McCallum all returning at St James Park after missing the trip on Tuesday. Charlie Grainger kept his place in goal with Alex Ciask still away with Austraila on International duty.
Both teams started brightly with Orient continuing like most of the season in their midfield diamond. Orient conceded first for the first time on Tuesday night at Luton and Hendon was hoping for a response. But his side made the worse possible start in Exeter, a ball down the left found Tom Nichols, he held off Mathieu Baudry and entered the penalty area. Charlie Grainger rushed out of his goal but Nichols nicked the ball past the Orient keeper and was brought down. Nichols brushed himself down and slotted home from the spot.
After going behind, Hendon’s men began to grow into the contest as City started to sit back. Paul McCallum saw his faint header easily saved by Olejnik but both sides were trying to get the ball down and play. Exeter were looking well organised with the two wide men, David Wheeler and Alex Nicholls getting back into shape to keep their side balanced.
Player of the month for August, Dean Cox flashed a shot wide for the East London side but Hendon’s men continued to push for the equaliser. The O’s were having more joy down the right hand side with Sean Clohessy the main attacking option but his final ball lacked quality. It was down the right where Orient created their next chance, good link up play from Cox and Clohessy set up Bradley Pritchard but the midfielder blazed over.
The O’s looked more comfortable as the half went on and could have levelled just after the half hour mark. In a period of O’s pressure, Dean Cox crossed from the right but Troy Brown headed for a corner with McCallum ready to pounce behind him. From the resulting corner, McCallum headed down to his strike partner Jay Simpson but Simpson’s goal bound header was cleared off the line by Matt Oakley.
Orient had lacked tempo early on but as the half grew, their passing was crisper and sharper but were finding it hard to break through Exeter’s 4-5-1/ 4-3-3 formation. City manager Paul Tisdale had obviously done his homework, packing the midfield and preventing any space for Orient to play in.
The O’s before today had only conceded three league goals but fell two goals behind 8 minutes before the break. Ryan Harley’s corner was not cleared and fell back out to the midfielder, he picked out Alex Nicholls on the edge of the box and he fired low beyond Charlie Grainger to double City’s lead. The O’s needed half time with Hendon needing to rally his troop to produce a comeback in the second half.
Surprisingly Hendon did not make any changes to his personnel but appeared to change to a 4-3-1-2 formation with Cox just ahead of the midfield trio of Moore, Pricthard and James. However, despite having the majority of possession, the league’s highest scorers were struggling to create in the final third. Dean Cox fired a shot over from distance before Exeter grabbed a third and a second from the spot. David Wheeler and Alan Dunne were having an on going battle all afternoon down the Exeter right with the referee keeping a keen eye on the battle.
A ball down the right saw Dunne and Wheeler clash with the Exeter man going down under a clumsy challenge from Dunne. A soft decision from the linesman but after the O’s receive a soft penalty last weekend, it seems to have evened itself out. Tom Nichols slotted home for his second of the day as Orient had the worse possible start to the second half. However it was evident of Tisdale’s tactics with his side sitting deep looking to use their pace on the counter to exploit the space left by Orient going forward.
With Orient falling 3 behind, Blair Turgott replaced Sammy Moore with Hendon going for a more conventional 4-4-2 system with Turgott and Cox on either wing. Cox struck wide for the visitors but Exeter nearly added a 4th. Ryan Harley who was picking up space in the midfield saw his left foot shot deflect onto the bar with the rebound falling to Tom Nichols. Nichols looked to complete his hat trick but Grainger saved brilliantly with his legs to keep the score at 3-0.
Alan Dunne had struggled to contain David Wheeler all afternoon and was replaced by Scott Kashket with the O’s going 3-4-1-2 but knew it wasn’t going to be their day. First Turgott saw his goalbound shot blocked before heading over at the back post. Orient were still pushing men forward leaving huge spaces behind them and Exeter wrapped up the game with a fourth. Harley drove into the Orient box, his left foot shot was saved excellently by Grainger but Connor Essam only headed the ball to Wheeler. He shifted the ball onto his right foot and curled home off the post to complete the scoring.
A bad day at the office for Orient who had seen manager Ian Hendon and midfielder Dean Cox pick up the manager and player of the month awards yesterday. But Orient lacked a “spark” according O’s skipper Mathieu Baudry who stated to leytonorient.com that his “side are working hard and we will learn from this defeat”.
Orient struggled to test Olejnik in the Exeter goal, something which has not been a problem this season. However a change of personnel came too late with side already 3-0 down, on another day Hendon might have changed earlier with the diamond not working. I think we have seen a glimpse of what awaits Orient in a lot of games this year.
Tisdale was tactically on point today, squeeze the ball when Orient are in possession. Prevent the space Orient have to work with in between the lines and hit the them on the break. Exeter were organised and limited Orient to few chances, when they had their own chances they took them which is key in any game of football.
Young O’s keeper Charlie Grainger will learn from his mistake for the penalty and realize that he didn’t need to make the challenge. It will come with games which brings experience however he did make 2 great saves in the second half. Baudry stated to leytonorient.com that he “felt for Charlie but he will learn from this”. Grainger has a lot of potential and will make mistakes, he is young.
The O’s were not 4 goals worse than City but were punished for their mistakes, something which Orient have done to teams this season. Today was a blip but highlights that Orient are still work in progress. The key for boss Ian Hendon is the reaction from his team at Cambridge next week. Hendon has a full week to build on the training pitch and with Cambridge another test, it will not be an easy game.
It is clear that Orient will need to better in the final third to produce a result at the Abbey next weekend. We will know we will still be there, no need to worry, Hendon and Hessenthaler know what the are doing. I mean I would have taken 5 wins from 6 before the season started and it is a lot better than last season.