The introduction of second half substitute Jack Payne provided the spark Leyton Orient needed to fight back to earn a 2-2 draw against Oxford. The East London side were well off the pace in the first half with Kemar Roofe and a deflected John Lundstram strike putting Oxford into a deserved 2-0 lead. The U’s were in complete control until Ian Hendon threw on midfielder Jack Payne and striker Ollie Palmer.
Both player made an instant impact with Orient looking to dictate play, as Orient looked more up for the challenge. The two subs combined with 25 minutes left as Jay Simpson halved the deficit before one of the major turning point. U’s midfielder Jordan Graham received a second caution after kicking the ball away which gave Orient the initiative to kick on. However it took until added time when a Palmer knock was laid off by Sammy Moore to the feet of O’s academy product, Scott Kashket, to fire home for his first league goal.
Orient boss Ian Hendon made three changes from the side that lost 3-2 at Crawley last weekend: Mathieu Baudry returned from injury in place of Alan Dunne who served his suspension whilst Jack Payne and Ollie Palmer dropped out for Blair Turgott and John Marquis.
Oxford who were on the back of four straight wins in all competitions, made only 1 change as they welcomed back Callum O’Dowda in place of Danny Hylton with in form midfielder Kemar Roofe moving further forward.
With both sides keen for a result, the game started at a fast pace with a good tempo, alongside the fierce atmosphere created with sides playing each other for the first time since the infamous game back in 2006. Orient were struggling to link through the midfield with Ian Hendon adopting a flat midfield four than his preferred midfielder diamond: a decision he would later regret. Oxford were playing the ball around nicely but it was Orient who had the first half chance when Cox’s shot was blocked for a corner whilst Blair Turgott and John Marquis saw efforts seen out for corners.
Despite the few half chances for the O’s, the U’s were soon in to their passing rhythm and flow which has seen the rise to third in the division. It appeared Hendon had changed his system to prevent Oxford wingers Jordan Graham and Callum O’Dowda from advancing forward. However, this was far from the outcome with both wingers looking lively and dangerous with their crossing into the box.
Jordan Graham was continuing to find space down the right and it was Graham that set up the visitors opener just after the quarter hour. A right wing corner was cleared out to Graham, he had several chances to cross the ball but his first attempts were cleared straight back out to him. But you can’t give him so many opportunities to pick out a ball as he last cross was only cleared by Mathieu Baudry to the feet of Roofe who side footed home; more than the away side deserved.
The home crowd were getting frustrated with the lack of ambition shown from their side with them failing to string passes together through out the half. Oxford sensed the mood inside the ground and continued to press forward as Orient continually gave possession away. The U’s did double their lead 12 minutes before the break, a move down the left saw the ball fall to Liam Sercombe. With John Lundstram left in acres of space on the edge of the box, Sercombe laid off to Lundstram who fired a low shot which took a wicked deflection off Connor Essam, above Alex Ciask and into the net.
Orient were second best all over the pitch with Oxford far hungrier to regain possession. With Pritchard and Moore in central midfield, the two struggled to deal with the movement and aerial challenges with Lundstram and Sercombe. Orient had created chances in every game this season were missing the invention of Jack Payne who unlucky to be dropped before the game.
Hendon saw what could be called “poor team selection” but reverted back to the midfield diamond introducing Jack Payne and Ollie Palmer for Dean Cox and Blair Turgott who both struggled in the first half. It was an immediate change in proceedings from the off with Payne clearly sent out with instructions to dictate play in the midfield and indeed he did.
The half time team talk along with substitutions had completely changed the format of the game. With Orient looking to force their way back into the contest, Oxford sat back more looking to hit Orient on the counter utilizing their pace on the break. Jack Payne was at the heart of everything in the second half for the O’s but apart from headers over from Connor Essam and Mathieu Baudry from corner were the only sighters the home side had.
Orient did halve the deficit with 26 minutes left, a wonderful pass from deep from Jack Payne saw Ollie Palmer head into the path of Jay Simpson who’s shot was too hot to handle for Sam Slocombe and crept inside the post. The atmosphere and mood had completely turned round with Orient fully in the ascendancy and nearly equalised a minute later when John Marquis header was saved by Slocombe.
Then one of two major turning points, Jordan Graham who had already been booked in the first half for a challenge on Adam Chicksen was flagged offside. The young midfielder kicked the ball away after the decision was made leaving the referee with no option to produce a second yellow and a red. The numerical advantage gave Orient even more impetus to strike level but Oxford were defending well dealing with the increasing amount of balls into their box.
Then the second turning point, a mazy run from Liam Sercombe saw the Oxford midfielder thwarted by Orient keeper Alex Cisak. The resulting corner fell out to the U’s skipper who volleyed first time but it took a wonderful finger tip save from the Australian shot stopper to keep Orient in the game. Orient chucked on Scott Kashket in place of John Marquis while Oxford had resorted to 4-4-1 after the sending off with Kemar Roofe moving to a deep role.
As the minutes ticking down, Orient kept knocking on the yellow door but to no avail until the 4 minutes of stoppage time. A long ball into the Oxford box fell to Kashket, who fired low and hard into the bottom corner to score his first league goal in an Orient shirt; an important one at that. Orient could have even won the game but Jay Simpson’s shot was saved by Slocombe but both sides had to settle for a point.
Ian Hendon stated post match to leytonorient.com “it was a game of two halves and we changed our shape before kick off but it didn’t work”. The O’s boss is exactly right, Oxford took their foot of their pedal in the second half after a brilliant first half display. A first half which you struggle to see Orient play as bad as that, no ambition, poor decision making and second to the ball. The system change did not work but I think Hendon’s decision to not play either Jack Payne or Lloyd James was the major talking point.
The second half highlighted the importance that Jack Payne gives to the side, calmness on the ball and the ability to pick a defense splitting pass. Hendon realised his mistake in personal and shape at the break and credit Hendon for having the bottle to change it. In the past managers may not have subbed Dean Cox but he had a poor game; today showed that Hendon has the bottle to change a game when it is needed.
The worrying point for Hendon and his backroom staff remains the defensively lapses throughout games. The ninth game in succession Orient have failed to keep a clean sheet; Orient look vulnerable in every match currently with no leader at the back in the team. But despite a poor mistake last weekend, Alex Cisak showed today just how good he is at League 2 level, that saved was good as he equaliser.
2 tough away games await for Ian Hendon’s men who travel to Luton on Tuesday night before a trip to Morecame on Saturday. It is clear that Orient cannot play the same as the first half yesterday and expect to pick up points. It is still work in progress but the more the season continues, the ups and downs look here to stay. Once again Ollie Palmer highlighted his importance with his impact off the bench, the annoying think for fans is he needs to do that when he starts games.
A deserved point? or a games we got away with one? You know as an Orient fan, anything is possible with our club, I just hope the side that turned up second half plays on Tuesday and Saturday. All I know is what would you do without Orient? We never do anything easy