Leyton Orient succumbed to their fourth defeat in nine matches as they went down 3-1 away to Hartlepool. The O’s had progressed to the FA Cup second round last weekend against Staines and started as they meant to go on with Bradley Pritchard slotting the away side ahead after 13 minutes. Orient were always in control of the contest until Alan Dunne unexplainably handled a Kudus Oyenuga cross. Oyenuga stepped up and converted from the spot for his second goal in a week.
The away side continued to have the majority of possession but apart from a John Marquis shot, failed to trouble home keeper Trevor Carson. Pool pushed forward in the second half with Crystal Palalce loanee Jake Gray striking home via a deflection to put the hosts ahead with 20 minutes remaining. Orient failed to create any clear openings in the final minutes with Gray striking his second with 3 minutes remaining. The defeat leaves Orient in the final play off place but in very poor form going into a run of key fixtures for manager Ian Hendon
Ronnie Moore made 3 changes to the side that overcame Cheltenham last weekend in the FA Cup; Carl Magnay replaced Rhys Oates who dropped to the bench. Whilst recent loan signings Kal Naismith and Mikael Mantrom both made their debuts after joining from Portsmouth and Sunderland respectively.
Ian Hendon was also forced into three changes ahead of the clash at Victoria Park, Alex Cisak was away on International duty with Austraila with Charlie Grainger in goal. Dean Cox missed out after suffering a cruciate ligament injury last week with John Marquis replacing Orient no 7. Blair Turgott also dropped to the bench was Bradley Pritchard was back available after serving his one match suspension last weekend.
In a low key start, neither side was able to grab a foothold of the game, with troublesome windy conditions, free flowing football was at a premium. First to go close for the visitors was skipper Mathieu Baudry who collected a knock down from a corner but his effort was saved by Trevor Carson. The away side were starting to play their football with Sean Clohessy bombing forward down the right flank to offer an option. Hartlepool struggled to retain possession as Orient pushed for the opener and it did come after 13 minutes.
Lloyd James attempted a lofted through ball to Jay Simpson but it was cut out, Bradley Pritchard collected the loose ball and shot low beyond Trevor Carson to put Orient ahead. The away side had been comfortable with rookie keeper Charlie Grainger untested between the sticks. Then the season so far began to unravel once more in front of the travelling away contingent.
The question remains, how many games will Orient be in complete control then somehow combust to allow the opposition a route back in? Well with Alan Dunne playing a centre half in the absence of Connor Essam, it brings dread amongst the Orient fans. After giving away a penalty at Exeter and Crawley, Dunne inexplicably decided to handled a Kudos Oyenuga cross. A baffling decision by a centre half with so much experience at a higher level; Oyenuga stepped up and sent Grainger the wrong way to level the scores.
Another game, another mistake, the same old story right? Well it continued towards to end of the first half. Orient continued to have large spells of possession without any end product, something which has been a problem in recent weeks despite the 6-1 victory last weekend. Alan Dunne continued to look uncomfortable in defence finding it hard to deal with on loan Sunderland forward Mikael Mandrom. The former Millwall man was lucky to get a free kick after appearing to slip with Mandrom set to bare down on goal.
John Marquis netted his first for Orient against Staines and forced Carson into a smart one handed save 10 minutes before the interval. Hartlepool nearly took the lead 8 minutes before the break, on loan Kal Naismith crossed from right hand side but Scott Fenwick was inches away from connecting at the back post.
Hendon’s men lacked creativity in the final third and without the influential Dean Cox, was their coming to be anyone to step up to the occasion? Well look towards the bench? You could but you will only find 5 youngsters, one a keeper and the other four with no more than 15 league appearances between them. Hendon commented to BBC London on Saturday night that no one wants to drop down to league 2.
The O’s continued to have large periods of play in the second half, Clohessy was again found on the right wing with his cross in the centre causing Hartlepool problems. However both Jay Simpson and Ollie Palmer had their efforts blocked as Pool thawted the away side. Scott Fenwick should have put the home side ahead 8 minutes after the break, from a Kal Naismith corner, the Pool striker headed over from 6 yards out when he should have scored.
Ian Hendon’s men have been on top in many games this year without converting possession to goals. Today was another one of those days, Mathieu Baudry could only head straight at Trevor Carson after he was found unmarked following a Lloyd James cross. The eventful was coming were the words uttered from the away end, it indeed happened with 20 minutes left. Jake Gray was found unmarked on the edge of the area, unleashed a shot which was deflected by Alan Dunne beyond the despairing Charlie Grainger to put Pool ahead.
Hendon remained motionless on the touchline, with the little behind him to change the game, Mandrom headed wide before being replaced but by that time the game was over. Orient attempted to push forward but lacked a cutting edge in the final third with lack of ideas and poor decision making. Pool sensed their opportunity and struck the third, after Lloyd James was caught in possession, the ball was played beyond the O’s midfielder to Jake Gray. Gray approached the edge of the box, striking across goal into the far corner to put the game to bed.
Hendon threw on Blair Turgott and Scott Kashket but the game was over and done with by then. Another defeat for Hendon and an Orient side who have only picked up 11 points from the last 12 games, a poor return considering the budget at Brisbane Road. Is Hendon under pressure? It is hard to say he isn’t, the squad size has been an ongoing talking point since the start of the season but with three key men out, it is hard to see Hendon’s thinking. Sammy Moore was missing due to the birth of his daughter while Alex Cisak was away on International duty, that still only gives Hendon a squad of 18 to pick from.
“No-one wants to drop to League 2” words spoken by Ian Hendon, something I fail to believe with Pool naming Palace loanee Jake Gray and Sunderland loanee Mikael Mandrom in their starting 11. Orient’s squad is paper thin, replacements need to brought in quickly otherwise the downward spiral will continue. Hendon has spoken on numerous occasions about if we need to bring in reinforcements, he has the contacts to do so? We shall see but his loan signings to date have not been fantastic in John Marquis and Adam Chicksen. But the baffling decision with only two fit centre halves was the inability to integrate John Maquire when he joined on loan from Liverpool. One game away to Luton in the JPT was his lot, well he can’t be any worse than Alan Dunne on current form.
Only 1 clean sheet in 14 matches, says it all really, we are always susceptible to conceding but at the moment we find it hard to create going forward. Take away the 6 scored against Staines last week, the O’s have scored 13 in the last 9 games, something which has to be more if we are to be so poor defensively. Charlie Grainger made only his 2nd league start today but was given no protection in front of him, he had no chance with all three goals.
Hendon has work to do on the training ground, Orient fans made the long trip on a Sunday lunchtime, spending hard earned money on hotels for the night, train tickets and be served up with that after controlling the first 20 minutes. We have all seen how fire happy Bechetti can be? Doe Hendon have much longer? Well, we saw what happened last year, Orient need numbers in the squad and fast. With Cox out for 6 months, a creative replacement needs to be found. A tough run of games will set out the rest of the season, 2 home matches against York and Wimbledon sandwiched around a Tuesday night trip to league leaders Plymouth.
York up next, a win is a must with a clean sheet but how likely is that? A weekend away with an Orient loss is never good but it is always at the back of your mind before you go. A Tuesday in 9 days time in Plymouth could see the same but who else would you follow home and away than, Leyton Orient. Win or lose support the team. Everyone has a different opinion but the end goal is support the team. See you all at Plymouth.