Jay Simpson’s injury time equaliser snatched a point for Leyton Orient away at Stevenage yesterday. Simpson who became the first Orient player to strike 20 league goals since Peter Kitchen in 1978, opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Fraser Franks had handled his initial effort just after the hour mark.
The game then burst into life in a 4 minute spell which saw Stevenage turn the game on its head. Second half substitute Armand Gnanduillet equalised when he headed home Tom Pett’s right wing cross before slotting the hosts ahead 4 minutes later after latching onto Ben Kennedy’s through ball.
Orient looked to have thrown away their lead but were thankful to Simpson once more. Simpson was played in on the edge of the box and calmly slotted high into the Stevenage net to save Orient once more.
Stevenage manager Teddy Sheringham was enforced into one change from the side that lost 3-1 at home to Dagenham last Monday. Lee Cox was unavailable due to injury so Rohdell Gordon started at right midfield.
Sheringham former West Ham colleague Ian Hendon also made only one change with Jean-Yves M’Voto out with a groin injury, Fraser Shaw filled in at left back while Cole Kpekawa partnering Connor Essam at center half.
With the rain and windy pummeling the Lamex Stadium, both teams were struggling to adjust to the tricky conditions. However the first incident of the game came when Bradley Pritchard was hauled down on the edge of the box, O’s players appealed for a penalty but referee waved away the away side’s appeals.
Conditions were worsening and both sides were cancelling each other out with free flowing football out of the question. Blair Turgott looked lively for the away side but could only flick Jobi McAnuff’s cross straight at Stevenage keeper Chris Day.
Stevenage were looking to find striker Jamille Matt when going forward, the big striker looked to get Gordon and McFadzean involved on the wings. Matt did go close but could only head Gordon’s right wing cross wide of the far post. Orient did go close themselves but Cole Kpekawa could only curl a free kick over from distance.
Orient manager Ian Hendon called for a solid defensive display before the game but once more defensive errors cropped up for the away side. Following a Jobi McAnuff header back, Cole Kpekawa failed to control the ball, Jamille Matt latched onto the ball but his fierce shot was beaten out by O’s keeper Alex Cisak.
Orient could have taken the lead just after the half hour mark, the lively Turgott picked the ball up on the edge of the box. His fierce shot could only be parried by Chris Day to the advancing Jay Simpson. Simpson shifted the ball on to his right foot but his goal bound shot hit Ronnie Henry on the line and bounced to safety for the hosts.
The O’s were struggling to win the second ball in the midfield with Stevenage dominating in the midfield battles. Those defensive mistakes never seemed to vanish for Orient and Cole Kpekawa’s poor back pass was nearly picked up by Matt but Alex Cisak did well to bail out his defender early in the second half.
The second half had a quicker pace than the first and Orient had an opportunity to go ahead just before the hour mark. Jay Simpson collected the ball on the edge of the box, his shot was apparently handballed by Stevenage defender Fraser Franks. Referee Darren Deadman pointed to the spot, Simpson stepped up and calmly slotted home for his 19th of the season.
After Orient took the lead, Hendon’s men decided to sit deeper to absorb the Stevenage pressure. Stevenage really should have leveled on 65 minutes but Jamie McCombe could only head Ben Kennedy’s corner over the bar. Sheringham brought on Kennedy and Armand Gnanduillet in the search for an equaliser. It provided an instant impact with the French striker causing Orient problems in defense.
Gnanduillet did level for Stevenage with 15 minutes remaining when he headed in Tom Pett’s cross. Pett collected the ball in the middle of midfield, his run took him past O’s midfielder Jack Payne and defender Fraser Shaw. His cross was pin point to the head of Gnanduillet who had drifted between Kpekawa and Essam to head home.
Orient’s defence never looked assured throughout the game and 4 minutes later it crumbled once more as Gnanduillet grabbed his second of the game. Ben Kennedy ,who had made a difference to the hosts after his introduction, chipped the ball over the Orient back line. Gnanduillet ran on past the non-existent defense and had the simple task of slotting home to put Stevenage ahead.
Hendon threw on John Marquis and new loan signing Calaum Jahraldo-Martin who had joined on loan from Hull City this week. Orient put three men up front but struggled to create the equaliser. Jahraldo-Martin looked impressive on his debut but his cross from the left was headed wide by Marquis. However, who else to bail out Orient than Jay Simpson. Once more, Simpson was played the ball on the edge of the box, he let the ball come across him and slotted the ball beyond Chris Day into the net to snatch his side a point.
It could have been even better for the away side in stoppage time, after Simpson’s leveller, Orient threw everything at Stevenage in search of a winner. Balls were fired into the box but the final chance of the game fell to Ollie Palmer but the O’s striker could only tamely hit his shot at Chris Day.
Orient moved up to 8th, 2 points outside the playoffs but have played 3 more games than 7th placed Accrington. Stevenage remain in 19th.
Well, new year, same problems and thank God for Jay Simpson. Where would Leyton Orient be without Simpson this year. 20 leagues goals in 25 league matches is some record but surely the floating poachers are ready to take a punt on Simpson. Simpson has netted 50% of Orient goals this season, 4 of Orient’s last 6 goals and 8 of Orient’s last 10 goals on their travels.
- If you take Simpson’s goals out of Orient, they would sit 19th on 22 points from 25 games, 5 points from the relegation places
It is clear at the moment it doesn’t matter what defence is named, the problems and mistakes are there. Well we all know where the problems are for Orient this season, 1 clean sheet in the last 20 league matches, is all that need to be said. Both goals yesterday were poorly defensively especially the second one, a free run on goal and a cool finish. It doesn’t matter who we are playing, Orient look so susceptible to conceding goals, that’s now 35 goals conceded in the league this season, after 25 games last season Orient had conceded 37 goals.
- Orient have only 1 clean sheet on their last 20 away games in all competitions
Hendon knows where the problems are but I think any onlooker could see them yesterday. He is surely under pressure at the helm now. Since the victory over Staines in the FA Cup first round, Orient have 2 wins in 11 matches, we all know he is building this season but given the performances in those games, is it the beginning of the end?
Yesterday and in the last few weeks, Orient’s midfield has been out fought, losing second balls and getting beaten too easily. Yes we have players out in Sammy Moore and Lloyd James but is there a ball winner in that team? I am a big fan of Jack Payne, but does Payne play better in a midfield trio? Most people criticized the diamond in the early part of the season however having Moore and Pritchard in front of what was Lloyd James worked. Will a change of system prove better for Orient?
Simpson’s equaliser saved Hendon from even more chants of “Hendon Out” which still could be heard despite the draw at Stevenage. The tactics can be questioned but the thread bare squad does not help, but who’s faults is that? A 2 week break where Hendon stated he will be talking to the president about bringing in bodies, the question is how many? Competition for places is surely key for players to get some form, Fraser Shaw faced that with several left backs brought in, could the same happen for the rest of the side?
Exeter up next, the side that ended the straight 5 leagues wins at the start of the season. Paul Tisdale tactically outdid Hendon at St James Park, Orient know what they are facing but can they prevent another game where they will inevitably conceded? We will find out in 13 days time…