Just how much better is the weekend when Leyton Orient win? With that a very impressive 1-0 away victory at Portsmouth to boot where Orient should have won by more. Can we judge the work that Kevin Nolan is doing after four matches? Well there has been major improvement since the turn of the year and Orient under previous manager Ian Hendon.
The defensive stability which Nolan has given Orient is a major talking point for a side that only kept one clean sheet in 20 matches before his appointment. Yesterday’s was Orient’s 3rd clean sheet in four games with Orient becoming hard to beat under the former West Ham man. Yes, I know we had the disappointing 3-1 defeat to Cambridge last weekend, but how many chances did they create? In the four games since his appointment, I think you can count on one hand without the mistakes how many clear cut chances teams have created against us.
Why is that, it seemed almost envitable that Orient would concede in every match but that appears different with Nolan at the helm. Back to basics seems to be top of the agenda, keep a clean sheet and you get at least a point. If you look before Christmas: Hartlepool, Plymouth and Mansfield Orient took the lead in the opening minutes and only took only 2 points from a possible 9.
Orient are more compact and organised under Nolan. It didn’t really take a genius to work out, that is what needed to improve. Nolan has stated on numerous occasions that with the quality we have in the side, if we get one chance we can put it away. Yesterday was no different, apart from Orient seemingly unwillingly to ease the away fans nerves in the second half. But the O’s were creating several chances which on another day would have been put away.
It was no surprise that Nolan went with a 4-5-1 formation yesterday, I called 10 of the 11 starters to @les_bristow on Friday. It seemed exactly the right tactics to go with to Fratton Park and how good did it work? Orient were so open at Brisbane Road against Portsmouth earlier in the season so Nolan did the perfect thing. Sammy Moore’s return handed Orient a boost after Nigel Atangana didn’t play after a “gentleman’s agreement” agreed by Ian Hendon.
Why did the formation work? Outnumbered in midfield, too much space and too open were the phrases used in no end of Orient matches this year. With Payne, Nolan and Moore in the central area of the pitch, Orient had more control and looked more assured. Portsmouth struggled to break through Orient with the away side very organised from the off.
Nolan’s game plan was followed down to a tee by his players. Jack Payne had his best game in an Orient shirt? Undoubtedly it was, why? He was part of a three man midfield. Payne broke up so much play in the midfield, keeping that shield in front of the back four in the absence of Atangana. With Moore and Nolan ahead of him, it allowed Payne more time on the ball and to organise what was ahead of him. Any fan who was at Fratton Park yesterday will see exactly what Payne can do in the Orient side.
Secondly, the inclusion of Nicky Hunt and Shaun Brisley added some defensive bite. The main problem in games this year has been the open nature of the side. The best thing aout yesterday was you didn’t really mention the two of them which is a clear indication they are doing exactly what they should be doing.
Full backs, why I am concerned about them? Well have a think, Orient have been caught behind both positions on several occasions this season. However yesterday, neither ventured too far forward in attack and their first thought of the day was keeping a clean sheet. That is key when going away from home in games, it was a major positive and that is clearly Orient’s best four.
As pointed out last weekend it is amazing what happens when wingers are played on thh right side of the pitch. McAnuff and CJM were outlets throughout the match and their direct running created opportunities. McAnuff’s running helped Orient get up the pitch and relieved pressure on the defense.
One major difference yesterday, the phrase used by Nolan afterwards “we are all in this together” how apt that was after that performance. Everybody worked for the shirt and the discipline, work rate and desire was absolute superb from every player. There was nothing left to give at the end of the game. Every player had a job to do and nobody shirked any of their responsibilities. Both McAnuff and Jahraldo-Martin got through so much work on the wings and helped the team so much.
That performance was so similar to MK Dons and Plymouth away earlier in the season. Go 1-0 ahead have chances to score a second and third but fail to convert chances. However under Nolan Orient are able to keep the opposition out. How good was it to see as an Orient fan as previously most of us would have stood there stating “it will only be a matter of time before they score”.
Yes, we don’t want to get carried away with the performance because we all know where that can take us. It is only 3 points and one win on the board. 16 games to go and some tough ones to go at that. But under Nolan, he is slowly stamping his mark on the Orient side in the right way.
That performance is now the benchmark for the rest of the season, he can’t play 4-5-1 in every home match as you have to be on the front foot in most home matches. Northampton visit next weekend as league leaders so Nolan has to make the decision on which way to go with his team. An option is going more 4-3-3 with CJM and McAnuff narrower behind Jay Simpson in attack. There is a week on the training ground to build n this week’s performance so the positives are slowly coming back at Brisbane Road.
However, as an Orient fan it is usually one step forward and two steps back, we will just have to wait and see what is to come.