Billy Waters’s second half strike saw the spoils shared at Whaddon Road after O’s winger Gavin Massey had given his side the lead. Massey tapped home at the back post after just three minutes from a Sandro Semedo cross. The O’s were full value for their lead but as the game continued the hosts grew into the contest. Cheltenham pushed for an equaliser in the second half and deservedly pulled level with 14 minutes to go when substitute Billy Waters tapped home.
Cheltenham manager Gary Johnson handed debuts to four of his new recruits: James Jennings, Danny Whitehead, Daniel O’Shaugnessy and Easah Suliman. Captain Aaron Downes missed out through injury while the prolific pair of Dan Holman and Danny Wright were named in attack.
O’s boss Andy Hessenhaler handed debuts to six of his side: Tom Parkes, Harry Cornick, Gavin Massey, Robbie Weir, Yvan Erichot and Jordan Bowery. Academy product Sandro Semedo started at left back while Ollie Palamer partnered Bowery in attack. The main absentee was last seasons top scorer, Jay Simpson who did not travel due to illness.
In a fast start it was the away side who got their League 2 campaign off to the perfect start when Gavin Massey netted after just three minutes in. A good move down the left saw Sandro Semedo pick the ball up just inside his own half, he skipped past one then cut back on to his right foot. The youngster starting his first game at left back whipped a ball to the back post where Gavin Massey was there to tap home beyond Scott Griffiths to send Orient ahead.
Cheltenham were finding it hard to find a way into the game with their tactic being a long ball to striker Danny Wright who was finding it hard to find his teammates in attacking areas. Orient were playing the ball around nicely in the midfield with Semedo continuing to attack down the left linking up well with Harry Cornick.
Cornick was showing nice touches playing in Bowery who saw his tame shot easily saved by Griffiths. Semedo could have put the away side 2-0 ahead after 18 minutes when a corner routine found him on the edge of the box but he curled his shot wide.
As the half wore on, the Robins showed more attacking intent but their only shot of note came from distance from Danny Whitehead. Wright was starting to link up with his wide men and his neat flick on found Amari Morgan-Smith in the inside left channel. The Cheltenham forward broke into the box but a fantastic block from Sean Clohessy prevented a shot at Alex Cisak.
Chances were being created at either end with Massey firing over for the O’s before a neat piece of play from Cornick saw him beat two men but his goal bound shot was blocked. Cheltenham were beginning to find holes in the Orient defense as the away side looked shaky but Dan Holman could only head wide for the home side.
Cheltenham ended the first half the stronger of the sides and continued where they left off at the start of the second half. A Ryan O’Shaugnessy long throw was flicked on by Tom Parkes but Cisak saved well. Massey nearly added a second for the away side but his volley from outside the box was tipped for a corner by Griffiths.
As time ticked on, Orient began to sit deeper looking to hit the hosts on the counter attack with Massey and Cornick looking particularly dangerous. It was Cornick who played in Bowery on the break but the summer signing from Oxford scuffed his shot wide of the mark.
Cheltenham were dominating play and were looking extremely dangerous from set pieces especially the long throw. O’Shaugnessy’s throw was causing all kinds of problems in the Orient back line with their goal leading a charmed life. Dan Holman fired wide but the hosts grabbed a deserved equaliser 14 minutes from time. A decent move down the left saw Danny Whitehead cross for second half substitute Bill Waters to tap home for Cheltenham’s first goal back in the football league.
The game still remained end to end with Massey continuing his breaking from deep and his cross nearly found Ollie Palmer at the back post. With the clock ticking down, neither side was able to grab a decisive second goal and settled for a point apiece.
A point away at the National League Champions? Surely most Orient fans would have taken that before the game, a tough place to go where they have not lost a home league game since September 2015. Orient looked very good in the opening 25 minutes, passing the ball around nicely in midfield with Massey and Cornick impressing on both wings. Both looked adept at beating their full back and decent link up with the two strikers.
Sandro Semedo started at left back in the absence of Callum Kennedy and Josh Doughty and impressed. The youngster who typically plays as a winger showed real attacking intent, with some lovely touches in attack. Along with his very good assist, Semedo was a bright spark for the O’s and continues to show his flourishing development. With Semedo a winger, sometimes his positional sense was out but that will come with more games at this level however his pace helps him get out of the situation.
The opening period was good with the only thing missing being a second goal and on another day, Orient would have been punished. Illness has hit the Orient camp in recent weeks and it was clear that captain Robbie Weir was suffering from the start. However, the concern for most supporters will be the defense which still looks susceptible to conceding.
It is a well known fact that Hessenhaler is still looking for a center half with that being the only area of the squad short. Yvan Erichot and Tom Parkes started today but are at the moment attracted to the ball, leaving space behind them which has yet to be exploited. Both have the tendency to get to tight to their man allowing them to get turned. One game in, only 90 minutes, how can you make a judgement? I have not been impressed by either throughout pre season but hope I am proved wrong.
Then comes the issue with Simpson, is he ill? Was he at Southend? Will we sell? If he does go for money, we will need to bring in a replacement. Orient will be missing a fox in the box striker, a striker who only needs one touch to score. Something that without Simpson we may not have. If he does go, the ideal scenario for me would be, let Hessenhaler bring in a proven striker from the National league. A pacy forward, who runs the channels and forces opposition defenders the other way.
One game down, 45 to go. A long way to go but the tide turns to the EFL cup on Tuesday against Fulham. Our first game at home this season and an opportunity for players to get minutes and time on the pitch.