An opening day defeat at Sutton United wasn’t exactly in the script was it? The O’s travelled to Gander Green Lane as they began their new era under new ownership. Fans were full of expectation and relief that the Orient was finally back in the hands of footballing people.
The truth it was going to be a tough task with a squad built in a matter of weeks with over 15 arrivals into Brisbane Road. Head Coach Steve Davis was clear to point out that his side were short of fitness and work with it coming true as they fell 2-0 in the opening fixture.
Sutton who finished mid table in the Vanarama Conference last season were going to be a tough opponent. Manager Paul Doswell naming several experienced former football league players in his XI: Nicky Bailey, Craig Eastmond and Jamie Collins.
Orient’s 11 included Jobi McAnuff and David Mooney who made their second debuts for the O’s while Macauley Bonne started in attack. New first team captain Charlie Lee overcame a knee injury to partner Alex Lawless in central midfield. Only Charlie Grainger in goal played for the O’s last season.
It was a cagey affair in the opening period with neither side troubling the opposing keeper. However it was the hosts who drew first blood when a ball behind the Orient back line found Craig Dundas. The U’s midfielder beat Joe Widdowson to the ball who slipped, in the process tripping Dundas; leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot. Jamie Collins stroked home to put Sutton ahead.
Orient were enjoying periods of possession but struggling to penetrate the Sutton defence. Paul Doswell’s side were using their National League knowledge, harassing Orient in possession. It was clear from the first half that Sutton were quicker, stronger and fitter than Orient but that was no real surprise.
The second ball was being won by Sutton all over the pitch with Craig Eastmond and Nicky Bailey winning the battle in midfield. The O’s fell two behind just after the half hour mark when Dean Beckwith slid the ball home from a Ross Lafayette cross.
With Sutton ahead at the break, it was up to Davis’s Orient to break down Dowell’s men but again the away side struggled. Orient’s build up play was slow with the lack of match fitness showing over the pitch. James Dayton tested Butler in the Sutton goal with Orient first attempt on goal after 65 minutes.
Davis introduced Josh Koroma, Craig Clay and Romauld Boco looking to find a route back into the game but despite gaining more control struggled to create any clear cut chances. Sutton saw the last minutes of the game to see off a comfortable and well deserved victory.
A loss in our first game of a new season, Is there anything to worry about? Remember this squad has been assembled in very quick time with many players still learning and moulding their relationships and partnerships on the pitch. Just over a month ago we had only ten senior pros at the clubs so it is clear to see that we are behind other teams.
Davis has pulled no punches that we are two weeks behind other teams, it was clearly evident today. Quicker, faster, stronger, fitter words used to describe Sutton but it will be a wake up call that it will be a battle this season.
Davis’s stated in his post match interview that he was disappointed we didn’t play more as we found it hard to break down Sutton. The clear point to conclude is Orient will play a large percentage of games with the majority of possession so breaking down teams is something Orient will need to improve on.
It’s one game in but I thought the substitutions came too late today, I would have liked to have seen Craig Clay earlier with the O’s moving to a midfield three as we struggled to pick up the second ball throughout the match.
But in Davis we trust, the most important thing is we have our club back, there was a time just a couple of months ago we were not sure that we would have a club. We are in good hands so patience will be key, stability is essential but how good does it feel to have OUR ORIENT BACK….
Roll on Tuesday, when we make our competitive return to Brisbane Road. #ourclub