Leyton Orient 0-1 Cheltenham Town From Brisbane Road
There’s a notable dearth of optimism around Leyton Orient FC these days, and this hopelessness was plain to see as Cheltenham Town came to Brisbane Road for a relegation six-pointer. There should have been an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation ahead of this game, and yet the home support did not even muster one chant or song for their team at a time when it was most needed.
This despondency stems from the fact that Orient, a club who two years ago only narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship by losing the play-off final at Wembley, now find themselves languishing at the foot of the Football League, propped up only by Newport County in League Two.
Shortly after that Wembley defeat, long term owner Barry Hearn sold his majority share in the club to Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti. Since then, the club has been in a consistent downward spiral, as constant managerial changes have stripped the club of the stability and assurance instilled by former boss Russell Slade in the early 2010s.
Now under the stewardship of Danny Webb, the clubs fortunes are yet to turn around, as they continue to battle against the prospect of dropping out of the Football League for the first time in their history. Perhaps then it’s understandable that Orient fans hold little hope for their side despite the fact that Gary Johnson’s Cheltenham Town sit only two places and three points ahead of them in League Two.
The quality of individuals in Orient’s team belies their league position, and the home side came out of the blocks the fastest this afternoon, as the menacing Josh Koroma set up striker Daniel Massey who was denied twice in quick succession by on loan Cheltenham keeper Scott Brown. This was to become a familiar theme throughout the afternoon as Orient struggled to convert their opportunities – midfielder Nigel Atangana saw his sidefoot volley saved by Brown also.
The inevitable sucker punch came midway through the first half, as Cheltenham midfielder Carl Winchester fired a low shot into the bottom corner of Sam Sargeant’s goal, sparking jubilation amongst the modest away support, and further exasperation from the home crowd. It was the Northern Irishman’s first goal for the Robins, having arrived in January from Oldham.
Orient’s best chance of the half fell to Koroma just before half-time, but the winger lashed his effort agonisingly over the crossbar when he should really have hit the target, again inciting howls of derision from the home support.
Cheltenham started the brighter after the restart, as Kyle Wootoon drove a low shot narrowly wide of the far post, before Sargeant was forced into an acrobatic stop to deny Winchester his second of the game.
Against the run of play, though, Orient were handed a lifeline. Massey went down just inside the area under minimal contact and Nigel Miller immediately pointed to the penalty spot. It was left back Callum Kennedy who was handed the chance to draw his side level, but once again Brown had other ideas, springing low to his left to parry Kennedy’s admittedly unconvincing spot kick.
The home side seemed to lose belief from that point on, and Cheltenham pressed for a second goal. The visitors found most joy on the left wing, where Liam Davis terrorised young Orient right back Myles Judd all afternoon. Sargeant got down well to save Davis’ low shot, and deny the attacker the goal his performance deserved.
There was still time for Orient winger Sandro Semedo to sting the palms of Brown with a venomous long range effort, but in truth the home side never looked like equalising after the disappointment of the missed penalty. Cheltenham held on to secure their fourth away win of the season, rising to 19th place in League Two, where they can breathe a little easier now six points clear of the relegation zone.
For Orient, they remain 23rd, three points adrift of Hartlepool ahead of them, as the threat of relegation begins to become a distinct possibility. This was a performance littered with mistakes, lapses in concentration, and mix-ups among teammates. If Leyton Orient are to get out of this mess and stay up then they need to improve on the basics. On paper, they have a squad that shouldn’t be anywhere near the foot of League Two. On the pitch though – based on today’s showing – they leave a lot to be desired, and Danny Webb has a lot of work to do if he is to preserve this great club’s place in the Football League.