Year Founded: 1881
Division: League Two (England)
Stadium: Brisbane Road
Rivals: West Ham, Southend, Brentford, Dag & Red
After taking a year off from FM (heretical, I know), I'm jumping back into the fold with Leyton Orient. Hoping to take them from near the bottom of the English pyramid (League Two) to... well, let's start with League One shall we?
Leyton Orient, the team with two dragons as their crest.
Overview: After a reasonable pre-season, The O's were ready to get their League Two season underway. With no transfer budget to speak of, I wanted to see what I actually had to work with before making too many moves.
The loan exception was strengthening the left back position, which was lacking in depth, but also talent. To try and address this we acquired 20-year old Liverpool prospect Joe Maguire.
Nothing to be too excited about, but significantly stronger than the alternatives of Josh Doherty and the now-injured Callum Kennedy.
This would be the only change to the Leyton Orient squad prior to season kickoff on August 6th.
League Two - Matchday 1: Cheltenham v Leyton Orient
Frustrating start to the season here where we were definitively outplayed in the final third. We held the majority of possession (58%), but seemed unable or unwilling to do anything with it. Tactical changes in the second half, or perhaps a lack of fitness allowed Cheltenham to grab the lead in the 65th minute before a more aggressive tactic to try and pull level resulted in the host club netting two more goals before full-time. Zero shots on target simply won't do, but back to the drawing board ahead of our second match. There were no real standout performances, but if it had to go to anyone it would be our central midfielder Zan Benedicic as he completed 60 of his 70 passes and made a total of 13 interceptions in the midfield.
There was a lack of creative and skilled wingplay in the final third and our defensive midfielder Liam Kelly really seemed to struggle in the 4-3-3 with two attacking wingers and a defensive midfielder. Despite my dislike for it, this squad may be more suited to a traditional 4-4-2 until I can bring in more of my own personnel.
EFL Cup - Round 1: Reading v Leyton Orient
We were certainly overmatched by Reading, but put in a good shift at the defensive end of the field and managed to hold on until it came to penalties. Keeper Alex Cisak was absolutely massive as he carried over his great form from the 120 minutes of open play to the shootout where he saved two of the five shots he faced, while another was launched over the bar. I wasn't expecting to advance in this competition, but it certainly pleased the fans and the board.
League Two - Matchday 2: Leyton Orient v Newton
Certainly more upsetting than our season opener. This time in front of our home supporters, we managed a whopping 16 shots with only 3 finding the target, while Newport was limited in their chances, but was able to slip one by Cisak early on in the 9th minute before dropping into a defensive shell. What was really frustrating was that pre-match we identified Rhys Healey as the major offensive threat and I made sure that we paid extra attention to him in our game planning, but he would burn us within the first 10 minutes.
We did move to the 4-4-2 for this match and it seemed to work better, so we'll try and keep this in place moving forward and hope that, despite the result, we can continue the positive play.
League Two - Matchday 3: Leyton Orient v Stevenage
Well, we scored - finally. A missed penalty in the 9th minute made it feel like this club was doomed to never hit the back of the net, but club captain Robbie Weir put us up 1-0 in the 43rd minute capping off a wonderful move that linked nearly 20 passes together in its buildup. However, Stevenage striker Keinan Davis was to ruin the evening with a brace that saw The O's drop their third consecutive league game and find themselves alone at the bottom of the table, the sole club that has failed to earn a point through 3 matches.
League Two - Matchday 4: Grimsby v Leyton Orient
A point! Although we can ill-afford to continue this slow start to the season, I'll take this point and run with it. It was a fairly even match, but rather drab with plenty of fouls and lots of yellows for both sides. Overall, the defensive side of the ball has been encouraging throughout, it's just hard to hold off an opposition for 90 minutes. It's the offensive struggles that have been really worrisome, with a lack of creativity in the final 3rd and absolutely no ability to finish. There may need to be some changes, but with a lack of talent at the club, I'm not sure what choices I really have in terms of selection.
EFL Cup Round 2: Burnley v Leyton Orient
An expected result and one that I can't exactly be upset about. Although Burnley certainly aren't giants of the Premiership, we were clearly outmatched and outclassed here. Burnley scored three in the first 40 minutes and then we were able to actually put in a good shift in the second half and generate some half-chances, but ultimately failed to find the back of the net (again). This was also, for the most part, a reserve lineup as I gave some much needed time off to anyone who I had a serviceable backup for.
League Two - Matchday 5: Leyton Orient v Mansfield
Starting to get a little fed up now. We had good chances, had some promising attacking moves, but the majority of our shots were blocked, including a shot from just outside the 6 yard box. My striker pairing of Jay Simpson and Jordan Bowery have been woefully ineffective and it may be time for a change. Up to this point I was looking at the service they were receiving, but a single goal (scored by our midfielder) from 7 matches in simply unacceptable. We have our first group match in the Checkatrade Trophy competition coming up, so we'll try send some new faces to the front and see if things can change through a bit of experimentation in a non-league match.
EFL Trophy - Group Match 1: Luton v Leyton Orient
Goals! We were shockingly dominated in terms of shots and chances (28-8), but managed to find 3 goals for ourselves. We held more possession and Luton were simply firing from everywhere, but Alex Cisak made some brilliant saves throughout the match to keep us in line to win a point. Paul McCallum was our newcomer up front to act as a supporting Target Man to Jay Simpson's Poacher role and he found his first goal of the season within 5 minutes.
Luton would find themselves with a 3-1 lead at the 70th minute and a substitution that removed Simpson seemed to inspire the squad. McCallum moved into the Poacher role and Ollie Palmer filled the role as the Target Man up front. With Palmer standing 6'5'' and McCallum at 6'3'', they are a difficult physical matchup and it proved to unsettle the Luton defense as McCallum find the back of the net two more times to complete his hat-trick and secure a draw for Leyton Orient. Despite the disappointing month, this may be the lone bright spot moving forward and the combination of McCallum and Palmer will get a chance to win spots in the Starting XI against Morecambe in League Two.
We're out of the EFL Cup and sitting very uncomfortably at the bottom of the League Two table with only a single point from five matches.
After a dreadfully disappointing August it was pivotal for the club to respond and put in a good shift for the month of September. With expectations of promotion at the onset of the season any further struggles could result in Leyton Orient quickly falling out of contention. A promising attacking performance at the end of August gave the club some confidence prior to travelling to Morecambe looking for their first league win of the season.
League Two - Matchday 6: Morecambe v Leyton Orient
A vital turnaround by the club as they were able to put three past Morecambe while keeping a clean sheet at the back. Ollie Palmer made good use of the faith I put in him after his strong cup performance and put us ahead 1-0 early on with a tidy finish in the 15th minute. Substitutes Michael Collins and Jordan Bowery would add to the tally to secure a much needed victory.
Surprisingly, our starting midfield duo of Benedicic (international duty) and Robbie Weir (suspensioN) were both unavailable for this match, so picking up a win with a number of different players was great to see.
League Two - Matchday 7: Carlisle v Leyton Orient
Palmer and McCallum were given another run out after their strong offensive performance in the cup game, but were unable to get anything going against Carlisle. Down 1-0 at the halfway mark I decided to bring Jay Simpson back into the fold off the bench and he made his presence known as he tallied a goal and an assist to bring us back to secure our second consecutive victory of the season. He linked up with man-of-the-match Harry Cornick who also recorded a goal and an assist. The offense seems to be sorting itself out and being able to form a comeback in the final third of the game is a very encouraging sign moving forward. With both wins coming on the road, it is looking like the club may be ready to turn a corner and start a push towards their pre-season expectations.
League Two - Matchday 8: Leyton Orient v Leovil
Yeovil came with a bit of a different tactic that really clogged up the middle of the pitch. And although we aren't a very heavy possession team, it became very difficult to manufacture anything as the game was breaking down and lacking any attacking flow for either side. At half time I decided to move away from the 4-4-2 and back to my original 4-3-3 formation.
The idea here was to match up the manpower in the centre of the pitch and hope that the physical play-styles of Benedicic, Weir and Kelly would be able to win out and then distribute to the flanks where Cornick on the right and Massey/Semedo on the left could push forward to link up with Jay Simpson. And although we conceded off of an awkward broken setpiece in the 60th minute, the overall transition was a success as Simpson was able to grab a brace for himself and we were able to secure our third consecutive win.
League Two - Matchday 9: Notts Co v Leyton Orient
Because it worked, and because it appeals to me, I decided to stick with the 4-3-3 tactic. The result was obviously not what we wanted against a bottom table club, but the actual play was encouraging. We deserved better and if not for a stellar goalkeeping performance from Scott Loach and then a penalty given away in the 65th minute, there was no reason that we couldn't have brought our winning streak to 4. However, I won't get greedy, this kept us unbeaten in September and has helped us move into a strong mid-table position after starting at the very bottom.
League Two - Matchday 10: Leyton Orient v Plymouth
Two matches in four days had us look a little less inspired going forward. Another strong defensive performance kept the cleansheet and our unbeaten month intact, but failing to secure 3 points against the 24th place club was certainly disappointing. I gave Nigel Atangana the start ahead of Benedicic (to save his legs in the midst of a busy stretch of the schedule) after Atangana had been complaining about a lack of playing time and although he was far from terrible, he was quite far off the performance that I've come to expect from my deep lying playmakers. I brought Benedicic on for Weir and moved Atangana into a ball winning role where he seemed more comfortable, but Atangana will have to remain patient or he'll likely be moved in the winter transfer period as I don't have any room for people upsetting the fairly fragile morale of this underachieving club.
A strong month helped to wash away the taste of an abysmal August as we were able to climb from 24th to 13th. Scoring is still an issue with only 9 goals in 10 matches, but our defensive work has been some of the best in the league, conceding only 10 in our 10 matches as well. The only concern is that the schedule for September was fairly easy, mostly playing mid-table and bottom table clubs. So, we got the points where we should have, but whether or not this club can carry this form into the tougher matchups later on remains to be seen.
Let me know if there's certain things you'd like to see beyond match summaries!
One terrible month, one great month. It was anyone's guess as to how Leyton Orient would fair in their 3rd month of the 2016/2017 season. Tough matchups against Portsmouth, Crewe and Hartlepool (all top 7 clubs) would really test the mettle of Leyton Orient to determine whether the strong showing in September was only due to the weakness of their competition.
League Two - Matchday 11: Barnet v Leyton Orient
The team played well and we certainly deserved to win. Entering half-time we had a comfortable 1-0 lead, controlling more of the ball and having the better looks at goal, the game felt well in hand. This continued throughout the 2nd half until a stray backpass to Alex Cisak led to one of the most bizarre own goals I've ever seen. The pass came back to Cisak and with the Barnet striker closing him down he fired it off the post and in to his own net. Partially due to my own frustration, I opted for a more attack oriented mentality, which as the visiting club was like a mistake as we would concede the winner in the 89th minute and drop a very frustrating game.
EFL Trophy - Group Match 2: Leyton Orient v West Brom U23s
Especially due to our struggles in the league, I could not care less about this competition and have generally used it to rotate my squad and give needed breaks to some of my key players. We're a fairly young squad (average age of 24) so fatigue hasn't been an issue yet, but I don't want to push them too hard. Fairly pedestrian performance from both sides that yielded a total of only 12 shots attempted combined.
League Two - Matchday 12: Leyton Orient v Portsmouth
A textbook "bend, but don't break" performance from the club as we gave up plenty of chances, but they were mostly from a distance and we were able to hit them back on the counter. Jay Simpson has been in good form and opened the scoring in the 60th minute, while Harry Cornick sealed the victory in the 77th minute with a great volley from just inside the penalty area. Cornick has quietly become my best player this season, putting in consistent performances from the right wing. He has been crucial both for his finishing and his playmaking abilities and I have begun to run a lot of my attack through the right flank.
This was also impressive given, at the time, Portsmouth was top of the table. This may have broken them a bit though as they are now winless in their previous 5 matches and now sitting in 7th place.
League Two - Matchday 13: Leyton Orient v Luton
A strong performance that was never really in doubt. We held 60% of the possession and were not wasteful. Cornick continued his strong play with a brace bringing his total to 4 goals and 4 assists on the season. Although we only managed 10 shots, I was still happy with our movements as we controlled the ball and were patient, not wasting our chances and giving away possession to the opponent. Outside of Cornick, Joe Maguire has continued his strong play on loan from Liverpool at the left back position. He has been crucial to cementing our backline and with Callum Kennedy back healthy, I've been able to rotate Maguire and keep him fresh as his play was beginning to decline with the heavy workload of playing every 90 minutes.
League Two - Matchday 14: Hartlepool v Leyton Orient
I can't say we deserved to win this one, but it always hurts when you give up the lead to the opposition. And although Hartlepool equalised in the first half, it was during added time that completely changed my perception of the match heading in to half time. We were also without our star playmaker in Zan Benedicic who, after returning from another international break, injured his knee in training and will be sidelined for several weeks. Nigel Atangana had previously handed in a transfer request, so we'll see if his displeasure at not featuring in my starting XI was well founded as he will need to immediately slot into my starting lineup until Benedicic returns.
League Two - Matchday 15: Leyton Orient v Crewe
After knocking Portsmouth from the top of the league table we aimed to do the same to Crewe, but despite them going down to 10 men early in the second half, we were unable to manufacture a goal. A whopping 67% possession gave us ample time to carve apart the Crewe defense, but blocked shot after blocked shot kept us from adequately testing our keeper. With only ten shots attempted and none of them hitting the target, it's impossible to say we deserved a win, but having them under siege for the better part of 40 minutes felt like an eventual breakthrough was inevitable. The lack of shots is concerning, but I may need to look at individual instructions as I either instruct the team to work the ball into the box (which has limited our overall shots), or it seems the team starts firing wildly from anywhere within 30 yards of the goal.
Where September saw us take 11 of a possible 15 points in the league, October was a bit of a downturn as we only took 8 of a possible 15. Two difficult draws and a defeat prevented us from making much ground in the table, but we have cemented our presence in the middle of the table moving forward. And on a positive note, we are closer to the top than we are to the bottom, so hopefully we can use that to build some confidence as he head towards the halfway mark of the season. Ideally, by the winter break we'll be able to be in a playoff position and then try and find some way to strengthen the squad via the transfer window when it opens.
After a strong October, we found ourselves treading water in 13th place. Still a large improvement over our abysmal August that saw us sitting at the bottom of the table, but still a ways off of our seasonal expectations.
FA Cup - 1st Round: Barrow v Leyton Orient
We played well until we got our go-ahead goal. We were a little snake-bitten during the first half and the team looked a little complacent going against a smaller club. I have no idea why though, it's not like we're tearing up League Two! Anyway, after a stern halftime talk the club came out firing and secured a goal within the first 5 minutes. Then, it seemed, they brought down the intensity and sat back a bit (and I have to admit, I did as well). Barrow wasn't threatening, they weren't doing much with their possession and hadn't registered a shot... Until the 87th minute when it all fell apart. So, a draw in the 1st round of the FA Cup. I guess we'll at least get some revenue from the home replay.
EFL Trophy - Group Match 3: Leyton Orient v Charlton
I ran out a secondary lineup for this match with 8 of my starting 11 not being regulars. From the midfield out we looked pretty good. We controlled possession, manufactured some good chances, but the slight drop in overall talent seemed we were destined not to put too much on the scoreboard. At the defensive end we were woeful as we conceded two own goals and simply allowed Charlton to make far too much of the limited opportunities that they had. On the plus side, I didn't care much about this competition and can turn back to focusing on the league.
League Two - Matchday 16: Colchestor v Leyton Orient
Jay Simpson put us up one early on and Colchester controlled the match from there. I don't like over-reacting with my tactics, so I tried to fight to regain control of the match instead of turtling and playing to not lose rather than to win. Another conceded goal just before the halftime whistle threw everything up in the air and the team never really recovered. An injury to one (Zan Benedicic) and international duty for the other (Robbie Weir) left my central midfielder position fairly devastated. But Zan would hopefully be back soon, and Robbie made his first two appearances for his country, so I certainly can't be upset there.
FA Cup - 1st Round Replay: Leyton Orient v Barrow
That's more like it! Three goals before the half and we were able to coast through the second half, conceding one in the 68th minute (and I have to admit, I got a little scared). Barrow was down to 10 men after 35 minutes after two yellow cards (they accumulated 21 fouls over the course of the entire contest) and seemed to play very negatively now that they were the visiting squad. Ollie Palmer was the standout, scoring a brace in a span of 5 minutes including a beautiful strike from just outside the area. We reverted to our 4-4-2 to get some extra presence from our strikers and try and keep things simple against the (lower) lower league club. On to the next round against fellow League Two club Accrington!
League Two - Matchday 17: Leyton Orient v Blackpool
Blackpool truly are woeful. I actually was a little surprised to see how far they had fallen, and this game encapsulated their struggles perfectly. They couldn't get a sniff of the ball (or the net), failing to register a single shot on target. It was a fairly cynical match, but our club hero continued to produce as Harry Cornick tallied his 5th goal of the campaign to give us the tidy 1-0 victory.
League Two - Matchday 18: Leyton Orient v Exeter
As different as a match as you could believe from the Blackpool fixture, while registering the same scoreline. Fairly defensive, evenly contested with limited fouls and no cards. Harry Cornick once again hit the back of the net, this time in the 7th minute (he seems to be getting better every game). However, another victory brought us up to 12th in the table, and with the top half very congested, another win could bring us into a playoff position, or at least very near to one.
League Two - Matchday 19: Doncaster v Leyton Orient
Doncaster played some perfect counter-attacking football, particularly once we fell behind in this one. We traded tallies in the first 10 minutes before Doncaster were able to put 3 past us in under 10 minutes from the 55th to 64th minute. Particularly frustrating was after falling down 2-1, centreback Yvan Erichot was dispossessed just outside the box as he tried to dribble past Julien Ngoy (the man who just scored for Doncaster) as the last man. He lost the ball and Ngoy calmly put the ball into the back of the net and that was pretty much the end of the game there. We tried to push for a goal to put us back into it, but couldn't do much despite our 58% possession. A beautiful goal in the 83rd minute would close the books on our worst defeat of the season, and the month of November.
Two wins and two losses in the month of November left us in 15th place in League Two. Prior to the 5-1 thrashing in Doncaster, we were boasting one of the best defensive records in the entire league with only 15 conceded in 18 games. Our offence has been a bit of a struggle with only 19 goals through 19 contests, but we're still only 4 points from a playoff spot and 6 from automatic promotion. With the halfway mark of the season still in front of us I'm cautiously optimistic and hope to find some way of improving the squad (and my tactics) in the coming weeks.
A middling month of November ended with a devastating 5-1 thrashing. With only a short turnaround before The O's FA Cup second round matchup against Accrington, it would be important for the squad to regroup and collect themselves for an important push towards the re-opening of the transfer window. With some contracts expiring and loans coming to a close, this would be the last series of matches for players to prove themselves to their manager before crucial decisions would need to be made if Leyton Orient were to continue on their quest for promotion to League One.
FA Cup - 2nd Round: Leyton Orient v Accrington
An exciting first half would see Jay Simpson notch another brace for himself (feast or famine type of striker it seems). He was able to use his booming shot and size in the penalty area to outmatch the Accrington defence and scored on either side of Accrington's lone tally. Special mention to Zan Benedicic who provide two beautiful assists to put Simpson in to space who is beginning to find more room to impress upon the game in the advanced playmaker position.
An interesting note for this match was that as Accrington commits a fair number of players forward in their attack I opted for a 4-1-4-1. This left a concerning distance between my midfield and lone striker, but some special instructions to my two talented midfielders, Benedicic in the middle, and Cornick on the wing to get forward and link up with Simpson, we were able to be effective across the pitch.
League One - Matchday 20: Leyton Orient v Accrington
Not quite as exciting or successful as the prior matchup, but with only 5 days between these matches, it's easy to see why there wasn't as much intensity in the league rematch. It was a fairly pedestrian effort from both sides with strong defensive showings from both sides.
League One - Matchday 21: Wycombe v Leyton Orient
A fairly even matchup until Wycombe was reduced to 10-men after Aaron Pierre received his second yellow. Wycombe turned entirely defensive as they hoped to not lose the single point at home, but Jay Simpson rose to the occasion in the 86th minute to slot home a low cross from left winger Sandro Semedo. With Wycombe as one of the many clubs that we're chasing, this was a massive win, despite not rising too fire in the table, we keep pace with the top and continue to condense the middle of the table with the playoff positions.
League One - Matchday 22: Leyton Orient v Crawley
A rare goal glut from my offensively challenged squad. Who else but Cornick and Simpson to tally the goals as we easily overcome Crawley, sitting alone at the bottom of the table. The turning point was a very quick two-goal effort nearing the 70th minute as Cornick and Simpson traded efforts that put the game entirely out of reach. Forgot to mention this, but this served as the third consecutive appearance off the bench from club newcomer Teddy Mezague. Signed to the club before I took control, but suffering from a lengthy injury, he is finally back in the squad and capable of filling in at both centreback and the defensive midfield position. With strong physical and mental attributes, he will be a great addition to solidifying the club down the middle of the pitch.
League One - Matchday 23: Leyton Orient v Cambridge
Another club that we're chasing in the table, Cambridge didn't look ready or willing to win this one and were only able to direct 5 shots towards goal. We didn't fair exceedingly better with 5 shots of our 13 being on target, but with many from a distance and a strong performance from Will Norris, we were held scoreless and unable to climb any further than 10th in the tables in our final game of 2016 on New Years Eve.
A win the FA Cup (where will face Arsenal - it was a good run), and then two wins and two draws in the league led to a fairly successful month of December. Although we're sitting in 10th, we are locked in a tie with 5 other clubs (including 6th place Portsmouth). Only 3 points out of 2nd, we are certainly within striking distance and have put ourselves in a great position (considering the quality of our start in August - and yes, I'm going to lean on that crutch until we secure promotion).