Saturday, 28 December 2013

2013/14 - a mid-season review

With Orient defying the odds and still riding high at the top of the table at the halfway point of the season, I thought in my first blog I’d take a look back at some of the high points of the season, some of the not-so-high points, and do my best to try and predict what could be in store for the second half of the season.

The Highs

Where do I start? Orient were setting records left, right and centre at the start of the season - winning the first 8 games in the league. In fact in all competitions, Orient only failed to beat their opposition inside 90 minutes once in 11 matches, in a League Cup tie at home to Premier League side Hull City. 

This has been a season of firsts. Orient winning their first game of the season for the first time since records began for instance. Wins at Brentford, Colchester and Gillingham also brought to an end a run stretching back to the last millennium where we left without all 3 points. We even won on Boxing Day!

For so long during that historic winning start, it was suggested that Orient were yet to play any of the teams with real quality. Superb away wins, firstly in our cup final at Brentford in front of the Sky cameras, and again at Peterborough, soon brought an end to that. Now other fans are insisting Orient will “do a Tranmere”. Still, there’s no sign of us losing 4-0 at home just yet. 

Something else that has stood out this season is the team’s ability to mix up their playing style when they need to. So often this season Orient have been written off only to see off those doubters by putting in a now typically gritty display, a type of display not seen since John Sitton uttered the phrase “fuck the technical shit”. Thankfully, this Orient team haven’t abandoned their technical prowess and have the ability to grind out results when they need to. There have been many times this season where the points that Orient have picked up have come from when they found themselves behind in the game.  A 5th consecutive clean sheet against Graham Westley at Stevenage and the recent win at Gillingham epitomising this new found playing style perfectly.

On an individual basis, it’s been fantastic to see so many players hit some great form. In particular Elliot Omozusi and Lloyd James. The sight of these players on the team sheet last season often came with groans, but the faith shown in these players by Slade has really been rewarded. I mean, hands up who thought James would score a goal of the season contender this year. Omozusi has been a class act since his return to the club, despite playing out of his more favourable role at right back, he’s linked up with Clarke, Baudry and Cuthbert to form one of the best defences in the division. 

The Lows

In a buck to Orient tradition, there haven’t been many disappointments so far this season. Yes Orient’s home form could be better, and yes we seem to have converted into the England National side when it comes to penalties at the moment but hopefully these are just temporary blips. 

Even in defeat this season there have still been positives that can be taken. At no point this season can it be said that the team have rolled over. Defeats against Coventry and Crawley, although disappointing, have shown that the team still play to the final whistle.

In cup competitions, so far the only real disappointments have come about from the people who actually conduct the draw. We haven’t really been blessed with favourable ties in the 3 major tournaments (I’m including the Johnstone’s Tin Pot Cup in amongst those). For a while, it seemed the only team Orient were allowed to play in domestic competitions was Coventry City. Apart from losing to man who is more akin to something you’d find in the grocery aisle at your local convenience store, so far this season there really hasn’t been too much for O’s fans to be gloomy about in cup competitions. An early exit in the Johnstone’s Paint was met with some relief after the distractions that came with last year’s run to the area final, and with a winnable tie away at Yeovil in the 3rd round of the FA Cup and with it setting up the possibility of a money spinning 4th round tie to boost the coffers, there’s still plenty to be excited about.

Steve Bruce

What’s to come?

Well, out of the 23 games Orient have played so far - only 10 have been at home. So with 13 out of the remaining 23 games to be played at home, this could give us a slight advantage going into the 2nd half of the season. Will it? Who knows, this is Orient we are talking about after all. But with Slade’s sides usually getting stronger as the season goes on, and with some key players to return to form and fitness there’s no reason Orient can’t sustain their automatic promotion challenge. We will need some luck with injuries and suspensions, but with the January transfer window just around the corner, with the higher attendances this season there will hopefully be some money for Slade to invest in the squad.

So what areas need strengthening? With Jamie Jones out for a few months, an experienced loan signing is key. Jake Larkins looked solid enough at Gillingham, but with so many games to come, the absence of a senior goalkeeper could be critical. I also feel we need another centre midfielder with creativity as back up to James. A versatile defender in the mould of Syam Ben Youssef would be a useful addition too.

One thing is for sure, we’re in for an exciting end to the season!

Thanks for reading, up the O’s!

Follow me on Twitter! - @lauriehann

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