A point gained, or two points lost?
I’d just about taken my seat for the Orient game when we went a goal down. It seems that the bone-numbing cold had failed to awaken our back four as the Londoners waltzed through straight from kick-off to open their account with Weston and company seemingly unaware that we’d started and thanks, in part, to a butter-fingered moment from Clayton.
Quite how he managed to spill what was hardly a rasper is anyone’s guess but he did, and that old familiar sinking feeling set in. From that first minute the absence of Mark Hughes and the discomfort of Manny Smith were there for all to see with the younger man apparently disconcerted by not having his regular partner in central defence beside him. It seems Hughes is one of those players who’re only really noticed when they’re not there because we missed him badly against the O’s – what an awful nickname that is – and we’re going to need him back soon to face opponents who’ll be far better than the mediocre side we faced on Saturday.That first minute lapse turned out not to be an isolated incident and it wasn’t too long before we went further behind when our disjointed rearguard again looked on as a scuffed cross-shot was made into a perfect pass by the lurking Mkandawire as the back four looked on expecting someone else to do something. Our Keystone Cops defending didn’t end there but we were fortunate to be facing opponents every bit as inept as ourselves. Had we faced a quality team we might have been thrashed out of sight by half-time. Deeney and Byfield plugged away manfully up-field but got little or no support and the visitors’ travelling faithful must have been rubbing their hands together in glee at the thought of an away win to take into the festive season.
However, all was not lost as the Chairmans’ master-stroke had very much the desired effect. Getting Noddy Holder in to do the half-time team talk was a truly inspired move. How could the players fail to be motivated by having ol’ Leather Lungs holler at them? My shouted suggestion that he bring himself on in the second half fell on deaf ears but how great would it have been to see him shuffling around in midfield, using those famous platform-soled boots to clobber any opponent within hoofing distance? He’d have been an improvement on what we’d had inflicted on us so far…… Whatever was said had apparently fired the players up and Till’s inviting cross was headed home,George Andrews-style, by the Troy-boy, again before we’d had time to get comfortable. From then on it seemed inevitable that we’d equalise with Orient looking stunned by the way we’d come out of the blocks at the re-start. We levelled the score with a goal that’ll be credited to Deeney but which was helped by a huge deflection to send the keeper the wrong way.
Why, then did we take our foot off the gas as soon as parity was restored? Orient were there for the taking and another two or three goals would likely have come had we just continued in the same manner. With a trio of very tough games facing us during the holiday surely it was imperative that we win this game. We got one chance to do so and the Dazzler must still be wondering just how he managed to place a tame lob into the keepers’ arms when he seemed to have time enough to stop to tie his laces before shooting. That was our one big opportunity come and gone but there was still time for us to almost lose when their bloke hoofed a shot over the bar when it seemed he couldn’t miss.
So, we still haven’t beaten Orient at our place since 84/5, one of those ridiculous stats that has no rhyme or reason to it, the opportunity was there in the second half on Saturday but we wasted it. A few weeks ago I was saying how things seemed to be improving a little bit at a time but it seems that mid-table is where we’re destined to be for this season at least. If we can take four points from the visits of Norwich and Charlton then maybe we’ll still be in touch with the upper regions of the league table, hardly seems likely though, does it?
Was this a case of a point gained, or one of two points lost? The latter I think. Orient, on the evidence of this game at least, are not a good team and are one we should have been able to put to the sword if we’re serious about a shot at the play-offs. A bit of solidity in defence should come with the return of Hughes and it should be said that Saturday did provide a positive point or two. Firstly the fact that we couldn’t rely on Steve Jones to supply our main goal threat but still netted a couple of times and, secondly, the outstanding second half display from Troy Deeney, who gave a superb performance of all-round centre-forward play, something he might have managed during the first half if we’d just been able to get the ball up front a bit more…..
…and finally, a merry Christmas and a happy new year to all six of my regular readers. You really ought to get out more…