Leyton Orient have started their 2012/13 League One campaign with two defeats in a row after losing their first home game of the season by a goal to nil against Stevenage. Mid-way through the first half Lucas Akins put the visitors ahead and that would prove to be enough to seal the win on a bad night for the O’s. Orient struggled to create opportunities to grab an equaliser. Michael Symes almost rescued a point for the home side and Nathan Clarke also came close to leveling the score late on, but the O’s did not deserve anything from the game and Stevenage will be happy with all three points.
It was a drab opening to the game with neither side posing much of a goal threat. Gary Sawyer tested Stevenage goalkeeper Chris Day from a free-kick, but that was the only action of note in the first twenty minutes. However, Orient soon found themselves a goal down. The home side failed to clear a Luke Freeman free-kick allowing Lucas Akins to drill a shot from the edge of the area, through a crowd of players and beyond Jamie Jones. Ten minutes later Michael Symes had a chance to level the score. Lloyd James’ cross found the ex-Bournemouth striker at the far post, and he tried to guide his header back across the keeper, but the ball ended up going wide of the post. The referee drew the half to a close with Orient a goal down and with little sign of equalising.
The second half began with the home side claiming a penalty. Mathieu Baudry drove into the box before going down and the O’s felt the Frenchman had been pushed but the referee dismissed the appeals. The away side then had chances to wrap the game up. First a swift counter attack led to a low shot towards Jones’ goal but the effort missed the target. Then on the hour mark Marcus Haber came close to scoring but he could not keep his header down. Six minutes later Orient had their first shot on target of the second half when David Mooney teed up Symes for a shot but it was comfortably saved. Moses Odubajo came on and his pace presented a new threat to the Stevenage back-line. Mooney had been pushed further forward and he should have done better with his shot from just outside the area moments later. With time ticking away Orient showed more urgency, even pushing Nathan Clarke further forward in their desperation for a equaliser. Chris Day had to stretch and palm a Symes header away from goal, and Clarke shaved the post with a header in the closing minutes, but it was too little too late for Orient as Stevenage emerged victorious.
Orient were without key players Scott Cuthbert and Kevin Lisbie for the visit of Stevenage. Russell Slade went with a 4-1-4-1 formation, however this was far too defensive for a home game against Stevenage and it was a key reason behind the poor performance. Perhaps the plan was to keep things tight at the back after conceding three goals at the weekend, but that went out of the window when Orient conceded after 23 minutes. Mooney is not a winger, therefore after going a goal behind, it may have been better to have switched to 4-4-2. When Slade implemented that system in the second half, the O’s did improve, with Odubajo’s pace on the wing causing more problems for Stevenage’s defence.
Like it or not, it seems Orient will employ a direct style this season, but in order for that to work the target man needs support. In the first half Michael Symes was very isolated, meaning he had no-one to flick the ball onto. In the second half Jimmy Smith was pushed further forward before being replaced by Odubajo, with Mooney partnering Symes up-front. This change led to Orient’s best spell in the game. Having said that the home side’s late attacks still relied on desperate crosses and long balls into the box at any opportunity. If this direct approach is to work, Orient will need to be more sophisticated than simply launching the ball towards their strikers. A mix of styles as seen in patches against Charlton could be more successful.
Slade on Stevenage Match
“We needed a little bit more courage and I thought we got that in the second half when we got on top and we created chances to at least get back in the game and get something out of it, that’s for sure.”
“We dealt with the first one and we had a chance to clear it but didn’t quite clear it. It’s a shot that’s straight at the goalkeeper but I think he struggled to see it. It’s gone straight through his legs but it seems to happen to us.”
“It’s frustrating in the end, we’ve driven them back and they’re defending on their own penalty spot in the last 10 to 15 minutes.
“But perhaps we lacked that little bit of guile, that streetwise-ness in terms of turning that pressure into goals.
“Sometimes the simple ball is better than the long ball and the selection of the pass is important. Sometimes we didn’t make the right selection in order to get ourselves in a better position to score a goal.
“You have to give your opposition some credit for coming here, scoring that early goal and making it very difficult for you.
“We know Stevenage won a lot of games last season 1-0 and we knew it would be difficult to break down.
“It was there for us to break down, we did our very best but we lacked that bit of guile to do something that was important – score a goal.”
“We’ve worked so incredibly hard, we have to keep our heads up and be positive as we go into the next game.
“Losing again makes you feel sick, but you have to be strong and bounce back, that’s what it’s all about in football.
“There’s a chance Kev will be back for the weekend too. It’s certainly not as severe as Scott Cuthbert so we’re hopeful.”