Leyton Orient suffered defeat in their first competitive match of the Francesco Becchetti era. Newly promoted Chesterfield ruined Orient’s opening day as they won by two goals to nil. First Romuald Boco opened the scoring for the visitors, then Eoin Doyle doubled the Spireits advantage in the second half. Darius Henderson had an impact as a second-half substitute and he managed to grab a debut goal, but Orient couldn’t find an equaliser and so for them the season opener ended in defeat. Russell Slade handed full debuts to Adam Legzdins, Bradley Pritchard and Shane Lowry, while fellow new arrivals Jay Simpson, Jobi McAnuff, Darius Henderson and Gary Woods all had to settle for a place on the bench. Scott Cuthbert and Chris Dagnall missed out through injury.
The O’s had produced some neat passing football at Brisbane Road in their last two friendlies against QPR and Ipswich, but there were no signs of that composure in the early stages against Chesterfield. The home side were struggling to settle and the visitors took advantage of that to take the lead with just seven minutes on the clock.
A long range shot spun up off the foot of Mathieu Baudry and miscommunication between Lowry and Clarke meant neither dealt with the danger which allowed Boco to slide in and divert the ball into the corner of Adam Legzdins’s goal.
Conceding did little to spark life into the hosts and they could easily have been 2-0 down after 15 minutes. This time Omozusi and Baudry appeared to be on different wavelengths and Doyle broke forward after dispossessing Omozusi. The Chesterfield striker made his way into the box and managed to chip the ball over the on-rushing Legzdins, only to denied a goal by the upright.
Mid-way through the half, Orient had a string of good opportunities to draw level. The first came from a quick Lloyd James freekick that left Mooney in on goal behind the flat-footed Chesterfield back line. The Irishman managed to get a shot away, prodding the ball towards goal just before he was closed down, but Tommy Lee was able to get a hand down low to his left to keep the ball out.
The Spireites stopper was soon needed again, this time to deny Dean Cox and Kevin Lisbie in quick succession. James had retained the ball following a repelled cross and the playmaker slipped a neat pass into the box for Cox. The Orient winger forced Lee to parry the ball which then cannoned off Lisbie and back into the Chesterfield goalkeeper’s arms.
Orient were looking threatening going forward. An Elliot Omozusi cross flashed wide off the head of Pritchard and Lisbie then headed wide from a free-kick.However, at the other end Doyle and Mark Roberts were keeping the O’s defence on their toes.
The O’s also had penalty appeal turned down before crafting their best chance of the half. Lisbie had little time to react to the earlier opportunity follow Cox’s effort, but the experienced striker really should have scored with less than ten minutes of the half remaining. Lee failed to claim Nathan Clarke’s cross due to an aerial challenge from Baudry and Lisbie reacted first, however he shot straight at the ‘keeper who was then able to collect.
After a poor start, Orient had managed to regroup and they really should have gone in level at the break.
Orient continued to search for a equaliser after the interval, but they were almost caught out on the counter attack. Roberts nicked the ball from Nathan Clarke and advanced forward before squaring the ball to Eoin Doyle who was shut out by a good save from Legzdins.
On the hour new signings Jobi McAnuff and Jay Simpson were introduced in a bid to draw level, but Orient didn’t really look a threat until Darius Henderson came off the bench with twenty minutes remaining.
Henderson’s hold up play and aerial dominance helped the O’s to get the ball into attacking areas, however they still found it difficult to trouble the Chesterfield ‘keeper.
At the other end of the pitch, the O’s defence still looked shaky. Nathan Clarke had to handle the ball to prevent Chesterfield from being through on goal, and the Orient captain was perhaps fortunate to get away with a yellow card. Then, just three minutes later the ball was lofted over Clarke again, this time leaving Doyle one-on-one with Legzdins. The Spireites striker lifted the ball over Legzdins on the bounce and although the O’s stopper got a hand to the ball he couldn’t prevent the visitors’ second goal.
The O’s pulled a goal back in the 83rd minute. Dean Cox fired a free-kick through the wall. Lee couldn’t hold the shot, and Henderson was on hand to put the ball over the line from close range to record his first Orient goal.
Russell Slade’s side kept the pressure up, with Cox providing a couple of teasing crosses for Henderson, but they couldn’t get the vital second goal.
[textmarker color=”F20A0A” type=”background color”]Post-Match Thoughts[/textmarker]
Orient were a shadow of the side that performed so well last season, or even of the team that controlled possession for long spells against Championship opposition during pre-season. However, it is clear that the team will need time to develop the necessary cohesion. The squad at the start of last term was very much a continuation of the squad that ended the previous campaign, whereas this time around they are a number of new faces.
While the new signings were no worse than any of the more established players, the unfamiliarity between old and new players led to a disjointed performance. The defence were notably less assured, however with Lowry coming in, Omozusi switching to right back and a new goalkeeper behind them there were always likely to be teething problems. There was disruption in the midfield too. Pritchard is a different player to Odubajo for example and it will take time for players to learn their teammates’ games and the runs they make etc.
Credit must also go to Chesterfield. They worked hard and pressed Orient with energy, often forcing mistakes. The attacking play from Roberts and Doyle on the counter was also so effective that after scoring, Chesterfield didn’t need to commit too many players forward too often. Roberts was particularly effective in the space between the O’s defence and midfield. To combat this James and Vincelot often dropped deeper in the second half to restrict the space, however this meant that there was little pressure on the two central midfielders.
Chesterfield’s centre back pairing of Cooper and Evatt were dominant in the air against Lisbie and Mooney, however they found life much more difficult against Henderson who is far better equipped to compete in the air. The target man was able to provide a focal point for Orient’s attacks and his use of direct passes up to him made him ideal for Orient who at that stage were chasing the game.
Although the performance was sub-par for an Orient side that contained many players that raised the bar last season, the O’s had three very good chances to score in the first half, and if Lisbie, Cox or Mooney had been able to convert their chances the hosts could have been ahead at the break.
Looking at the game from that perspective, along with the fact that McAnuff, Henderson and Simpson are all yet to gain full fitness, there are reasons to be positive about Orient’s prospects this season.
After suffering defeat on the opening day, Orient will now travel to Plymouth for the first round of the League Cup on Tuesday night, before visiting Oldham next Saturday.