Ian Hendon did not make the winning start that he would have wanted as Orient lost against Braintree by two goals to one, but the playing time and match fitness were the real priorities. Alessandro Aneglieri and Francesco Becchetti were in attendance as the O’s slipped to defeat late on. Paul McCallum made an immediate impact for his new club as he put the O’s in front after 18 minutes. However, Braintree were awarded a penalty with ten minutes of the first half remaining, which Kenny Davis scored. It looked like the match would end in a draw until Sean Marks headed past Charlie Grainger two minutes from time.
Orient’s first half lineup included summer signings Sean Clohessy, Blair Turgott and Paul McCallum as well as four trialists. Hendon also used the first half as an opportunity to take a look at four trialists believed to be Dover centre back Connor Essam, former West Ham left back Frazer Shaw, former Southend central midfielder Alex Woodyard and former Stevenage striker Francois Zoko. However the club have not revealed the names of the trialists.
Shane Lowry was not at the game and Ian Hendon later revealed the Australian wants to leave the club.
The match started at a high tempo considering it was both sides’ first outing of pre-season. The O’s saw more of the ball than the hosts but Braintree were quick to press, which made for a competitive game.
Orient fashioned the first chance of the game when Blair Turgot found Paul McCallum with a cross from the right flank. McCallum headed the ball back across goal towards the the top corner but the Braintree goalkeeper made the save.
At the other end Braintree tested Gary Woods with shots from outside the box but they were comfortably saved by the Orient stopper.
The O’s were looking most threatening from the right as Clohessy got forward to link up with Turgott. The Orient right back whipped in a cross for McCallum but Braintree ‘keeper Nathan McDonald punched the ball away from the striker. It fell to Lloyd James but his attempt was headed to safety by an Iron defender.
Orient made the breakthrough after 18 minutes. Dean Cox fired the ball towards goal and Paul McCallum reacted quickly to apply a simple finish from close range before the Braintree ‘keeper could get there.
Braintree were not disheartened by going behind and soon after the goal Kenny Davis tested Woods, forcing him to stretch to push the ball wide.
The visitors threatened again as Cox tried his luck once more from the edge of the area. McDonald couldn’t hold the shot and Frazer Shaw kept the attack alive with a cross to the far post. Turgott controlled the ball and delivered a low cross which was cut out just before it reached McCallum.
The Iron were handed the chance to equalise shortly before the interval as they were awarded a penalty. The O’s had been caught out on their right side and the visitors low cross caused problems. Shaw was judged to have nudged the Braintree striker to prevent him from getting on the end of the delivery and the referee pointed to the spot, but the decision was harsh on Orient.
Braintree captain Kenny Davis stepped up and Woods guessed the wrong way. The score remained 1-1 at the break.
Hendon fielded a different team for the second half, apart from Essam, who was eventually replaced by Sam Ling on the hour. The second XI included another trailist in central midfield who is thought to be former Gillingham and Dagenham & Redbridge player Luke Howell. Travelling Orient fans were also given their first glimpse of new additions Sammy Moore and Ollie Palmer.
Jay Simpson made a bright start to the half on Orient’s left flank as he carved out a couple of opportunities, one of which saw his deflected shot dip just over the Braintree crossbar.
However, Braintree continued to threaten. Jordan Cox connected with a cross but Charlie Grainger got down well to keep out the Braintree forward’s powerful header.
The O’s continued to search for their second goal of the game. Bradley Pritchard led a counter attack, advancing into the opposition’s half before slipping the ball to Simpson in the right channel. The former Arsenal man tried to deliver a low cross to Palmer and Kashket who were in support, but his pass was defelected into the arms of the Braintree ‘keeper.
The hosts continued to work Grainger. The young Orient ‘keeper bravely opted to dive at the feet of Sean Marks to smother his shot and Grainger picked up a knock for his trouble.
Kashket almost managed to put the O’s ahead going into the latter stages. A nice team move allowed the O’s to thread the ball through to Kashket in the area and the youngster almost managed to drag the ball around the ‘keeper, however Braintree recovered and scrambled the ball clear.
It was another slice of misfortune that cost the O’s. Billy Gibson’s shot took a deflection and looped toward the far post when Sean Marks was on hand to head home, sealing a 2-1 win for the home side.
Obviously it is difficult to judge players after just 45 minutes of football, therefore the following offers initial impressions of players. Judgements are likely to be different when players gain fitness and the squad has had time to gel.
Gary Woods: Mostly forced to make routine saves, one particularly good save. Didn’t have a great deal to do.
Sean Clohessy: Eager to get forward and often overlapped Turgott. A couple of good deliveries from the right. Caught out of position in the build up to Braintree’s penalty.
Mathieu Baudry: Gave the ball away on a couple of occasions in the early stages but other than that he was solid.
Connor Essam: Good last-ditch tackle in the early stages. Reasonably solid. Orient found it more difficult defensively after he went off in the second half.
Frazer Shaw: Appeared to have potential. Out of position on occasion but used his considerable pace to recover well. Comfortable going forward and combined pretty well with Cox. Committed the ‘foul’ for the ‘penalty’.
Blair Turgott: Showed good feet and produced a few dangerous crosses. Linked up well with Clohessy. A good start to his Orient career.
Lloyd James: As usual he dictated the tempo for the O’s and helped build from the back. Threaded a couple of good passes to the forwards.
Alex Woodyard: Made a number of strong, committed tackles. Plenty of energy. A few mis-placed passes. Overall a promising display.
Dean Cox: An attacking threat throughout the final third. Roamed in-field from the left. Tested the ‘keeper on a few occasions.
Paul McCallum: Arguably Orient’s best player on the day, not only for the goal but also for his hold up play. Provided the focal point for Orient’s attacking play.
Francois Zoko: Some good hold-up play. Troubled the Braintree defence with a tricky run. Offered less threat than McCallum
Charlie Grainger: Made some important saves to keep Braintree out. Had very little chance of saving the winning goal from such close range.
Bradley Pritchard: Not entirely convincing at right-back. Offered energy and got forward pretty well.
Nathan Clarke: Reasonably solid. A couple of good interventions.
Sam Ling (on after 60′): Tried hard at centre back against strong strikers. Tried a few Baudry-esque passes forward.
Harry Lee: Did surprisingly well at left back. Delivered a few good crosses and supported Simpson. Possibly out of position for the goal.
Sandro Semedo: Excited with his pace and dribbling. One very good cross to Kashket at the far post.
Sammy Moore: Solid without standing out. Got forward more than his central midfield partner.
Luke Howell: Like Moore, he didn’t particularly stand out.
Jay Simpson: Looked most likely to score in the second-half, particularly early on. Showed he can be a threat when played out wide.
Scott Kashket: Like Semedo, he showed his dribbling skills. Started alongside Palmer but looked better playing in the space behind him. Linked fairly well with Palmer.
Ollie Palmer: Held the ball up well using his physicality and he tried to bring others into play. A few good lay-offs. Few shots.
Tactics and Playing Style
The friendly at Braintree gave us the first insight into how Ian Hendon may set his team out. Given that we are still in the early stages of preseason, the team will still be working on a system and adapting to their new manager’s style of play, however there were some themes to take from the opening game.
In the first half in particular the O’s were fairly direct, though not exclusively. The defence and central midfielders often sought to play the ball up to McCallum and he was pretty effective at bringing the likes of Cox, Turgott and Zoko into play.
There was also clear intent to make use of the flanks and deliver crosses for Zoko and McCallum, particularly on the right side. Turgott provided numerous crosses as did Clohessy, which brings us to another feature of Orient’s play, attacking full backs.
Last season, Andrea Dossena aside, our full backs rarely offered much attacking impetus. Cuthbert, Omozusi and Sawyer would support the attack but they rarely (if ever) overlapped the winger in front of them. Clohessy was certainly willing to get forward and he combined well with Turgott. The vast majority of Orient’s crosses came from the that wing. On the left Shaw showed glimpses of his ability to get forward which complemented Cox’s movement into central areas. This could offer Orient another dimension again just as it did when Odubajo got forward from right back or, before that Charlie Daniels’ partnership with Cox on the left.
However, Orient did at times try to play some shorter passes in the build up. As he often does, Cox roamed in the final third (though he was willing to cover for Shaw too) and he linked up with the strikers centrally and even with Turgott on the opposite flank on occasion. These movements helped players get closer together in the final third and allowed for some passing moves, adding variety to Orient’s play.
Hendon started both halves in a 4-4-2 shape, but during the second half Kashket dropped deeper to play just behind Palmer and Simpson and Semedo pushed up forming a 4-2-3-1. By the end of the game Orient’s shape looked more like a 4-3-3 with Simpson and Kashket out wide, with Semedo a little deeper.
During the second half the O’s seemed to play more of a counter-attacking style using the pace of Simpson, Semedo and Kashket. Ahead of them Palmer did a decent job of holding the ball up and laying off to supporting players.
Again both Pritchard and Lee got forward to support, though they were not quite as attacking. Harry Lee produced a couple of good crosses.
Overall the O’s played reasonably well, especially considering the number of trialists and young players. It was heartening to see some of our talented young players and they could well play a part this season. The first 45 minutes was the stronger half for the O’s and some of their play was encouraging. However, the squad desperately needs strengthening.