MATCH REPORT: Cambridge United 1 Leyton Orient 1 – League Two

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Leyton Orient bounced back from last weekend’s heavy defeat by earning a point against Cambridge United, though they had to come from behind to secure a draw. The match remained goalless at the break despite a few good chances for the O’s towards the end of the half, not to mention Jay Simpson hitting the woodwork. However, it was Cambridge who broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second half through Jacob Blyth. Jay Simpson grabbed the equaliser with less than twenty minutes remaining to ensure that the O’s stayed top of League Two.

Ian Hendon made three changes to the side that lost against Exeter. Frazer Shaw came back into the side at left-back at the expense of Alan Dunne. Alex Cisak replaced Charlie Grainger in goal following the Australian’s return from international duty. Jack Payne was handed his Orient debut as Dean Cox dropped the bench after missing training in the build up to the match due to a knock.

The U’s started on the front foot and they came close to opening the scoring early on. Josh Coulson met the ball from a corner before Alex Cisak could punch it away, but fortunately for the O’s his header went just wide of the post.

Following that scare, Orient started to pose a greater attacking threat. Lloyd James picked out Jay Simpson at the near post but Cambridge keeper Chris Dunn was quick to get out to the Orient striker. Pritchard kept the move alive by chipping a cross back into the box, but it was easily headed away.

At the other end, ex-O Robbie Simpson whipped a dangerous cross into the Orient penalty area but Cisak plucked the delivery out of the air just before it reached Daniel Carr.

The O’s then came agonizingly close to taking the lead when Mathieu Baudry played a sublime lofted through ball to Simpson. The former Arsenal man held off the challenge of Coulson and poked the ball away from the keeper, but his shot hit the outside of the post from a narrow angle.

The away side were enjoying a good spell and they threatened again from a corner. Lloyd James’ delivery to the near post was met by Connor Essam only for Dunn to show good reflexes by pushing the ball over the crossbar.

Despite coming under more pressure, the home side were still very much in the game. Mickey Demetriou tried his luck with a volley from an acute angle, but his attempt flew over Cisak’s bar. Jordan Slew then rose above Essam at the far post, however the ball travelled wide of the post.

As half-time approached Orient looked increasingly likely to score the first goal. Bradley Pritchard and Jay Simpson had been lively throughout and the pair combined well to create an opening for Pritchard, but the Zimbabwean midfielder fired his shot just inches past the post.

Pritchard continued to provide the attacking thrust in midfield and he came close to scoring again when his attempt to block a clearance looped up and headed for Dunn’s goal, forcing him to make a save.

It proved to be a busy end to the half for the Cambridge stopper. First Pritchard poked the ball to Moore, who saw his shot on the turn hit the Cambridge keeper. The corner that followed was headed towards the bottom corner at the far post by Paul McCallum, but Dunn somehow scrambled across goal and pushed the ball to safety.

A fairly even half had ended in a flurry of Orient chances, but Ian Hendon’s side had not been able to find a way past Chris Dunn.

 

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The O’s had looked more likely to break the deadlock before the interval, however Cambridge grabbed the opening goal seven minutes after the restart.

Liam Hughes played the ball in behind Clohessy and into the path of Demetriou, who delivered a low cross to the far post where Jacob Blyth had been left unmarked. Orient’s defending had left a lot to be desired as three of the back four were out of position, allowing the Leicester loanee a simple finish to put the U’s ahead.

Cambridge continued to put the O’s under pressure as they sought to establish a two goal lead. Lloyd James was let off as the hosts failed to capitalise on his poor backward pass into the O’s box, but the U’s did eventually work the ball to Robbie Simpson, who hit the side netting with his attempt.

Blair Turgott replaced James shortly after the hour and his introduction coincided with a better spell from the O’s, which eventually yielded an equaliser.

Just as he had done in the first half, Baudry played Jay Simpson in behind the U’s defence with a lofted pass and the striker coolly slotted the ball into the far corner to make it 1-1.

From then on the O’s took control of the game, but the final ball was still lacking.

Ollie Palmer came on for Paul McCallum in the hope that he could grab a winner for the visitors, but Sammy Moore came closest to scoring Orient’s second as his dipping shot in injury time forced yet another good save from Dunn.

The O’s had to settle for a point after failing to produce their best performance, however they were also frustrated by Chris Dunn’s fine form.

 

Player Performances

Alex Cisak:

Cisak didn’t have a great deal to do. He got away with a missed punch from a corner early on. After that he claimed a few crosses and generally seems to inspire confidence in those ahead of him. He had no real chance of saving the goal.

Sean Clohessy: 

He tried to offer some width on the right flank but his marauding runs were less successful than usual and his deliveries were far less accurate than in previous games. He was caught up-field on occasion.

Mathieu Baudry: 

His first-half head injury didn’t faze him. Mostly solid and typically composed, though he was out of position for their goal. Produced a couple of good passes to Simpson, one of which led to Orient’s goal. As captain he possibly could have done more to get the O’s to up their game/tempo.

Connor Essam: 

Not his best game in an Orient shirt. He left Blyth unmarked for their goal. He did win a fair amount in the air but not quite as assured as usual.

Frazer Shaw: 

A difficult afternoon for him. He looked vulnerable defensively and was caught out of position for their goal. Could have burst forward into the space ahead of him more often and like Clohessy his crosses often lacked quality. However, he is a young player who is clearly still learning at this level.

Bradley Pritchard:

Another dynamic performance from him. He covered lots of ground. Offered width on the right flank, with a number of attacking runs that caused problems for the Cambridge defence. He was one of the few who carried the ball forward. He was less influential after the break, though he moved deeper after James went off.

Lloyd James: 

He tried to get on the ball and dictate play but little came off for him. Subbed off after 65 minutes.

Jack Payne:

A promising debut. Neat and tidy on the ball in the first half. He grew into the game and looked much better after James went off. Very vocal despite being a new addition to the team.

Sammy Moore: 

He didn’t particularly stand out. Almost scored the winner from long range. Solid if unspectacular.

Paul McCallum: 

Struggled to impose himself on the game. Provided an aerial threat in the box on a couple of occasions and he may have done more had the quality of Orient’s crosses been better. Subbed off after 77 minutes.

Jay Simpson: 

He offered Orient’s main attacking threat and looked too good despite a lack of quality service. Jay worked hard and made runs into the channels throughout. He also took his goal well.

Substitutes

Blair Turgott (on after 65′): 

The game swung in Orient’s favour after his introduction. He stretched the Cambridge defence by staying wide on the right flank.

Ollie Palmer (on after 77′): .

Chased lost causes as usual but did make a great impact.

 

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Tactics and Playing Style

Ian Hendon deviated from his usual 4-1-2-1-2 shape however he still included four central midfielders in a flat(ish) midfield. I still can’t really see what he was trying to achieve by setting the midfield up in this way. In his post match comments Hendon said he thought ‘all of our midfield players were fantastic’ however, in my opinion the set-up was unconvincing.

The use of four central midfielders meant that the O’s lacked width at times; though Pritchard and to a lesser extent Clohessy tried to work the right flank; however there were also times that Lloyd James and Jack Payne in particular left space centrally for Robbie Simpson to exploit.

Granted it was the first time that the central midfield duo had played together, but early impressions suggests that James and Payne are too similar to work as a pairing. Both players often seemed to want to occupy the same space and both tried to pick passes rather than moving forward with the ball. Pritchard was the only one who regularly offered vertical movement in midfield. It is questionable whether we will need both James and Payne in the same midfield. Payne appeared to become more influential after James went off, which suggests that they may offer more to the team without the other.

All too often Orient’s play lacked tempo which allowed Cambridge to regain their defensive shape, particularly in the second half.

Overall the visitors’ attacking play lacked unpredictability and quality final passes. Orient resorted to hopeful crosses or balls into the channels. Dean Cox’s movement and creativity behind the front two was sorely missed and the O’s looked caused more problems after Turgott was introduced on the right flank.

Frustratingly, the O’s had the ability to win the game, despite not being at their best. Orient had a number of chances only to be denied by a fine goalkeeping performance from Chris Dunn. Goal-scoring opportunities usually involved Pritchard or Simpson or a combination of the two. Everyone else struggled to offer much of note going forward.

 

Orient vs Cambridge - Football tactics and formations

 

It became clear that Orient were intent on using the pace of Simpson in behind the Cambridge defence as the former Arsenal striker made a number of runs into the channels and off the shoulder of the U’s defenders. As mentioned many of the passes to him lacked quality, however Baudry found Simpson with lofted passes on two occasions, one led to Simpson hitting the post and the other led to the equaliser.

After the game Hendon confirmed this strategy:

[blocktext align=”center”]“It was a great ball by Matty in over the top, down the side for the equaliser, which is what we said we needed to do. “We felt we could expose them there and Jay gets onto the ball and he always makes the keeper at least make a save and it was a good finish.”[/blocktext]

The O’s had a few good chances from corners at the end of the first half too, but both Essam and McCallum saw headers kept out by a couple of great saves from Dunn.

It is of course unrealistic to expect the O’s to play well very week, however I can’t help but feel that the O’s need to add more variation to their play in order to avoid becoming too predictable. Orient created chances but the performance was uninspiring.

Fourth-placed Wycombe Wanderers are just two points behind the O’s and they will provide a stern test when they travel to Brisbane Road next Saturday. Hopefully Hendon will have a surprise in store for the Chairboys.

 

What did you make of Orient’s performance against Cambridge United? Feel free to share your comments below.

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2 Comments Posted

  1. Agree with report…thought we played really well in patches, particularly first half. Pritchard and Simpson were outstanding. We had lots of possession, but too often final ball was poor. I do like the passing game, but feel we need to increase the tempo and mix it up at times. Missed Coxy, left the ground a little frustrated…but overall its been a great start, and we are still top!

    • I agree with everything you wrote. It has certainly been a very good start to the season and Hendon has done well so far. I just fear that we are becoming more predictable and therefore we need to change things up a bit more often. I’d like to see us switch to a 4-4-2 with Cox and Turgott on the wings for a game and see how it goes.

      Thanks for the comment Brian. Up the O’s.

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