Leyton Orient suffered their 25th defeat of the season as Wycombe Wanderers took all three points in an eventful 0-2 victory for the Chairboys.
Omer Riza made four changes to the team that lost at Crawley a week earlier. Gavin Massey and Myles Judd missed out due to injuries and they were replaced by Rowan Liburd and Teddy Mezague. Michael Collins returned from injury, replacing Nigel Atangana. There was also a surprise start for Jens Janse who hadn’t featured for the O’s since November. Steven Alzate had to settle for a place on the bench. Injuries to Alex Cisak and Charlie Grainger meant that first-year scholar Arthur Janata was named as a substitute.
Riza didn’t just change personnel, he also changed the formation. Orient lined up in a 5-4-1 out of possession that transitioned into a 3-4-3 when Orient had the ball, emulating the shape used by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea this season.
Orient settled into the game well as Wycombe Wanderers struggled to get to grips with Orient’s change of system.
Josh Koroma had a early chance as he burst down the left flank and into the box. The young Orient winger got a shot away, but Jamal Blackman had rushed out of his goal and he managed to block the attempt.
The home side kept the pressure on and came close to taking the lead from a corner. Teddy Mezague met the delivery but his header was cleared off of the Wycombe goal line by Myles Weston.
At the other end, Will De Havilland got his head on Sam Saunders’ free-kick only for his effort to miss the target.
Orient were still on top and Sandro Semedo did well to force a good save from Blackman. Soon after, Koroma and Liburd combined well, crafting an opportunity for Koroma just outside the penalty area, but he couldn’t keep his volley down.
The O’s had made a promising start but they were dealt a blow just before the half-hour mark as they went down to ten men. Referee Charles Breakspear did not hesitant in showing Tom Parkes a straight red card after the Orient defender caught Garry Thompson with a reasonably high boot. On first viewing, it appeared to be somewhat harsh on Parkes to see red when perhaps a yellow card would’ve sufficed.
The decision was perhaps not surprising, as Breakspear had dismissed Robbie Weir for a similar challenge against Plymouth back in September.
From then on, Wycombe were in the ascendency as they made use of their numerical advantage. Omer Riza had been forced to switch to a 4-4-1 following Parkes’ dismissal, but it didn’t prevent the Chairboys from taking the lead.
A long goal kick up to Adebayo Akinfenwa in the Orient box caused problems, but Callum Kennedy was poised to clear the ball, however, his clearance hit Michael Collins. The ball fell to Matt Bloomfield and he slotted it past Sam Sargeant to make it 0-1.
Immediately after the restart, Wycombe doubled their lead. Myles Weston chased down a long pass, but Jens Janse was in the process of shepherding the ball back to Sam Sargeant. Weston pushed Janse into Sargeant and then pounced on the loose ball and made it 0-2.
O’s fans, staff and players alike couldn’t believe that the goal had been allowed to stand but Charles Breakspear was not swayed by Orient’s legitimate grievances.
It wasn’t long before the referee brought the first-half to a close and the match officials received a chorus of boos from the home fans.
After just 45 minutes in the Orient dugout, Omer Riza was sent to the stands for the second half for confronting the referee. That left newly promoted coach (formerly youth coach) Frederico Morais and newly appointed goalkeeping coach Erbil Bozkurt in the dugout for the second half.
Wycombe continued to dominate the game in the early stages of the second-half.
In the 50th minute, both sets of fans participated in a minute’s applause for Orient fan Frankie Bish who passed away earlier this week.
The visitors were still creating chances but weren’t able to add a third to their tally. Thompson’s shot from close range was superbly blocked by Teddy Mezague. Shortly after, Sam Sargeant produced a superb acrobatic save to deny Saunders.
Tristan Abrahams and Sam Dalby were brought off of the bench in a bid to get the O’s back into the game.
Abrahams forced a save from Blackman in a rare second half opportunity for the O’s, but in truth, Gareth Ainsworth’s side were in control and content in seeing the game out.
A strange afternoon at Brisbane Road continued when a Wycombe clearance landed on one of the balconies on the corner flats.
The attentions of most home fans turned towards events off of the pitch.
Some Orient supporters had managed to get on the directors’ balcony in the west stand with a banner that showed an appropriate word for the club’s ownership and current situation. They managed to unfurl the banner over the balcony which sparked cheers and chants of “Becchetti Out” all around Brisbane Road. This was the most vocal dissent shown towards Becchetti so far. The Wycombe fans joined the protests with chants of “Sack the board” and “Get out of their club”. Both sets of fans also sand “Stand up for the Orient”.
The action on the pitch came to an end and following the final whistle, there was a mix of boos for the match officials applause for the players and expression of opposition to Becchetti.
Omer Riza certainly can’t be accused of playing it safe in his opening game. He changed the system to a new 5-4-1/3-4-3 and it worked well in the opening half-hour. It enabled the O’s to get plenty of bodies back in the defensive phase and it utilised the pace of Josh Koroma and Sandro Semedo effectively on the break. There were also a number of occasions were Kennedy and Koroma were able to overload Wycombe’s right flank.
Rowan Liburd also had his best game in an Orient shirt so far. He provided a focal point for Orient’s attacks, winning headers and holding the ball up and was an important part of the 5-4-1 working. His performance tailed off as the team struggled after the sending off, but he showed promising signs.
The red card changed everything. It forced a switch to a 4-4-1 that left Liburd more isolated and enabled Wycombe to increase the pressure. The goals could have been defended more effectively but also it should be recognised that there was a degree of misfortune to both of them. Kennedy’s clearance being blocked by a teammate was unfortunate and Weston clearly pushed Janse and Sargeant for the second goal.
Unfortunately, Orient once again conceded twice in quick succession, which killed the game off.
In the second-half, Orient switched to a 5-2-2 and later a 3-3-3 in a bid to give more attacking impetus, but credit to Wycombe, they controlled the game in the second period.
The result edged the O’s closer to non-league, but it felt good to see fans unite against such disgraceful ownership and vocalize the discontent. It was also heartening to see the Wycombe fans be so supportive of our plight. The supportive songs were great and many made donations to LOFT’s Leyton Orient regeneration fund including Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth. The solidarity between football fans was heartening to see. The away fans also showed their respect towards Frankie Bish and the minute’s tribute to him.
Despite Becchetti’s destruction of numerous aspects of the club, there was a sense of pride, spirit unity around Brisbane Road. The supporters are the true heart of the club and it is certainly worth fighting for.
— Total Orient (@TotalOrient) April 1, 2017
The O’s remain at the foot of League Two and they are now nine points from safety. Orient travel to Cambridge United on Saturday.