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Top of the South Stand: Why Leyton Orient’s season is over before the play-offs begin

Orient boss Russell Slade was angry with a number of refereeing decisions. Simon O'Connor Orient boss Russell Slade was angry with a number of refereeing decisions. Simon O'Connor

By Tom Taylor
Saturday, April 19, 2014
8:29 AM

Our Leyton Orient blogger is not confident about the O’s play-off chances

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At 5 o’clock somewhere in Crawley the dreaded thought in the back of every Orient supporter’s mind had been confirmed – they had blown it.

For a lengthy period of the season it looked as though the dream of promotion could be a reality, but when crunch time came it was a case of the same old stories showing their ugly heads.

Whilst the players have ultimately given their all, and no real blame can be passed onto them, it is now time to call off the farcical notion that promotion may be possible.

The grim reality is that it will not happen and it is down to the man who got us to the top of the metaphoric hill only to bring us tumbling back down. That man is Russell Slade.

Let’s not forget he has previous – Grimsby Town were a minute away from promotion under his stewardship in 2006, only for Ryan Gilligan, a name written in Orient folklore to ruin his day.

The following year he guided League One side Yeovil Town to a play-off final where he once again came so close and yet so far. Getting to the edge of promotion then failing seems to have a strange affiliation with Slade.

2014 has been a year of frustration for Orient so far, but the biggest concern has been the dramatic decline in performances which have eventually led to bad results.

Ropey performances at home to Swindon and Colchester, had their cracks covered by eventually running out as victors. They have been followed with slightly less pleasing results such as an away draw at struggling Notts County, a home draw against Oldham Athletic and finally an inept defeat to Bradford City.

The 4-4-2 formation has been exploited by numerous opposition in recent matches.

Simply flood our exploited soft centre and the game is yours for the taking. Gillingham seems a blip, with their wonderful idea not to press our players costing them dearly – the likes of Rotherham and Preston will not be so naive.

There is always plan B mind. Stick Dean Cox in the middle and hope of one his flicks or tricks comes off. Not predictable in the slightest... unless you are the opposition and you have half a brain.

Thanks to these tactical masterstrokes, Orient look like conceding in every game. Poor defensive mistakes haven’t helped but the relentless pressure does eventually take its toll.

The forwards have had scraps to feed off. Slow build up play or aimlessly long punts are now the mantra of a side that earlier in the season played high-tempo passing football which wowed supporters and opposition alike.

It hasn’t helped that David Mooney struggles on through injury despite a plethora of strikers available. Shaun Batt has barely had a meaningful kick in months, and Chris Dagnall has been inconsistent at best; let’s not get started on Robbie Simpson.

Moses Odubajo has been woefully handled. A lad with a bright future who should have been treated with care instead has played every game of the season thus far seemingly without thought. He looks mentally and physically fatigued by it all.

Then there’s the goalkeeping mess. After the shambles of two seasons ago the club should have never got itself in a situation where we have had five goalkeepers feature during the campaign. The Jakupovic loan deal in hindsight was at best ill-judged.

Whilst a popular figure in E10, the reality was he was a short-term fix to a problem that needed a more permanent solution. The club should have been patient when finding a replacement for Jamie Jones, especially when Hull had the option to recall him at any stage. Shwan Jalal comfortably cost the O’s valuable points during a rough spell in February, but should have never been here in the first place.

Probably the most laughable experience from Good Friday’s trip to Sussex was the selection of Lloyd James. The Welshman, who undoubtedly was one of the stars of the successful start to the season, has seen his own performances dip to worrying levels.

Dropping deeper and deeper to get the ball and thus becoming far less effective, it was with great joy that John Lundstram came in last weekend against the Gills and displayed the tenacity and bravery to push higher up the pitch and at least attempt to pass the ball creatively in an attacking manner.

Man of the match last week, his reward was to be thoroughly dropped, so that Slade could keep with his trusted but weary first eleven. Admittedly James did send in some fine set- pieces, and played a vital part in the equaliser, but in open play he was anonymous.

The most notable things James did in the second half was a rare crunching tackle from his own error, and running off to be substituted.

At this stage, it is probably time for a reality check. This will be our best performance in a league season since we got promoted in 2006 and we are still on course to accrue more points than that promotion winning campaign as well.

Wolves and Brentford, with their comparatively astronomical wage bills, have been better than us over 43 games and deserve promotion. The fact that ‘little Leyton Orient’ challenged them for so long could be seen as an achievement in itself.

We also have three players in double figures for goals, and one in Dean Cox who also is near the top of the division’s assists chart. But at this moment in time it feels like a horrible waste.

If I was a gambling man, I would put my proverbial house on one of Rotherham, Preston or Peterborough to achieve promotion via the play-offs in May because it certainly won’t be Orient.

Finally, it was with great sadness I heard the news of the passing of West Ham United player Dylan Tombides. A talented young man of only 20, Tombides’s passing puts football and life into perspective.

I would like to send my condolences to the family, friends and team mates of Dylan.

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