No margin for error as Orient make Walsall trip
13:00 21 March 2014
Simon O'Connor 2 Burnham Road Chingford London E4 8PE
Leyton Orient can ill-afford anymore slip ups if the O’s are to keep their automatic promotion hopes alive as they travel to Walsall tomorrow.
The Saddlers, managed by former Brisbane Road favourite Dean Smith, hold an outside hope of making the play-offs themselves but are nine points behind Peterborough United in sixth with nine games remaining.
Orient’s loss at home to promotion rivals Brentford saw them drop to third. Although the Bees and Wolves have games in hand, manager Russell Slade is adamant there is still plenty left to play for.
He said: “It’s going to be tough to finish in the top two now.
“But we need to keep going. We’ll send out the same message to our supporters as we’ll send out to the players – to keep going and keep that attitude and that focus and relentlessness that we’ve showed all season. It’s not over yet, this might not be our stop.
“There could well be more twists and turns.”
Walsall were the first team to take points of Orient this season, drawing 1-1 at Brisbane Road in the ninth game of the campaign.
David Mooney gave the hosts the lead but Craig Westcarr equalised in a game which saw both sides end with 10 men - Romain Vincelot and Andy Butler seeing red.
Orient also beat the Saddlers 1-0 in an FA Cup second round tie, Dean Cox scoring the only goal.
A dismal run of nine games without a win has all but ended Walsall’s hopes of extending their season.
Slade admitted it took a “couple of days” but insists the O’s are ready for the Saddlers, although he is expecting a “tough” game.
“They don’t score too many goals and they don’t concede too many,” the manager said. “It will be very tight. It promises to be a very difficult League One fixture.
“I was pleased with the first half performance against Brentford and it we make good decisions throughout we should be alright.”
Orient are virtually assured of a top six berth. They need seven points to make absolutely sure of at least a play-off place.
But if they are to avoid the end of season lottery, then there is little margin for error.
Slade has an almost fully fit squad to choose from. French defender Mathieu Baudry has missed the last four games with a hamstring strain but is in line for a return to the team. Midfielders Lloyd James and Romain Vincelot are also doubts.
Goalkeeper Jamie Jones is the only long-term absentee with a back injury.