Edinburgh’s ‘game-changers’ enable O’s to remain on track
PUBLISHED: 18:30 25 February 2019 | UPDATED: 18:30 25 February 2019
Simon O'Connor Photography
The O’s head coach often describes his substitutes as more than simply replacements and they showed their worth on Saturday
Leyton Orient were heading for another defeat at the weekend until Justin Edinburgh stepped in and showed why he has had a pretty successful managerial career to date.
FA Trophy holders Brackley Town were 45 minutes away from a big scalp at their St James’ Park home in their quest to keep hold of the silverware they won last May.
However, Edinburgh’s decision to introduce Jordan Maguire-Drew and Matt Harrold, in addition to a formation switch, changed the game.
Josh Coulson’s involvement had been enforced, but his return was also timely as O’s recovered to come from behind and win for the first time since November 17.
Orient have generally gone ahead in their victories this season, yet the 3-1 triumph in the National League over Bromley towards the end of 2018 was a rare occasion where they had to regroup to win after conceding first.
Before Saturday, the success over the Ravens was the only time Edinburgh’s team had come from behind to succeed during the current campaign, but they fortunately did it again in Northamptonshire and it showed real character.
What helped was having two players fit and raring to go from the bench at a time they were needed most.
Maguire-Drew’s directness, which we had only seen in flashes previously, was out in full force and it frightened the Saints.
Harrold, meanwhile, produced the type of display everyone knows he can; where the opposition defenders are bullied, he is a beast in the air and the ball sticks to him.
On top of these substitutions, Edinburgh also changed formation, like he had done in the 1-0 loss to Maidenhead United on February 16, and moved James Brophy to left-back and went to what appeared a 4-3-3 shape.
Eventually it paid off, albeit after Macauley Bonne had missed a spot-kick which had been won by the lively Maguire-Drew.
Brophy made a difference from a deeper position as he set up Harrold for a tap-in – similar to the chance the forward had missed against Maidenhead – to equalise.
Then Maguire-Drew’s wicked corner found Dan Happe at the back post for the young centre back to nod home his first goal for the club in what proved to be the winner.
Finally the goals had arrived for Orient and Edinburgh deserves a lot of praise for his in-game management, but so do the majority of players in the starting XI for stepping it up following a poor first 45.
What is worth pointing out is this is nothing new from O’s manager, but this time the changes he made did pay dividends.
Against Maidenhead he switched his wingers, brought on Maguire-Drew, Harrold and Dale Gorman in quick succession and moved to three at the back.
Yes, it failed to stop Orient losing 1-0 to the Magpies, but Edinburgh had a Plan B on that occasion and always has despite some grumbles from a minority of fans.
The former Newport County manager is generally very proactive rather than reactive and this needs to be remembered in tense times and there will be plenty of them between now and the end of the season!
What hasn’t helped Edinburgh or O’s recently is several key personnel missing which has limited his options from the bench.
He hasn’t been able to introduce many of his ‘game-changers’ but with Josh Koroma and James Dayton nearly fit, in addition to others like Harrold and Maguire-Drew banging on the door, things will look extremely positive again for Orient on that front.
Edinburgh may make more mistakes during the remainder of the campaign, but on the whole he will get a lot more right than wrong and he, along with the squad, need trust at times like this with so much at stake.
O’s are about to get on the type of bumpy ride everyone has longed for – a promotion rollercoaster – and a little bit of faith is required because this group know what they are doing.