Cambridge United 1-1 Leyton Orient: Labouring the Point
Coconuts' own (ex) red-head, Andrew Bennett, offers his views on yesterday's proceedings (oh for a Dave Kitson):
Today was a monumental and historic day for those of the ‘red’ persuasion. After years of being looked down upon, scorned and even laughed at in the street, there is hope and encouragement for a section of society which has been made to feel second class and second rate for far too long.
Yes, today was National Redhead Day!
As a ginge myself, long since faded to light beige, I was happy to join in the celebrations, putting on Factor 50 sun cream, playing ‘join the dots’ with my freckles and brandishing a graven image of Dave Kitson while listening to copperknob greats like, er, Simply Red, T’pau, Ed Sheeran…Oh dear. Thank goodness for Josh Homme and Robert Del Naja. I trust Mark Roberts, Conor Newton and Rory Gaffney (if he exists) participated, too.
On a bright, sunny late summer’s day it was good to welcome Leyton Orient to the Abbey for the first ‘M11 Derby’ since March 2005. After dallying with a succession of Italian nonentities as manager last season, they have now joined us in League Two and started the season like the proverbial smouldering maisonette with five wins before coming a cropper at Exeter last weekend, but remained top of the division. Their team was not exactly full of household names, but the sight of ‘Sam Ling’ in the squad listing sent a brief shiver of horror down the old neck, while Jack Payne made his debut on loan from Peterborough.
United line-up: Dunn; Legge, Roberts, Coulson; Omozusi, Newton, Berry, Simpson, Demetriou; Slew, Carr
On the bench: Beasant, Taft, L.Hughes, Morrissey, Blyth, Akintunde
The team showed five changes from that which lost to Luton last week, with Harrison Dunk suspended and Ryan Donaldson and Barry Corr injured, the latter happening in the warm-up, occasioning a last-minute call-up for Danny Carr and an empty space on the subs’ bench. Richard Money reverted to 3-5-2 in the absence of his wide men, with recalls for Elliot Omozusi and Josh Coulson, while Liam Hughes was dropped for Conor Newton, who accompanied Luke Berry and Robbie Simpson in a puzzling midfield trio lacking a natural defensive ball-winner, while the manager had already decided to break up the promising Simpson-Corr partnership even before the latter’s injury, with a recall for Jordan Slew.
As for Keith Keane and Jeff Hughes, one gets the impression that United have bought a couple of old bangers without checking under the bonnet first because they were so impressed by their paintwork. Perhaps they’ll be fully fit by Christmas. I’m not saying what year.
The presence of 1,739 supporters from East London made for a lively atmosphere at the start, but early exchanges were cautious, with Orient keeper Alex Cisak content to waste time almost from the outset. United’s lack of a target man led both sides to essay similar tactics, attempting to send balls over the top for their speedy strikers to run on to, but with little luck at first.
Mark Roberts was first into the book on 10 for a foul on Bradley Pritchard, then a little run of corners to the U’s culminated in a clear scoring chance for Coulson, but he glanced his header wide of the post with Cisak nowhere. A clash of heads between Slew and Mathieu Baudry afforded the teams an opportunity for a mid-half drinks break, the latter having his head bandaged, and on 26 Baudry’s through ball to Jay Simpson caught out Coulson and Chris Dunn, who stood like a rabbit in the headlights in an agony of indecision before the United men combined to drive Simpson wide and saw his shot cannon off the outside of the post.
Orient had by now settled into their patient close passing game, while Simpson was the focal point for United, playing just behind Slew and Carr and winning many a header and flick-on for the front two, although they could rarely trouble Cisek, and Mickey Demetriou was proving more and more of a threat with his probing runs and crosses down the left.
Lloyd James’ corner on 29 found the unmarked Connor Essam inside the six-yard box, but his header was superbly tipped away by Dunn. A minute later a United attack culminated in a decent shot from Demetriou which flashed just over the upright, then Berry trundled a shot wide and Demetriou’s fine cross found the head of Carr, who nodded narrowly wide from the penalty spot. Pritchard then fired off target for the hosts as the game began to hot up.
The final minutes of the first half belonged to Orient, though, as they showed why they were top of the division with a sustained spell of pressure. Sammy Moore drew a fine stop from Dunn with a fierce shot destined for the top corner, then the same player forced an even better save from close range at the near post.
Into added time, James’ corner fell to Paul McCallum, Dunn blocked his header then got up to stop Essam’s effort from the rebound, and McCallum nodded a follow-up corner just over. Somehow United held on until the interval, thanks mainly to the acrobatics of their goalkeeper, and possibly some sort of invisible force field on the goal line.
Money rang the changes for part two, withdrawing the underachieving Slew and Carr for Jacob Blyth and Liam Hughes. Blyth joined Simpson up front while Hughes took up position in front of the back three to offer them the protection that they had not enjoyed in the first half.
Within eight minutes of the restart the reshuffle looked like a masterstroke. Hughes picked out a magnificent ball inside the full-back for Demetriou, and his swift, low cross into the Corridor of Uncertainty found Blyth running into the six-yard box while his markers just stood and watched; he had the simple task of poking home from point blank range. 1-0.
Blyth was booked three minutes later for a mistimed challenge on Essam, while just before the hour another tremendous Demetriou cross found Simpson arriving at the near post, but his flick flew across goal and off target.
Blair Turgott became Orient’s first substitute on 65, replacing James, and Blyth found the gloves of Cisak from a corner two minutes later. Thus far United’s offside trap had worked very well, a useful tactic when your defence lacks pace, but it only has to fail once for a goal to be conceded, and that was what happened on 72. It was almost embarrassingly simple; Baudry sent a long ball down the middle from deep by the touchline, Simpson scampered between the amber and black shirts as if they were not there, and he fired past Dunn before anyone could get near him. 1-1.
Now the visitors had their tails up, and United began to sit deeper and deeper into their own half, inviting Orient on to them and affording them far too much space. Ollie Palmer replaced McCallum on 77 as they continued to push and probe, and Simpson was carded on 83 for his vehement protests after being adjudged to have handled the ball, revealing his own frustrations.
The lack of communication in the United defence was exposed again on 85 by another simple ball over the top, Roberts running towards his goal pursued by a striker and Dunn coming the other way; it should have been the keeper’s ball, but in the absence of any shout from him, Roberts had no choice but to head the ball narrowly wide of his own post for a needless corner. Dunn’s inability to communicate with his defence has been a glaring problem for a year now, and no-one, the management or goalkeeping coach, has done anything about it, and for all his acrobatics, it will cost this club points and goals.
By now United were hanging on; Pritchard headed wide in added time, then Dunn made another good reaction save to a Moore piledriver from outside the box that was heading for the top corner, but the U’s held out for a dogged and hard-won point.
With the constant turmoil in United’s team selection, through injury, illness and Money’s tactical tinkering, it is creditable that they have lost only two out of seven League games, but this squad is potentially so much better than that, and the manager knows it. What he needs is a settled side full of players who are near the top of the form; but then so do all managers. The successful ones are those who can get results when that is not possible. There will be more changes next week.
PS I think Jeremy Corbyn was always more ‘chestnut’ than redhead. Nobody’s perfect.
Today’s attendance of 5,821 was the fourth largest ever for a game between the U’s and the O’s. The best was 6,655 for the clubs’ first ever meeting, at the Abbey on 4th November 1978 in the original Division Two; United won 3-1 with two goals from Alan Biley and one from Tom Finney, with Orient’s consolation coming from Tony Grealish.
The attendances for the clubs’ meetings during 1979-80 were 5,151 at the Abbey and 5,150 at Brisbane Road.
United’s attendances for their first four home League matches this season have all topped 5,000. This is the first time this has happened since the 1992-93 season, when the first five crowds were over that mark, until only 3,894 turned out to see Bristol City in the sixth game. The previous season, 1991-92, the first seven League attendances were over 5,000, until United played…Bristol City, who attracted only 4,810.
The first five home League crowds of 1990-91 also all topped 5,000, but the record remains the first nine attendances of 1978-79 which all reached that mark.
United’s home League record against Orient remains impressive, with 12 wins, 5 draws and just 3 defeats in the 20 seasons in which they have met. Strangely enough they have never beaten Orient by more than two goals at home, their best win being 3-0 at Brisbane Road on 12th March 1991. Their goalscorers were Steve Claridge, Michael Cheetham and John Taylor, and that legendary team comprised: Vaughan, Fensome, Kimble, Bailie, Chapple, O’Shea, Cheetham, Wilkins, Dublin, Taylor, Philpott. Subs: Claridge, Dennis.
Dunn 6. The usual curate’s egg; some brilliant reaction saves, and some moments of absolute panic as he failed to act or call, as usual.
Omozusi 7. Calm and controlled.
Legge 7. Did the business as usual.
Roberts 7. Offside trap compensated for his lack of pace…except when Orient scored.
Coulson 7. Reliable, unfussy shift.
Demetriou 8. That’s how to play wing-back.
Newton 7. Unobtrusively busy.
Berry 6. Showing signs of awakening from his early season torpor, but still much room for improvement.
Simpson 8. The tireless fulcrum of the side, especially in the first half when he had to carry the entire attack.
Slew 5. It’s always the same: some neat work outside the box, nothing at all inside it.
Carr 5. A few flashes of promise, and to be fair it was his first start in his natural position.
Blyth 7. Did a decent job and scored a fine goal.
L.Hughes 6. Superb pass for the goal, otherwise just OK.
Yet another different United line-up performed in fits and starts against the League leaders, playing some nice football on occasion but sitting back too deep against difficult opposition, to their eventual cost. More players need to find their top form if any sort of promotion campaign is to be mounted.
Man of the Match
Mickey Demetriou. Sound defensively, excellent going forward with some magnificent crossing, including the ball that made the team’s goal. The fact that they did not miss Harrison Dunk down that side says it all.
Langford 7. Mostly acceptable, although how he came to book three United men and none from Orient is a mystery.
Soundtrack of the Day
Honne “No Place Like Home”
Contact CFU | Join CFU | News | Join CUFC Lottery
(It costs just 20 pounds to join CFU and your membership makes a difference)