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Leyton Orient 0 v 2 Colchester United

Saturday, 13th September 2014 Kick-off 15:00
Orient 0 U's 2 - Noah's View
Monday, 15th Sep 2014 13:01 by Noah4x4

At last, something interesting to report after the monotony of 'near misses' and strikers that seem to want to walk the ball into the net. The question most U’sual ‘Exiles’ will be asking after four points in two games is “what is Tony Humes doing differently?”.

At half time, I guess most among the faithful would have said “nothing”. On offer was the same personnel (but no Jabo), the same ponderous build up style, merely 38% possession (source BBC), a couple of glorious missed chances and a defence under the cosh, with only MOM Sam Walker keeping us interested at 0-0. When Magnus was rightfully dismissed for a potentially leg breaking tackle (albeit that Mooney should get an Oscar for his writhing about) few would have predicted the U’s getting anything out of this game.

But Magnus’ departure signalled a completely different U’s in the second half. Instead of Orient facing a U’s formation with its usual width and depth to accommodate our favoured passing style we shifted into two distinct banks of defensive four retaining width, but now far closer together in depth, to produce solidity inside our half. Orient were now facing two rows of Spartan like defenders, indeed had we been the side playing in ‘red’, Rorkes Drift might have sprung to mind. We looked so much better organised defensively than we had been in any of the last twelve months and it prevented Orient from dancing round us like tailor’s dummies despite their man advantage.

This enforced change, essential to shore up the ten man ship, meant we did allow Orient to play in front of us. That offered no danger if we kept out the their crosses, and Frankie Kent that replaced Magnus did his job well, as did Eastman and Walker, with solid defensive performances by Gordon and Clohessy, who for once didn't over stretch themselves by waltzing too far up the wings. How often do we concede by losing the ball when in attack and find ourselves defensively out of position?

We obviously in this formation had become dependent on two of (any) three forwards sprinting after through balls played from inside our own half on the counter and Sanchez Watt and Freddie Sears had the pace to twice deliver goals. Indeed, Sears should have had a hat-trick having twice been one-on-one with the keeper, each time missing when it looked easier to score. Freddie can’t head a ball, so why do we EVER lump the ball skyward to him (e.g. when we have no Jabo). Why do we also always drag the ball out wide, hold it up, stop and cross it for a defender to easily clear? It was through balls on the deck from inside our own half that destroyed Orient. We still retained our slick passing and control to the extent that limited 38% possession at half time became 49% overall by 95 minutes (such was our dominance with ten men) but the usual ponderous attacking build up of the previous era had gone, proving that we don’t need to play ‘hoof-ball’ to become more DIRECT. Nor do we need to be negative. Instead we better use the skills of the forward personnel that we have.

This second half performance reminded me of how successful League One sides like Peterborough, Bristol City, Swindon, or MK Dons play. They allow the opposition to expend energy in front of them whilst retaining a tight defensive structure, then have the pace and cut and thrust to counter attack, frequently from the half way line and win. Our more normal ponderously taking the ball out wide does allow defenders to get back and regroup, hence is too easy to defend.

Frankly, I reckon Magnus has done Tony Humes a favour by forcing this tactical change and it doesn’t trouble me that both Magnus and Jabo might not be available on Tuesday. Young Frankie Kent looks composed in the back four, and Massey, Watt and Sears look far more dangerous when the ball gets to them FASTER and to FEET. Orient fans on the tube were positively glowing with praise for how we played, and rightfully so.

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