Hectic season in strange circumstances

The Breyer Group Stadium, home of Leyton Orient (credit James Cracknell)
Empty so far this season, The Breyer Group Stadium will soon see a small number fans return (credit James Cracknell)

Jim Nichols on the story of 2020/21 so far for Leyton Orient

It has been a hectic start to the season for Leyton Orient.

Given that 21 fixtures have been completed in all competitions before the end of November, it is hard to believe that the season didn’t start until September. In addition to every Saturday, games have taken place on almost every Tuesday as the football authorities look to catch up on time lost.

Much like the majority of their League Two competitors, Orient are not blessed with a large squad, but they have handled the relentless schedule reasonably well. Having finished in 17th position in the table last season, Ross Embleton’s team were expected to consolidate in mid-table this term, and by being there now they are meeting expectations.

There is some disappointment that the O’s haven’t been able to push on further, with glimpses of promise suggesting the club should be looking upwards. Danny Johnson and Conor Wilkinson have scored 17 goals between them already. Given last season no striker scored more than five goals, this is a big improvement and, on the evidence so far, scoring goals will not be a problem.

Player-coach Jobi McAnuff was only able to play once last term due to injury, but has been a regular presence in the O’s team this autumn and, even at the age of 39, continues to look a class act.

On the flip side, the defence has struggled at times, although there have been signs of improvement in recent weeks. Results have been inconsistent and for this reason and it is no surprise that Orient find themselves where they are. There have been some disappointing results at home in particular, although the undoubted highlight of the season so far was the 4-0 win at Brisbane Road against Bolton Wanderers on 31st October, with Johnson, Wilkinson, McAnuff and Craig Clay all scoring superb goals.

The one downside of that day was that supporters could not be in the ground to witness it. With the season taking place under the backdrop of the pandemic, supporters have yet to be able to attend a game. There is some hope that this will change soon, as it looks like a limited number of fans will be allowed back to watch games in December.

Fans have so far followed the action via the English Football League’s online streaming service. The club’s efforts in this field are to be commended as take-up for the service by Orient fans is stronger than most other League Two clubs. This is a key source of regular income at the current time that will need to continue hitting impressive numbers if the club is to limit the financial damage and emerge from these times in a strong position.

Following the government announcement this week that London will be placed into Tier 2 of Covid-19 restrictions, the O’s confirmed that 2,000 fans would be allowed to return to The Breyer Group Stadium in December. For more details: leytonorient.com/2020/11/26/return-of-fans-how-will-it-work/.