Jim Nichols welcomes Orient’s late winter revival
Leyton Orient had a reasonable February. Two wins in the early part of the month versus struggling Stevenage and Mansfield Town dragged the team away from the bottom of the table and any lingering doubts about relegation have now all but departed.
The game at Stevenage in particular felt significant, as defeat to the bottom club would have left Orient with plenty of work to do to retain their league status at the first time of asking. As it was, the O’s eased their way to a comfortable 3-0 win, in which new signing Ouss Cisse scored a much deserved first goal for the club, and academy graduate Ruel Sotiriou continued his impressive introduction to the team with a brace.
Cisse has made a big impression in just a handful of games since signing in January. Settling into a defensive midfield role without doing anything spectacular, his presence on the pitch has been a reassuring one for fans and teammates alike. Immediately results and performances have improved. With less than a quarter of the season remaining, focus is starting to switch to next season and more signings like Cisse will be needed over the summer for Orient to progress. Goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux is another new addition who has performed well, and one of the top priorities will surely be persuading Cisse to sign a longer-term deal.
Sotiriou has also had a positive impact. Following a brief but successful loan spell at National League side Dover Athletic late last year, the teenage forward has scored five goals since his return to the club. This is already as many as any of the other strikers at the club and the youngster’s directness and confidence in front of goal has created a welcome selection dilemma for Ross Embleton.
New signing Danny Johnson also got off the mark in the home draw against Oldham Athletic, although with the ball coming to him nicely just one yard in front of an empty net it would have been harder to miss!
While Orient’s immediate future looks more secure than it did a month ago, the club will not want the remaining fixtures to peter out into nothingness. You only need to look back at recent successful seasons to see that strong starts are often built on a strong finish to the previous campaign, and recent performances only indicate a small improvement rather than solid grounds for optimism.
Many of the squad will be playing for their future and it is a chance for Embleton and his managerial team to assess the positions that are most in need of strengthening over the summer.