Still in the hunt

Orient continue promotion fight despite inconsistent form, writes Jim Nichols

There have been just the three league games since my last column because of the club’s FA Trophy commitments, although that has been enough time for Orient’s inconsistency to be prolonged.

The single win, draw and defeat accrued is hardly the form that promotion contenders would want to be showing at this stage of the season, but the O’s are not alone among those challenging at the top of the National League in experiencing a recent period of indifferent form.

Salford City are on an even worse run with their convincing January win at Brisbane Road a solitary highlight of a barren couple of months, while Wrexham are on to their third manager in as many months after a rocky spell, but a recent upturn in results sees them sit at the top again.

The wobbles of Orient (who have slipped to third place) and their rivals has seen a number of other contenders rise to the challenge, with the unheralded duo of Solihull Moors and AFC Fylde looking particularly strong with just a dozen games to go.

In fact, just ten points separate the top eight teams in the division, so it is anyone’s guess who will end up on top of the pile, while the make-up of the play-offs is equally uncertain. Given Orient’s last three play-off campaigns ended in heartbreak in the final, they could be forgiven for thinking it is top spot or bust this time!

The big news at the club in February was the signing of Jay Simpson, who has returned two years after departing for the United States to play for Philadelphia Union in Major League Soccer. The striker had been training with the club and his signing was rumoured for weeks, so to finally get the deal done is a big bonus for a team that has been struggling to score goals in the continued absence of Josh Koroma. Simpson scored 25 goals for Orient in the 2015/16 season and showed a few signs of quality during the disappointing home defeat to Maidenhead in his first game back.

With the impending return of the aforementioned Koroma and the ongoing presence of another 20-goal Orient striker in Macauley Bonne, the O’s will possess an attacking trio that wouldn’t look out of place in League One. It is a timely return with the games coming thick and fast in March, including a potentially decisive clash at home to Wrexham in front of the TV cameras. Orient will need to gel quickly to regain their winning form and go on to top the table at the end of April.