Comment Leyton

Orient on the up

Orient columnist Jim Nichols thinks the team have a good shot at League One
By Jim Nichols

Leyton Orient's home ground (credit: James Cracknell)
Leyton Orient’s home ground (credit: James Cracknell)

A quarter of the way through the Football League season, Leyton Orient have made a solid start in their quest for promotion from League Two.

The O’s made their ambition for the season clear when they appointed the experienced Kenny Jackett as manager in May. Jackett has an impressive CV, with promotions achieved under his management at three of his former clubs, so his appointment was a major coup. The early effect on the team has been some welcome consistency, with the defence generally looking quite difficult to break down and goals being contributed from many different sources.

With the majority of last season’s squad moving on during the summer, an overhaul was required and many of the new players brought in have made an immediate impact. In defence, Connor Wood has been a reliable performer at left back while Tom James has contributed both goals and assists from the right flank. Omar Beckles has scored some vital goals, as well as forming a solid central defensive unit alongside Millwall loanee Alex Mitchell.

In midfield the experience of Darren Pratley has helped the team tick, with the former Charlton midfielder being appointed captain to provide leadership from the centre of the pitch. However, the biggest impact has arguably been in attack where Aaron Drinan, Theo Archibald and Harry Smith have combined to devastating effect in some games. Archibald and Drinan have given the team energy and creativity from wide positions and Smith is the club’s top scorer, leading the line to great effect as the focal point for the team’s attacks.

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Orient’s opening set of fixtures looked difficult on paper but the O’s have held their own against many of their likely rivals for promotion. Compared to last season, there is a noticeable increase in the push to get the ball quickly into attacking areas and either create chances from open play or win set piece opportunities from which a reasonable proportion of the club’s goals have been scored.

One criticism has been that the approach could be considered somewhat pragmatic at times and there will be a desire to turn more draws into wins as the season develops. The squad also looks a bit light in depth. However, for the club to be in contention at the top end of the table is still a marked improvement on the previous two years, during which there were only fleeting glimpses of a possible promotion. Since supporters returned to stadiums, the team have been backed in large numbers both home and away and fans will be hoping that in May 2022 they can celebrate the club returning to League One for the first time since 2015.

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