Leyton Orient's strong start stallsOrient columnist Jim Nichols on the cracks beginning to show
Leyton Orient continue to challenge in the top half of League Two as the season reaches the halfway stage - but will be frustrated they are not higher.
The O’s have impressed many observers in recent weeks with some big home wins, including a 5-0 defeat of Hartlepool United, a 4-1 victory over Sutton United and, most recently, a 4-1 win against Swindon Town. Once again, among the scorers in those games were summer signings Harry Smith, Aaron Drinan and Tom James, who have all made a significant contribution to the club’s overall performance.
Smith and Drinan are each a fixture on the League Two top scorer chart, with both landing double figures already this season. Both had a mixed scoring record prior to joining the club so their exploits have come as a surprise. With the club having only had two players in the last 40 years to reach 20 league goals in one season, the prospect of two strikers potentially joining this exclusive club this year is an exciting one for supporters.
It remains a positive season overall but it's undeniable there are increasing areas of concern. The club was aware it would need to rely on a small squad but has struggled with recent injuries to key players. The aforementioned James is one example, with the injury he sustained in the disappointing home defeat to Crawley Town in December potentially leaving the squad light in an area where it is short of cover. Central midfield is another position in need of strengthening and, when the transfer window reopens in January, the club may look into plugging a few of these gaps.
Another disappointment has been the form away from Brisbane Road. While the team remain difficult to beat and have a strong defensive record, at the time of writing the O’s have gone three months since their last away victory. It could be argued that some of the away results have not reflected the play, where Orient have been in a strong position only to concede late goals. Hopefully these dropped points will not cost them at the end of the season, especially if injuries continue to grow and competitiveness fades.
One area of positivity has been the club’s FA Cup run. Home victories over Ebbsfleet United and Tranmere Rovers have earned the O’s a Third Round trip to Championship side Stoke City. It is Orient’s first appearance at this stage of the FA Cup since 2014 and they will be hoping to take a large following to the former Premier League side’s stadium when the game takes place this month.