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Clay benefiting from settled life off pitch after enjoying fine start

PUBLISHED: 14:00 23 October 2018

Leyton Orient midfielder Craig Clay looks to get past Harrogate Town's George Thompson (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Leyton Orient midfielder Craig Clay looks to get past Harrogate Town's George Thompson (pic: Simon O'Connor).

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The energetic midfielder has shone for Leyton Orient during the early months of the campaign

Leyton Orient midfielder Craig Clay battles with Hartlepool United rival Nicky Featherstone (pic: Simon O'Connor).Leyton Orient midfielder Craig Clay battles with Hartlepool United rival Nicky Featherstone (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Craig Clay appears to be turning the tide when it comes to what Leyton Orient fans think of him after an excellent few months.

The midfielder endured a tough first season in E10 even though he played in 42 of the O’s 46 National League games during the 2017/18 campaign.

It was a challenging first term for the 26-year-old at Orient after he bid farewell to life in Scotland with Motherwell to move down to the capital.

After impressing off the bench under ex-boss Steve Davis, an injury to Charlie Lee at the end of August 2017 saw Clay handed a chance in the starting XI.

He initially caught the eye, but a lack of competition and the loss of form from most others in the team contributed towards Orient going 15 league games without a win.

It was a terrible run and Clay was one of several to struggle and also feel the weight of expectation grow with every passing week without a victory.

Yet Justin Edinburgh’s arrival, coupled with a settled life away from the pitch, helped the former Grimsby Town ace slowly begin to show his true ability in the second half of the season.

He flourished alongside then loanee Ebou Adams and after a solid pre-season, has kicked on even more and been a key part of why the O’s sit in third place after 16 games this time around.

Clay said: “I feel a lot better this season. Last year was hard and obviously we went all of those games without winning.

“I am not one to make excuses, but I moved down and I didn’t have my flat sorted for the first couple of months and a lot was going on with me personally.

“This time around I felt I had a good pre-season and we are a lot more together this season. It looks like it is all coming together and touch wood it can carry on.”

Orient missed Clay’s energy in the middle of the park during Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup defeat at Maidstone United with the midfielder given a deserved rest.

He will most likely be back in the team for the league encounter at home to Havant & Waterlooville this weekend as the O’s look to get back on track.

Clay will hope to help Orient pick up three points and also has another target in mind after so far drawing a blank in front of goal.

“I am claiming the Salford City goal. If Jobi (McAnuff) is claiming his against Dover Athletic, I will claim the one against Salford,” Clay joked.

“One thing I am working on at the minute in training with Danny Webb is trying to add goals to my game.

“I had a couple of chances against Hartlepool United, I think the first one I have done the right thing, but I maybe leant back a little bit. Then the second I snatched at it.

“I am a bit too desperate to get the goal to take the pressure off me, but I will keep working. I will keep working at it in training with ‘Webby’ and doing my finishing drills and hopefully I can get a few goals soon.”

Should O’s number eight find the net on a regular basis soon, he will delight the Brisbane Road faithful even more!

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