Leyton Orient’s kids fail Cambridge United exam to stand on the brink of relegation

Leyton Orient midfielder Michael Collins tries to win the ball (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Leyton Orient midfielder Michael Collins tries to win the ball (pic: Simon O'Connor). - Credit: Archant

Sky Bet League Two: Cambridge United 3 Leyton Orient 0

Leyton Orient’s inexperienced team battled well at Cambridge United, but conceded three times to suffer a sixth consecutive defeat in League Two to stand on the brink of relegation.

Omer Riza was without several senior players and the class of the hosts showed in the end at Abbey Stadium.

The O’s produced a spirited display, despite not being paid their wages for March, yet suffered another loss and are now 10 points from safety.

Riza was forced to make five changes to the Orient starting team which lost 2-0 at home to Wycombe Wanderers last weekend.

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Nicky Hunt, Teddy Mezague, Callum Kennedy and Jens Janse were all ruled out due to injury at Abbey Stadium.

Tom Parkes was serving the first match of his three-game ban and the absence of five senior players presented a chance to some of the youngsters in the squad.

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Dan Happe made his debut for O’s and lined up alongside Aron Pollock and Michael Clark in a young back three.

Freddy Moncur played on the right as a wing-back while Steven Alzate came into the team and was up front on the right.

Orient included scholars Charley Barker and Rian McLean on the bench for the first time and they were joined by several other teenagers.

It was far from ideal for boss Riza, who had to sit in the stands after being handed a one-match touchline ban by the FA for misconduct last weekend.

New O’s assistant manager Neale Fenn was therefore patrolling the dugout, as the hosts got the game underway with the sun shining brightly.

Orient made a good start with Rowan Liburd shooting wide in the third minute after good work on the right.

Josh Koroma had the next opportunity of note as he controlled a clearance and ran at the Cambridge back four, but scuffed off target from 20-yards with 10 minutes gone.

The O’s young defence were dealing well with the threat of U’s powerful striker Uche Ikpeazu with Pollock in particular very vocal.

Riza, despite being in the stands, was still close to the pitch, so was getting his point of view across to his team when he could.

Cambridge’s first noteworthy chance occurred when Happe’s clearance came to U’s George Maris, but his low drive was blocked by Ikpeazu.

The hosts were starting to up the ante now with 25 minutes played and the travelling Orient support began to turn their attention to chairman Francesco Becchetti.

Several chants of ‘Becchetti out!’ were sung at Abbey Stadium before Sam Sargeant was forced to deny Jake Carroll with a fine save.

U’s were beginning to increase the tempo of their football and in the 31st minute they broke the deadlock.

Shaun Derry’s team produced a free-flowing move and Harrison Dunk was played in down the left and picked out Luke Berry, who headed home.

It was slightly against the run of play and harsh on O’s young back three who had been coping well.

Orient’s teenage backline were now facing a big test of character, but Riza’s team responded well to going behind.

The visitors very nearly produced an equaliser with eight minutes of the first half left at Abbey Stadium.

Koroma controlled brilliantly before picking out Moncur, who laid back for Michael Collins and his cross found Liburd, but his header was saved by Will Norris.

It was a brilliant piece of play by O’s, however, and a good effort from Liburd, but met by an equally fine save by the U’s goalkeeper.

But in the 41st minute the game was virtually over as Orient conceded a second just before the break.

Moncur fouled Dunk on the left and Maris crossed in where Liam O’Neil lost his marker and headed into the corner.

Orient were trying to play their football, but the class of Cambridge was starting to tell as Maris drilled wide just before half time.

A minute of stoppage time was added on, but O’s survived without suffering further damage before the break.

Cambridge made a strong start to the second period and Pollock needed to block an effort by Berry in the 47th minute.

The hosts went even closer three minutes later, as Conor Newton crossed in for Dunk and he headed against the post before Orient cleared.

But in the 53rd minute it was 3-0 after a real goalmouth scramble in the O’s area, as Maris fired in from close range.

Pollock did well to deny Ikpeazu before blocking Dunk’s shot, but the ball eventually came to Maris and he fired past Sargeant.

With over half an hour remaining at Abbey Stadium, the concern was that Orient were set to suffer another hiding.

Sargeant did his best to prevent that by getting down low to tip Ikpeazu’s drilled shot behind for a corner.

It was all Cambridge now and Maris nearly added another just before the hour mark, but O’s goalkeeper saved again and Clark cleared for a corner.

Orient made a double substitution shortly afterwards with strikers Victor Adeboyejo and Tristan Abrahams coming on.

Liburd and Koroma were the pair to make way, as the visitors looked to prevent the scoreline getting any worse.

Cambridge substitute Medy Elito nearly made it four, but headed Maris’ cross wide before there were a couple of stoppages in play.

Moncur and Happe needed treatment for what appeared cramp, as the youngster began to tire at Abbey Stadium.

Happe was forced off with Henry Ochieng replacing him as Orient looked to see out the remaining 16 minutes in Cambridgeshire.

The O’s enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure as the match entered its closing stages with the travelling supporters getting behind the team.

Kelly nearly won Orient a penalty with three minutes remaining as he appeared to be pulled back inside the area.

Referee Nicholas Kinseley failed to award a spot-kick and when O’s vice-captain went down again seconds later, he picked up a booking for stimulation.

The fourth official added three minutes of stoppage time at the end of the half, but it went by without note except for a wayward effort from Alzate which received cheers from the away support.

O’s fans chanted ‘Orient till I die’ as the full time whistle was eventually blown at the Abbey Stadium.

Riza’s team are now 10 points from safety and relegation could be confirmed next week at Luton Town on Good Friday.

If O’s lose at Kenilworth Road and Hartlepool United win at home to Carlisle United and Cheltenham Town win at Crawley Town then the east Londoners will be down.

Cambridge United: Norris; Halliday, Taylor, Legge, Carroll; O’Neil; Maris (McGurk 68), Berry, Newton (Lewis 82), Dunk; Ikpeazu (Elito 63).

Unused substitutes: Gregory, Roberts, Williamson, Clark.

Leyton Orient: Sargeant; Clark, Pollock, Happe (Ochieng 76); Moncur, Kelly, Collins, Semedo; Alzate, Liburd (Adeboyejo 61), Koroma (Abrahams 61).

Unused substitutes: Grainger, Dalby, Barker, McLean.

Attendance: 4,681 (641 Leyton Orient supporters).

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