From 202 fans against Whitehawk to Wembley inside 18 months for Ekpiteta
- Credit: Archant
The humble centre back has enjoyed an extraordinary rise in non-league football after signing for Leyton Orient in January 2018
It has been quite the journey for Leyton Orient centre back Marvin Ekpiteta and Sunday saw him achieve another feat - playing in a Wembley final.
The centre back was included from the off and completed 90 minutes, but couldn't help the O's win the FA Trophy, with AFC Fylde earning a 1-0 victory.
In spite of the result, close to 25,000 Orient fans turned up and the overall attendance recorded was 42,962 for Non-League Finals Day.
Considering 18 months ago Ekpiteta played in front of just 202 supporters for East Thurrock United in the National League South against Whitehawk in December, it's been an extraordinary rise for the extremely humble centre back
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"It was a great occasion and good to top off the season with a Wembley appearance, obviously we were unlucky with the result, but it was still a good day and hopefully everyone enjoyed it," he said.
"At East Thurrock I used to play in front of 200 to 300 people and to get to Wembley in front of over 40,000 is a crazy jump.
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"I didn't think I would be here a few years ago, so I'm proud, happy and of course very thankful to even get this opportunity.
"Orient were the club who gave me a chance and I have taken it with both hands, so I'm very grateful to the club."
Even though Ekpiteta had his doubts, one of his former manager's knew he would get into the Football League eventually.
John Coventry, the East Thurrock boss, brought the defender to the Essex side during the 2016/17 term following spells with Chelmsford City and Concord Rangers.
He always stated the ex-Rocks player would go higher than the National League and in August, Ekpiteta will be part of Orient's team ready to do business in League Two and he can't wait to get going.
He added: "John has always told me I could kick on and that I had to keep the same attitude and to keep working hard and I would get into the Football League. It has been a good journey, it has been tough and long, but definitely worth it.
"Now I can't wait to play in League Two. I will enjoy my time off and hopefully hit the ground running next season."
Given this is Ekpiteta's first full campaign in professional football, after signing for Orient in January 2018, he settled in like a duck to water.
It was almost concluded with a goal at Wembley, but his second-half header crashed against the post and he missed out by a matter of inches.
Ekpiteta added: "I thought the header was in, on another day it does, but it just wasn't our day. We hit the post two other times and we had some other good chances, so it just didn't go in."
Nevertheless, what a season it has been for the one-time Oxford United trainee and O's squad. They will have no fear going into League Two and why should they?