Ex-Orient under-18 captain Clark enjoying run of games in National League
- Credit: Archant
The 21-year-old spent 11 years at Brisbane Road and is hoping his old club can win the title this season
It has been a tough start to the campaign for Michael Clark and Braintree Town, but the former Leyton Orient ace is enjoying the chance to play regularly in the National League.
Last week, on September 25, the 21-year-old faced his old club for the first time and for 57 minutes it was going fairly well.
The O’s were only 2-1 up at this stage and had been pushed all the way by Bradley Quinton’s team, but Orient’s fitness told in the end and they scored three more times to secure a 5-1 victory.
Even though Clark was part of a back five which endured a tough night, he showed his ability and has nearly played more games in two months at the Iron than in his lengthy spell with the O’s.
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“It is a tough level to play at, the National League, but I get on really well with all the boys here,” the ex-Orient youth-team captain said.
“We have good staff at the club and hopefully we can start picking up some results and get going in this division.”
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As mentioned, Clark and the Iron have had an exasperating start to life in the top flight of non-league football after coming up via the National League South play-offs last season.
Braintree are bottom after 14 games with only six points, but before losing to Orient, they had pushed plenty of strong sides close.
Clark played his part in draws away to Barnet and at Cressing Road against Hartlepool United and come off the bench in the 68th minute of their solitary win of the campaign – a 1-0 triumph at Gateshead.
He also started in the narrow losses to Chesterfield, Havant & Waterlooville and Barrow.
Having enjoyed two loan spells with East Thurrock United over the past three seasons, in between 12 appearances for O’s between February 2017 and March 2018, Clark, who was a member of Orient’s successful academy, is relishing a run of games at Braintree.
The centre back added: “I think you are only really improving if you are playing games, especially at my age.
“Getting experience at this level should stand me in good stead going forward and I feel like I’m progressing with each game.”
Although Clark was part of a losing team against Orient last week, he showed his ball-playing quality by dribbling forward from defence for the Iron goal.
It was a rare moment of joy for Braintree on a taxing night, but they don’t have to face O’s again until April 27 – the final day of the season.
Clark has two wishes for that afternoon, he said: “If we can stay up and they can win the title it would be ideal!”
In total, the Hatfield youngster spent 11 years at Orient and progressed through the youth set-up before playing nine times in League Two for the O’s.
There were highlights, including a stand-out display and the winning assist in a 2-1 win at home to Hartlepool on April 17 which preserved the club’s Football League status for a few more precious days and sparked a memorable pitch invasion.
Even last season, on the few occasions Clark was given an opportunity, he demonstrated what he could do.
In particular, in the 1-0 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup on October 17 when his crucial stoppage-time tackle on visiting attacker Fejiri Okenabirhie essentially saw O’s progress.
Clark admitted: “Every now and then I still watch videos of the Dagenham and Hartlepool games.
“I had a lot of good moments in an Orient shirt and obviously the club still plays a massive part in my life.”
Unfortunately it didn’t work out for Clark at O’s, but he will hope to see them return to the Football League this season and will aim to not be too far behind them.