Leyton Orient blog: Can Nolan’s side scrap their way to League One?
PUBLISHED: 18:00 23 March 2016
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O’s supporter Sam Churchett gives his thoughts on events taking place at Brisbane Road
Kevin Nolan’s second month as Leyton Orient manager is drawing to a close following back-to-back 1-0 victories. His sixth and seventh League Two wins have helped maintain their fight to secure a play-off place come the beginning of May.
The east Londoners are now one of the most in-form teams in the division and have kept up the chase on the sides above them, during a period where many of their rivals failed to capitalise on games in hand.
Nolan’s arrival has breathed new life into O’s season, but there still lacks a conviction and cut throat mentality to their performances, which suggests they are not yet the finished article.
It is clear that his attitude has been instilled in his players with their first priority heading into any match to ensure the opposition do not breach their backline. With this as their foundation, Orient put their faith in patient build up, percentage balls going forward and the odd moment of magic from the likes of Jobi McAnuff.
Unfortunately, it cannot be said that they have been prolific during the ex-West Ham captain’s tenure. All of their victories have come as a result of a single goal with the exception of 2-0 wins at Wycombe Wanderers and at home to Crawley Town.
Whilst three points on a match day is all any E10 fan can hope for, it is difficult to predict how Nolan’s game plan will fare against an in-form side in a do-or-die 90 or 120 minute situation in the play-offs.
The O’s only win against a club that were recognisably in-form came away at Oxford United, with all other successes achieved against teams with six points or less from their previous four fixtures ahead of meeting Orient.
Luton Town and Northampton Town are the only other two clubs enjoying a purple patch when coming up against the Brisbane Road outfit since Nolan took over and ultimately left east London with all three points as well as a clean sheet.
Furthermore, O’s biggest result of the league campaign was registered under Ian Hendon on August 18 against a poor Stevenage side as they came away 3-0 winners - it is one of only six times we have netted three goals in a game.
But Orient are yet to manage four against any league opposition this season. In comparison, Accrington Stanley have scored three or more in the division 10 times, Portsmouth on nine occasions and Bristol Rovers have done the same in eight games.
Whilst the easts Londoners remain just inside the top seven, fans patiently wait for partnerships between Armand Gnanduillet, Jay Simpson and Ollie Palmer to produce more goals, assists and convincing results.
A performing strike force is synonymous with a team who achieves promotion and yet the three main forwards have netted just six times since Nolan took charge in January.
On many occasions in recent weeks we have come away from games feeling like we could or should have scored two or three more, and yet clinical finishing remains lacking when required.
It is critical, above all else, for O’s to maintain their current form but potentially important for them to also notch one or two sizeable results over the coming weeks.
This would send an important message to the rest of the division, inject invaluable confidence into the team and also give opposition something else to be concerned about should we make it all the way to a second Wembley final in three years.
Whilst Orient’s adjustment to Nolan’s philosophy has proved a successful one, the former Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers man has himself struggled to adjust to League Two.
A series of starts in the centre of midfield have provided him with ample playing time to regain both his match sharpness and fitness. However, the performances are yet to arrive from the ex-Premier League star who has provided a consistently modest contribution thus far.
Could it yet be that Nolan finds his form and plays a vital part on the pitch to help the O’s gain promotion, or should a more serious consideration about his place in the starting line-up take place with the likes of Sammy Moore and Lloyd James available again?
The east Londoners next travel to play-off rivals Accrington Stanley, who are equally unrelenting in their pursuit for promotion. The unfortunate absences of Mathieu Baudry through suspension as well as Jobi McAnuff and Calaum Jahraldo-Martin through international duty will no doubt hinder our preparations.
And the key for Orient will be solving the problem of width when they make the long journey north. It is likely we will see starts for Sean Clohessy and Moore, who has recently been preferred in a wider role when featuring, but Blair Turgott is another option for Nolan.
The Good Friday fixture is unlikely to produce the demolition we have been hoping for, but, for now, O’s fans will certainly accept another scrappy, tooth and nail victory to keep alive both the dream of automatic promotion and the revived expectation of a play-off place.