Leyton Orient players responding positively to Omer Riza's demands
PUBLISHED: 12:30 18 April 2017
Simon O'Connor Photography
The 37-year-old has played a huge part in getting O’s to win four points from their Easter fixtures
Leyton Orient boss Omer Riza hailed his young squad after responding positively to all of his instructions over a busy Easter period.
The O’s looked set for relegation on Good Friday at Luton Town, but claimed a spirited 2-2 draw to ensure they lived to fight another day in League Two.
It meant they had to defeat fellow strugglers Hartlepool United on Monday and they did just that, as the inexperienced Orient team came from behind to win 2-1.
Riza changed formation in both games from a 4-1-2-1-2 to a 3-4-3 and despite most of his starting XI being aged 20 or below, they responded to the adjustments magnificently in both fixtures.
He said: “Hartlepool did get on top of us at the start of the second half and we needed to make some changes.
“We went to a back three and pushed another man in there to shore it up a bit and it worked because they had to try and solve that problem.
“Our boys are confident on the ball anyway and that is why I will give them the licence to play and if we make mistakes, we will deal with it.
“I want to make sure we have support around the ball to make sure we are covering each other and working hard, and as long as we do those things the rest will come.”
Several of O’s young guns thrived despite the pressure on Monday’s match with Hartlepool, with Steven Alzate catching the eye.
The 18-year-old was outstanding at times against the Monkey Hangers and created numerous chances, and eventually the winner.
It looked bleak for Orient early on after Rhys Oates opened the scoring after eight minutes following poor defending.
But O’s responded positively with Victor Adeboyejo poking in Michael Clark’s low cross to spark jubilant celebrations.
With Orient fans in a partisan mood and chanting against chairman Francesco Becchetti, the players remained focused and produced what turned out to be the winner in the 34th minute.
Aron Pollock picked out Alzate and he dribbled past one opponent, before momentarily being halted, but the teen managed to get back up to his feet and flick into Abrahams’ path.
Abrahams took one touch before curling into the roof of the net and despite Hartlepool enjoying more possession after the break, they rarely troubled Sam Sargeant.
Riza added: “It is a nice feeling to come off the pitch and not be relegated, but I watched Hartlepool and no disrespect to them, as they worked hard like we did, but there were always ways we could try and win the game and we did that.
“To still be fighting and in with a chance for the Crewe Alexandra match is massive for us and I just want us to fight in every game and the boys have done that for the last two, so I’m happy.”
Orient will keep on fighting on the pitch, but off it they continue to be in a mess with no news on whether any of the players or staff will be paid any time soon.
The club brought in temporary medical staff to work on Monday instead of paying current medical staff to highlight the issues taking place behind the scenes.
“If I am being honest it has been very difficult because we had staff who didn’t want to work because they haven’t been paid and I totally respect their decision, but at the same time the club have to try and get the game on,” said Riza.
“The club have had to bring people in temporarily for the match to go ahead, so it has been tough for the staff who are not part of it. It has been tough for the people who have had to come in and for us because we have worked with staff all year.
“We didn’t know what reaction we were going to get from the crowd because of the protest and we didn’t know if people were going to come on the pitch.
“I was thinking about what we would do to keep the players warmed up if that happened or if we were going to have to bring them off, so I had all these things to think about prior to the game.
“I was very anxious and nervous about it all and I spoke to my coaches about it and they just said I can only control the controllables. We tried to do that the best we could.”