Liam Kelly full of pride after watching Leyton Orient kids shone brightly at Luton Town
PUBLISHED: 13:30 15 April 2017
Simon O'Connor Photography
O’s stand-in skipper was excellent at Kenilworth Road, but praised young members of squad after 2-2 draw
Liam Kelly has backed Leyton Orient’s talented crop of young players to have big futures in the game.
The 27-year-old was one of the most experienced members of the O’s starting XI at Luton Town yesterday.
Kelly scored Orient’s equaliser and set up Tristan Abrahams for his first professional goal before the Hatters levelled to claim a 2-2 draw.
But with Omer Riza’s starting team containing eight players aged 20 or below, it was a great result for the struggling visitors.
“I think this is a good opportunity for them. It wouldn’t realistically come for some of them for another year or two or three, but if they can stick at it then I am sure the experience will put them in great stead,” said Kelly.
“We were the better team at Luton and if they can do that at their age, at a team who are fourth in the league then in a few years they’ll have a great chance in football.”
Michael Collins, Kelly and Teddy Mezague were the only ‘experienced’ players in the starting O’s team at Luton.
All three made an impact, as Orient managed to claim a point which helped prevent their relegation to the National League until at least Monday.
If O’s fail to beat fellow strugglers Hartlepool United at home then they will have their relegation confirmed.
Kelly conceded the current situation is tough for all the players at the club, adding: “It near enough is inevitable and there is not a great deal we can do about it.
“We can only control going out there and trying to put in a good performance. We are going up against experienced teams with a side full of youth-team players basically because you only had me, ‘Mikey’ and Teddy at Luton.
“Everyone else has either graduated from the youth-team or are still part of it, so it really is a tough situation.”
But, like at Newport County last month, the Orient teenagers faced up to the adversity and passed this test with flying colours.
Riza’s tactical changes during the game helped and so did the half time introduction of Abrahams.
Orient’s talented striker gave former O’s favourite Scott Cuthbert a torrid time and got his reward with a first professional goal.
Kelly dribbled past a couple of opponents before teeing up Abrahams and he made no mistake from 10-yards.
It was the first time Orient had taken the lead in any fixture since March 4 at Newport, but their vice-skipper wasn’t involved that day either.
The last time Kelly was part of an O’s team which went ahead in a match occurred on February 14 during the 3-2 success at Plymouth Argyle.
He added: “It was a great bit of build-up play for the second and a great goal and it has been a long time since I had that feeling of going in front in a game.
“It was a fantastic feeling and all we want to do in football is get feeling like that and I am immensely proud of all the young lads. I thought they were terrific.”
Orient’s kids were brilliant again, but so was Kelly who has largely been a consistent performer when available for selection.
He expressed his sympathy for the O’s supporters after Friday’s match, adding: “All the players understand how tough this is for the fans at the minute because they have supported this club for so many years.
“They have supported Leyton Orient through thick and thin and I don’t think they deserve this. All we can do is try to go out and do the best we can.”