Omer Riza full of praise for Leyton Orient's young back three at Cambridge United
PUBLISHED: 14:00 10 April 2017
Simon O'Connor Photography
Aron Pollock, Michael Clark and Dan Happe did well at Abbey Stadium and battled valiantly despite their inexperience
Leyton Orient manager Omer Riza praised the performance of his back three after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Cambridge United on Saturday.
Dan Happe, 18, made his O’s debut alongside 19-year-old pair Aron Pollock and Michael Clark in defence.
All three performed well up against powerful U’s striker Uche Ikpeazu and did the club proud despite the League Two loss.
“We were playing a back three, at times we were a five if the wing-backs dropped in, but I am asking a lot of the them,” said Riza.
“I am not just asking them to play a certain way, I am putting them under a little bit of pressure and that will only make them better.
“I thought all three of the defenders were outstanding and they didn’t do much wrong and kept Ikpeazu quiet.
“Ikpeazu is a big strong lad and all of our boys are 19 or 18 and this was Dan Happe’s debut, but he did well.
“Obviously there are things to work at, as with everybody else on the pitch, but Aron and ‘Clarky’ were solid.
“‘Clarky’ took a whack on the nose early and could easily have said he didn’t fancy it, but carried on and aerially they were all strong, so it was a good performance.”
After a solid opening half an hour, a decent move by Cambridge on their left side saw Luke Berry head home the opener.
The run of the midfielder wasn’t tracked and he duly nodded past Sargeant from close range to make it 1-0.
Luke O’Neil doubled the visitors’ advantage soon after when he beat Happe to a free kick and headed into the corner.
It was 2-0 at the break, yet unfortunately Orient conceded a third just eight minutes into the second half.
Pollock made two excellent blocks to initially prevent Cambridge from scoring again, but George Maris fired home after O’s failed to clear their lines.
The performance of Pollock, as well as Clark, was one of the major positives for Riza and his coaching staff to take from the match.
It was the teenagers’ first appearance since making a crucial error against leaders Doncaster Rovers on March 18.
And Pollock bounced back well by being leader throughout at Abbey Stadium and by trying his best to marshal the back three.
Orient conceded three times and suffered their sixth consecutive loss, but the defence could be proud of their efforts.
Riza was without several experienced players at Cambridge with O’s injury list extremely long at the moment.
Gavin Massey and Myles Judd look set to miss the rest of the season with hamstring and back problems respectively.
Alex Cisak continues to struggle with a groin issue along with Callum Kennedy and Nicky Hunt has a knee injury.
Yvan Erichot has been out lately with a pelvic problem while Nigel Atangana has also had trouble with his groin.
Sammy Moore and Robbie Weir are both out for the rest of the campaign with knee issues, but Paul McCallum was set to return to training today.
Tom Parkes is suspended for another two games while Jens Janse and Teddy Mezague were absent on Saturday due to injury.
It leaves the Orient manager short of numbers ahead of Friday’s trip to high-flying Luton Town where O’s could be relegated if they lose and results elsewhere go against them.
“We will take things back to the drawing board this week and get on with it and see what numbers we have got,” said Riza.
“It might be a case of waiting until the end of the week to find out what players are available and then we will crack on.”