O’s begin busy period with friendly at Urchins
PUBLISHED: 17:30 17 July 2019
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Craig Clay explains why he believes the squad have got up to speed quicker than usual this summer
Leyton Orient's pre-season schedule steps up a notch over the next week with O's set to play in four different matches.
It starts with Hornchurch tonight (Wednesday), before further games at AFC Rushden & Diamonds, Dartford and Bishop's Stortford over the next seven days.
While O's are set for much tougher tests in League Two, midfielder Craig Clay believes the importance of these fixtures cannot be underestimated.
He said: "I think the majority of our squad has played in the Football League, so the next few weeks are all about fitness.
"It is about getting minutes into the legs, getting sharpness and getting ready for the start of the season."
Orient played Hornchurch back in the summer of 2017 and a big crowd will be expected at Bridge Avenue this evening for O's third pre-season clash so far.
Then tomorrow (Thursday) Ross Embleton's team will be in action yet again, this time against Diamonds, who are expecting a strong side to make the trip to Hayden Road.
A bucket collection for the Justin Edinburgh Foundation will also take place for the late boss, who managed the original Rushden between 2009 and 2011 in the Conference Premier.
Following this match, Orient will be back closer to home, but in Kent to take on Dartford, of the National League South, this Saturday.
The O's first-team then round off their tests against non-league sides with a trip to Stortford, managed by Jamie Cureton, on Tuesday, July 23.
It is a busy schedule, but Orient's season didn't finish until May 19 and Clay believes that has enabled them to come in and get back up to speed in quicker time than usual.
He added: "Last summer we had a full two months off. We finished April 28 and came back at the end of June.
"I had a good summer last year, so I probably didn't come back as good as I should or usually am, so that was a lot tougher to get back up to the level that is needed.
"This year, it's only been five weeks or so and you are meant to have two to three weeks off because your body needs it, but then you do your own things to keep in shape.
"On our first day back this summer we did a fitness test and on a whole we were all very fit so I think the fitness coach was happy with that."
Last Friday, Orient found out they will play Brighton & Hove Albion's under-21s in addition to Southend United and AFC Wimbledon in Group C of the Checkatrade Trophy.