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Leyton Orient Part 2
By: Tony Butcher
NEITHER side made any changes at half time. I was so bored I forgot to eat my sandwich. Working on the assumption that basic rules of association football were followed, Orient must have kicked off the second half.
The fascinating stain on the concrete floor temporarily distracted me, as some weak tea had settled itself into a 1:25000 scale map of Latvia. But where was Riga?
From the off Town tore into them, the half time team talk clearly galvanised the players and they roared forward, the crowd frantic, a seething mass of frenzied passion. No, wrong radio station, thatâ€™s Hucknall Town. Our Town were as vapid as before; Orient continued to dominate everywhere, quicker in thought and foot. Within a minute or two it shouldâ€™ve been two nil. Some bloke or other, possibly Miller, maybe Keith, drove his four-wheeled pick up truck in from the fields and across Town; the locals stood in their doorways with the ghost of a smile. A flick on the edge of the area and Alexander was free, perhaps fifteen yards out on the centre left. Without breaking stride, he smithered the ball low and very hard down towards the right-hand corner. Mildenhall, magnificently, levitated and licked the ball aside for a corner.
Has Blundell Park ever been so silent? Was that five lumps or six? In all the excitement I kinda lost count. Passing is so passÃ©.
It was horrible. The giant beast in itâ€™s death throes, a plaintive wail and a final attempt to exhume some dignity floundering in the middle of the pitch. Jones the Lump failing, the vultures circling, dinner about to be served.
History teaches us that men and football managers behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. After 55 minutes Jones the Lump and Parkinson were replaced by Gritton and Cohen. The silence was broken, the crowd enlivened, a hum of expectation suddenly audible. There was an atmosphere: it felt like a public event again, not a period of national mourning for all the dead ducks to be; the switch had been flicked and hills were alive. Immediately, Gritton turned Cohen free, who dribbled up the wing forcing a corner. Orient under pressure, defenders finally having to earn their match-win bonus.
The crowd were up on their feet, even chanting, almost singing. Supporters supporting, believing that thereâ€™s something to believe in, the players rose with the crowd. Finally we have some kind of sporting contest. Cohen teased with pace, Gritton pleased with a laced pass inside two defenders for Newey, who barged a rucksack-carrying Orienteer away and dribbled into the area. Along the by-line, cutting infield Newey curled the ball towards the top left-hand corner. Garner flung himself across and parried the ball away from goal, behind and above onrushing Town players. We say "Ooooooo". What do you say?
Townâ€™s rhythm was constantly interrupted by time-wasting and the ref, who was petty in the extreme with a drop ball. An exasperated Bolland ended up grabbing the ball off the preening prevaricator and kicking it back to the their goalkeeper. The referee made them do it properly, his way, dropping the ball for Bolland to kick back to their keeper. The world is a safer place now.
Orient were still a danger: where was the man from Doctor Congo? Ibehre flaggled wide from outside the penalty area; Alexander ambled into the spaces between McDermott and Whittle to shoehorn a shot from a narrow angle, which Midlenhall saved well down to his left. At some point there was the biggest scrambled egg in the world made inside the Town area, with everyone treading down the grapes at some stage. The referee got stage fright and gave Town a free kick because a Leyton Orient player didnâ€™t look in his mirror enough and he wasnâ€™t impressed with a three-point turn. A three point turn? Thatâ€™s what theyâ€™re gonna get out of this game, isnâ€™t it?
Halfway through the half Town should have equalised. Mildnehall wellied the ball upfield, Reddy, for once, won a header, flicking the ball daintily onwards, right down the middle. Gritton burst through, unmarked, free as a bird. He let the ball skip a couple of time and watched Garner sprint off his line. On the edge of the area Gritton decided to loft a sand iron over the stranded keeper. The ball squirted off the side of his boot and squinted a foot past the right-hand post. A terrible miss, not unlike Reddyâ€™s against Spurs. Ah, the League Cup, letâ€™s not get injured lads.
A minute or so later Mildenhall punted a free kick right down the middle, Cohen flicked the ball on and Reddy, fifteen yards out, turned and cushioned the ball with his right boot. Zucchiniboy slipped and Reddy had a wondrous sight before him: the goal, inviting, the keeper a little bit frightened. Reddy glimpsed the prostrate defender and did what he does best â€“ fell over, claiming a penalty. No way, JosÃ©: you donâ€™t get twenty goals a season by falling over. Did Norman Wisdom ever get 20 goals a season? Or Bambi?
Another minute, another Town moment. A free kick on the left was curved into the area by Newey, Cohen glided and steered the ball a foot or two over the bar.
Wycombe apparently made a substitution, which was very interesting, but hardly relevant. What? The tannoyman had confused himself. Perhaps, like us, heâ€™d got into a grinding loop of bi-weekly enema football. Home games under Slade are like rock groupsâ€™ world tours - you look out of the window and every town seems the same. Echanomi came on for someone who I have already forgotten, but may have been Tudor. On no it wasnâ€™t, it was Ibehre. Boy, was this boy quick. I think the happy haddock-eating Howard Jones fans in the Osmond started singing his praises. They like you Echanomi, well.
The last twenty minutes were essentially Town desperation and Orient counterattacks. As the minutes ticked down Town resorted to the big whack upfield. That tactic brought a total of zero chances, for Orient had some cool, capable characters at the back. The Zucchini was brilliant for them: he had Reddy tucked inside a secret pocket in his silk suit; you couldnâ€™t even see an outline, our compliments to the tailor. The nearest Town got was when Francis got off the bus home and waved to the crowd one final time, dancing infield, dimpling a measured cross through the area towards the far post. Reddy awaited and the Zucchini floated down and whisked the ball away with his aura.
There were isloated moments to get the crowd up in to a roused fury, like when Easton did a neck high Kung Fu challenge in midfield to win the ball and set up a counter-attack. No free kick given. With about ten minutes left a Town cross flew into the Pontoon. The stewards really should have thrown out the fat, and I mean fat, stupid, and I mean cretinous, teenager, with "1 May" written on his back. He picked up the ball and threw it way past and over their goalkeeper, wasting Townâ€™s valuable time. You are big, and you arenâ€™t clever. Isnâ€™t that what banning orders are for?
Mildenhall was marvellous, keeping the score down with some timely blocks and athletic saves. Assisted by the penchant of Echanomi to fall over when he should stand up and stand up when he should fall down. Once down the left, Echanomi zipped past a couple of old men and received a final tap on his ankles as he burst free in the area. Oddly he tried to stay upright and Mildenhall whipped the ball off his toes. Later, after dribbling past three Town players from the half way line, he decided that was the time he would try and get his British Amateur Swimming Association badge for competitive diving, rather than shooting.
Oh, I forgot that shot from Reddy which is just about reaching the goal-liiinnnnnnnneeeeeee.... now.
Alexander burst through their left, cut infield and Mildenhall saved low at his feet. A bit later he cut in from their right, unmarked a dozen yards out, and Mildenhall again did a superb save to his right, parrying the ball back out towards the edge oft the area. Easton followed up and shot against Whittle. And finally, in added time, a long, long, high, high, punt was flicked on. Reddy, four yards out, unmarked, mis-controlled and the ball tumbled off his foot and rolled out for a goal kick.
There were three minutes of added time, which just faded away uneventfully, like Auntie Ireneâ€™s 75th birthday party. Was all passion spent, or just being kept in the piggy-bank for Wednesday?
If youâ€™ve got this far without self-harm or booking an appointment with a psychiatrist then you are well capable of joining all the dots. You know Fentyboy, if we were only interested in the result weâ€™d stay at home and watch Grandstand. What happened to the hope that one day we might be entertaining? We could at least try, now and again. What happened to two strikers, to wingers, to width, to passing: sitting tight and hoping somethingâ€™ll turn up isnâ€™t much for Â£15, Mr Micawber.
Another game over, another light switched off. The question we have to ask ourselves is "which is the blip?" - home or away form? The big picture is pretty clear, isnâ€™t it. The facts are staring us all in the face: how many home wins since February? Maybe Town should have two managers, one for home games and Slade for away games.
This was worse than bad. It is also the norm and that really is bad.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
Not many of that lot can look in the mirror boy. Yet again Bolland ran Kalalaâ€™s socks off, with little reward. The dreadful thing is only one of our players could get near to being in their team, for without Steve Mildenhall Town wouldnâ€™t have just lost, they would have been humiliated.
Markies Unman of the Match
You can choose from many dead fish in this putrid barrel, but the old man of the sea holds the ultimate responsibility. For constantly serving up the same dish of maggoty gruel itâ€™s Russell Slade. Town life is first boredom, then fear .
Mr P Joslin. Sometimes you have to wonder why they bother. He had no idea at all really when the ball went out of play who had touched it last. He got the penalty claims right, purely by default; it is so much easier to say no kids, just say no. The farcical mystery tour of the drop ball summed him up: far too busy doing the Charleston, dissatisfaction guaranteed. He wasnâ€™t a factor in the defeat, just a bit irritating. If we look at the scoreboard Isla, we see the score on the door: 5.893.
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