The Orient Hour’s Chris Hood looks ahead to the match…
Orient take a break from National League action this weekend as they host Beaconsfield Town in the FA Trophy 1st Round Proper (3pm kick off).
The O’s reached the Quarter-Finals last season, making it through three rounds, before a cruel elimination at the hands of divisional rivals Gateshead. The FA Trophy campaign was a highlight for many Orient fans in 2017/18, with the team occupying the lower reaches of the National League for much of the season and a focus on survival rather than promotion, giving the possibility of a cup win and a day at Wembley some joy for the faithful, although ultimately it wasn’t to be.
However, this season, you can’t help but feel that the competition may be considered an inconvenience for a side sitting top of the tree in the National League, a point clear of Salford in 2nd, and thus the highest ranked team in the Trophy. Like many of their predecessors in the division, the prospect of extra games in an already packed season looks only a hindrance to the ultimate goal of promotion, but it need not be so.
Orient lost 1-0 at Boreham Wood last time out to suffer their first away league loss of the season and only their second loss in the National League this campaign, ending a nine match unbeaten run in the division. It capped off a series of games in which the O’s looked tired and off their normal high standards, encompassing the 0-0 draw with Aldershot and 2-0 victory over Gateshead. A game here against a side two divisions below The O’s offers an opportunity to score a convincing victory and get the side back on form ahead of Chesterfield next weekend and a busy Christmas period.
The fixture also offers an opportunity for The O’s to get some game time for their fringe players, who have had to bide their time this season, playing behind closed doors friendlies, London Senior Cup and in a 2-0 FA Cup defeat away to Maidstone. These players will be called upon throughout Christmas and as more injuries inevitably appear in tired bodies, so to have them with valuable minutes under their belts can only be a good thing.
This is rather looking at the Trophy as a means to an end, but it is much more than that. Surely after the last few seasons that the Brisbane Road faithful have been through, a Trophy run to Wembley and promotion is the perfect gift. Who says a Trophy and League double is not possible, although all O’s fans will see promotion as the number one priority.
So far this preview seems to be focusing on the negatives, but there is so much to be positive about. Orient’s form at home sees seven wins, four draws and just a single loss, against Sutton United. The O’s have conceded the joint fewest goals in the National League (14 in 24) and rank third in goals scored (44), the combination giving Orient a divisional high goal difference of 30, four goals clear of anyone else.
Opponents Beaconsfield Town occupy 7th spot in the Southern Premier Division South, two divisions below The O’s at Step 3 of the non-league pyramid. It’s the highest level they have ever reached, the Buckinghamshire side winning Southern League Division One East last season, their first since a rebrand from Beaconsfield SYCOB in the Summer of 2017.
The Rams drew 1-1 at home to Poole Town last weekend to take them to 28 points from 17 games, with seven wins and as many draws. Gary Meakin’s side are on a four match unbeaten run in all competitions and boast an away league record of four wins, two draws and a single loss, so they will fancy their chances with the match a straight shootout, being decided on the day with extra time and penalties if necessary.
Also giving Meakin confidence will be his side’s cup pedigree. The Rams have come through three qualifying rounds to get this far, beating Leiston, Aveley and Kempston Rovers and also boast a good run in the FA Cup, making it through three stages before being beaten by Concord Rangers in the 3rd Qualifying Round.
Beaconsfield also score plenty of goals, at a rate of two goals per league game, netting 34 times, Brendan Matthew scoring nine. However, The Rams concede almost as many with 27 (1.6 a match).
It is difficult to judge an Orient team for this match, as I suspect there will be a number of changes, with a lineup similar to that against Maidstone in the FA Cup a possibility.
However, we know for certain that James Dayton is unavailable for the next few months having undergone surgery for a knee injury on Monday afternoon.
Charlie Lee has been in training but has missed the last few encounters due to being only around 95% fit, while Sam Ling has been struggling with match fitness, but has still played the last couple of games in the absence of Myles Judd.
Last Time Out
Boreham Wood 1-0 Orient, National League, Saturday 8th December
ORIENT: Brill, Ling (Alabi 61′), Ekpiteta, Coulson, Widdowson, Dayton (Brophy 28′), Clay, Gorman (Lawless 72′), McAnuff, Koroma, Bonne
SUBS (not used): Sargeant, Happe
Beaconsfield Town 1-1 Poole Town, Southern Premier Division South, Saturday 8th December
BEACONSFIELD: Constable, Eccleston, Balogun, Yorke, Neville, Daly (Webb 24′ [Morgan 45′]), Stead, Brown, Matthew (Costa 89′), Pashaj, Losasso
SUBS (not used): Adoo-Peters, Ajanlekoko
GOALS: Matthew 41′
Other 1st Round Fixtures (kick off 3pm)
|Lancaster City||VS||Blyth Spartans AFC|
|AFC Fylde||VS||Stratford Town|
|Wrexham AFC||VS||Boston United|
|Barrow AFC||VS||FC Halifax Town|
|Harrogate Town||VS||York City|
|Workington AFC||VS||Ramsbottom United|
|AFC Telford United||VS||Farsley Celtic|
|Wingate & Finchley||VS||Dulwich Hamlet|
|Maidenhead United||VS||Oxford City|
|Aldershot Town||VS||Bedford Town|
|Carshalton Athletic||VS||Dorking Wanderers|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||VS||Eastleigh|
|Dover Athletic||VS||Havant & Waterlooville|
|Ebbsfleet United||VS||Dagenham & Redbridge|
|Truro City||VS||Weston Super Mare|
|Boreham Wood||VS||Torquay United|
|Brackley Town||VS||Hayes & Yeading United|
|Eastbourne Borough||VS||Dorchester Town|